Member Spotlight – Ashli

September 30th, 2016 by

Falcon, CO music lessons

Welcome back to our member spotlight series. Today we have Ashi. She teaches piano and voice lessons in Falcon, CO.

How long you’ve been teaching?
23 years.

How would you describe your studio space to someone that’s never visited?
It’s a wonderful place where learning and creativity combine to support aspiring musicians of all ages! Also, we play on a Yamaha baby grand and a Roland HP550 G, so we have the benefit of both digital and traditional instruments.

Was there a specific moment when you realized you loved teaching music?
YES. I’d always felt that I was a performer, not a teacher. At my first recital where I showcased some beginner students in Okinawa, Japan, I realized that teaching was as fulfilling as performing (but I still wouldn’t mind a standing ovation every now and again!)

How did you feel in the moment you made the decision to be an independent music teacher? Do you recall being nervous/excited/scared?
All of the above! But I had a wonderful mentor who encouraged me and gave me some great tools.

What were the steps you took to get your first lessons to having a full student roster?
I simply agreed to teach some young children whose mother approached me after a performance. From then, it snowballed by word of mouth– many of my students were friends of students who attended a piano recital. I now teach 40 students.

What is one piece of advice you could offer to someone looking to start teaching music lessons?
Outsource your business-related tasks! MTH has taken a huge load off of my shoulders, allowing me to run my business professionally while focusing on what I do best — teaching and performing!

How do you currently find new students?
I once put up a flyer at a local recreation center and had a few contacts from that. I also managed a Facebook page for my studio, but truthfully, most of my students come to me through word of mouth.

How do you feel when you think back to all students you’ve interacted with over the years and impacted positively?
I feel like teaching music is not only my passion, it is my calling. My students feel like family.

What is your favorite part of a lesson?
When a student “gets” it– when they’ve practiced so much that they’ve made the piece their own– adding dynamics and playing with feeling. That is heaven!

Is there a favorite piece or style of music you find yourself teaching your students today? And how has that changed from when you started teaching?
I believe in a solid foundation built on a knowledge of classical/modern composers and a basic repertoire of well-known music, however, I firmly believe that the students should always be playing a piece of music that they have chosen. I love that this way I learn about all kinds of new music!

How long have you been using Music Teacher’s Helper?
4 years.

What is your favorite thing about Music Teacher’s Helper?
Love the way I can print out reports for tax purposes, etc at the touch of a button. I also love the invoicing system.

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

This past month I gave a piano masterclass in Jakarta, Indonesia. How? Read below – this post will hopefully inspire you with ideas to help your students (and bring more students to you).

Back in May, I had a dilemma that many teachers face: our piano students leave town for the summer. I could teach my remaining students until the fall rolled around, but what if I mixed in a little adventure?

I brushed with the travel bug last year, but I had never been to Asia. I started thinking, how cool would it be to visit and teach music somewhere out there?

It never hurts to check. I was enticed by Bali, so I chose to look into the city of Jakarta, a short plane ride away.

Steps to Teach Music Overseas

  1. Created a spreadsheet and Googled Indonesian music schools.
  2. Made a list of ~20, with links and contact info.
  3. Crafted a short email, stating that I wanted to teach a masterclass and/or teach lessons while I was visiting.
  4. Cut down my already short email by half, to be clearer and to-the-point.
  5. Sent this to each school.

Within the week, two had enthusiastically responded. I chose to work with Rosa Mistyca, the super sharp and talented owner of Ensiklomusika, based in Jakarta. We Skyped once to confirm that, yes, we’re both real people. Rosa agreed to promote my visit to Jakarta residents (a ton of work on her part). The deal was – I’d give one presentation for teachers looking for tips on teaching, and one masterclass where I teach individual students for ~25 minutes each, with their families and other students in the audience. Over the next month, we coordinated dates and suddenly I realized: Oh this is really happening. Can’t back out now.

No Longer Just a Fantasy: I’m Really Going to Asia

I booked my ticket, got my shots, and started to prepare. I had never done any of this before. But after a decade of teaching and making music in NYC, I felt ready to share what I’ve learned, to challenge myself, and to embrace a little chaos and uncertainty.

I sat down, nervously started to write…and realized I knew a lot more than I thought.

Until you write down or present what you know in a codified way, it’s tough to know how much you truly know. This is why blogging and writing lesson notes to families are so crucial (Music Teacher’ s Helper lets you do this easily, by the way). It doesn’t just help them but gives your teaching clarity. Weak habits get broken. You start to see how to approach the problems students face but also why, at a deeper level, an approach is good or needs to change. Very powerful.

Still, I was intimidated. Ensiklomusika was counting on me, paying me, to prepare something clear and useful, in an unfamiliar context, in a foreign country. It would be nice if they all loved it, and loved me, but maybe they’ll think I’m a fraud. Then what?

A wise man once wrote: “the future is indeed terrifyingly unknowable when you can’t even focus on the present.”

So I focused on what I could control: my own effort, in that moment.

Weeks later, I arrived in Jakarta and spent some time wandering around the city.

After a few stimulating days dodging Southeast Asia traffic, I hunkered down in my hotel to work on my presentation.

The Presentation

I arrived, sat down at the piano, and relaxed for a few minutes. Oh wait, I know how to do this.

Soon, a dozen teachers from Jakarta filed in, with pens and paper, and sat down, waiting for me to begin.

So I took a deep breath, and began. I talked about rhythmic approaches, how to sight-read, and common problems students have. I shared stories about my students to show why rapport matters so much – students often stay or leave because of this alone.

Finally, I brought in a unique approach to helping kids, as young as four, read and play music from their first lesson. I’ve used Andrew Ingkavet’s Musicolor Method for close to a year and watched as referrals flew in, my roster almost double, and my confidence as a teacher grow like crazy. Andrew’s approach not only works, but kids (and even one of my adult students!) really love it. What an opportunity to show a room full of Jakarta residents something new, from the other side of the world!


After two hours, the conference ended. The masterclass began soon after.

Again, this was new for me. I was to give each of seven students a private lesson…with their families, friends, and students watching. To take the searing spotlight off the student, I planned to address the audience at times, to include them in the learning process.

This means I had to:

  • immediately identify the problems that particular student (a student I had just met!) was facing
  • help her feel comfortable enough to listen to me and try my suggestions (with a watching audience)
  • throughout each lesson, I had to observe, frame, and simplify those problems to the audience in a way that 1) didn’t alienate the student herself, and 2) helped the audience understand some technicals without alienating them


By the end, I was totally wiped out.

And who headlines the entire masterclass? A wildly talented student, Elnino, six years old, sits down and crushes a tricky Sonatina. This boy used every part of his body gracefully and played it passionately. Not like a robot at all. It was easy for him.

Elnino’s physical instincts were top-notch. I nudged the audience to observe what he does so effortlessly with his arms and body overall, to open their minds to how he’s intuitively solved his own physical problems, the same problems that plague other students.

What a reward, to present material that I love to new faces, and they were thrilled!

We finished, grabbed a beer, and Rosa forced me to eat a durian (a fruit that smells so bad it offends cockroaches). Then I hopped on a plane to Bali the next morning. What a trip.


Takeaways: What I Learned by Teaching Teachers and Giving a Piano Masterclass

It challenged me to condense all my knowledge in a simple, actionable way, and to do this publicly, on the spot.

I learned to repeat myself, helpfully. For instance, unclear rhythms cause most problems for students. During the masterclass, I saw five students struggle with this. So I approached them with a similar solution, five times, and noted the common thread to the student and the audience. Everyone wins.

The experience gave me more confidence as a teacher. It gave my work visibility, legitimacy, and a bridge to a whole new set of relationships on a different continent. As a busy teacher in NYC, I know that relationships, and ultimately businesses, are built and sustained on trust. I managed to create a pocket of that within an entirely new part of the world.


Want to try something like this? You never know, all it takes is a quick email. Plan ahead now before next summer comes – Ensiklomusika continuously accepts foreign teachers during their visits.


Brett Crudgington runs a private piano studio in Brooklyn, NY for over 20 students. He studied jazz as a teenager and spent formative years in college working with John Kamitsuka on classical music. It was here that he learned Abby Whiteside’s physical approach to the piano, how to make music that emanates from the core rather than the fingers. He actively brings a wide range of pedagogical tools to his lessons, including Andrew Ingkavet’s Musicolor Method.

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio

music teaching tips

Welcome to our member spotlight series. Today we have Angie & Marcus. The questions are answered by Angie, but the husband and wife duo teach music lessons together in Boise, Idaho.

How long you’ve been teaching?

15 years

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

music teacher technology

Written by Nick Cesare

What do you do when you’re looking for a service of some kind? I know that I almost always do one thing: Google it. I was looking for a Greek restaurant in my area last week and the first thing that I did was go to Google and type in “Greek food near me.” The second thing I did was check out what people were saying about the options on social media. Finally, I chose the place that was the best mix of local and highly rated and went there for lunch.

We do it so readily for food (and pretty much anything else), so it makes sense that when parents or adult students are looking for a music teacher in their area the first place they go to is the internet. Putting up flyers isn’t good enough to attract students anymore. The music teacher of the 21st century needs to have a strong online presence. Whether you’ve been teaching for 30 years or you’re on your way to becoming a music teacher, here’s how you need to be getting online.

Get on Social Media

There’s a lot of social media out there and it’s tough to know what’s important to have and what’s just fluff. In my opinion you’ve definitely got to have these things.

  • Facebook. Create a page for your studio, not necessarily for yourself. Here’s where you can keep students updated on musical happenings in your area and post about your own upcoming performances.
  • Next you’ll need a Twitter page. Follow and tweet at other music organizations in your area. This will help you gain visibility and followers. Whenever you tweet anything make sure that you append the now famous # to it. For example, #viola will get my tweets to show up whenever somebody searches for it. Great hashtags are relevant and roll off the tongue easily, like #MusicalMonday.
  • Another great tip is to retweet tweets that you like from bigger organizations (e.g. the NY Philharmonic) with lots of followers. People who read their page will be able to see that you’ve retweeted the content and that will lead them to you.
  • Finally, you’ll absolutely want to get yourself on Linkedin. It’s the goto resource for professionals these days and helps you to come off as a skilled musician.

This may all seem daunting, but it’s not as bad as it seems. If, like me, you’re not a natural social media butterfly, brush up on these social media tips and make sure that you link all of your social media accounts together, so that people who visit your Twitter are led to your Linkedin and Facebook pages and vice versa. This will give potential students and their parents an impression of you as an active professional who they feel familiar with.

Get Your Own Website

Thankfully the days when the web was dominated by opaque acronyms like HTML, CSS, and XML are long gone. It is definitely both possible and affordable to create your own website with either free or, at worst, inexpensive tools. Here’s a great guide to creating your own website to get you started.

Some awesome things that you can do with a website:

  • Make a newsletter to keep parents updated on student progress, recitals, and happenings in the world of your instrument. This helps parents feel engaged with their child’s progress, making them more likely to stick around. This is a great time to get your studio recital trailer out there.
  • Blog about music and your instrument. To current and prospective students alike this paints you as a well-rounded professional who knows their stuff. If you write good original content make sure that you share it on your social media accounts and encourage readers to do the same. With a little luck you can become internet famous, which is huge for getting your name out there.
  • Talk about students – anonymously. This is definitely not the place to vent about how Timmy forgot his music again or how Sally didn’t practice. Stay positive and anonymous with things like “everybody played great at the solo competition this weekend!” Or “it was great to see everyone at the Symphony concert tonight!”

Final Thoughts

One thing that I haven’t covered is online teaching. This is really a beast of its own that deserves more attention than I can give it here. I will say this, however: the tips that I’ve given are equally important in building both a local and digital community around your studio. The only difference might be in what/who you tweet about; whether you tweet about local or national music organizations and events.

Go ahead and make this article your first tweet! And good luck out there! Tweet at me with any questions or comments @cesare_nick.

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Posted in Promoting Your Studio

imageThe school year is coming to an end, and it is once again time to host my annual studio recital. I used to organize two studio recitals every year, once in December (called Holiday Recital) and once in June (Summer Recital). The Holiday recital became more and more difficult to schedule around everyone’s holiday plans, and now with a new baby, I decided to just do one big recital in June to celebrate the students’ achievements throughout the year. I now call it Annual Studio Recital and Awards Ceremony.

We all know how much time and effort can go into organizing these studio recitals, from renting the venue, scheduling students, to making programs, preparing refreshments, ordering awards…the list goes on and on. Ever since my first studio recital many years ago, I came up with the idea of making postcard invitations to give to the students so they can invite friends and family to come. This has proved to be an excellent investment for my time and effort, as the students hand these out at school to their classmates, and I have gotten new students as a result 🙂

This year, I am doing something extra to further promote my studio recital. I made a movie trailer!

Here is how I did it:

1. I use my iPad.

2. Open iMovie app (free download at Apple Store).

3. Click on the “+” sign to create new project.

4. Select “Trailer”.

5. Choose a theme (I chose Coming of Age).

6. Click “Create” (top right hand corner).

7. Fill out the form under “Outline” (This is the movie credits page).

8. Click on “Storyboard” (next to Outline).

9. Choose pictures/videos stored on your iPad and insert in each box. You can customize the wording to go with the pictures.

10. Done! You can save your new movie trailer on your iPad, email to students, and upload to Facebook and YouTube!

Hope everyone’s studio recital goes well!

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Posted in Product Reviews, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management


Losing Students

I read somewhere that 85% of music students will quit lessons within two years!

This astounds me. It is so rare for my students to quit and yet so many music teachers are having this problem: How to retain your students?

A Personal Story

When my son was around 8 years old, he began to express an interest in going to sleep-away camp. We were surprised as he has usually been a bit shy and slow to meet new friends. But this was good! Maybe he was breaking out of his shell.  

The thing about sleep-away camp, it’s probably more stressful for the parents than the kids. Parents have separation anxiety!  

The YMCA has rules for no electronic devices, no phone calls, no text messages, not even email because they know it will only promote homesickness and stress. But as parents, that was hard!

What got us through the stress were the daily postings to a camp website where they would post pictures and summaries of the day. It gave us a sense of confidence that our son was being cared for and we could see for ourselves when he was engaged and happy. It was providing information to their clients.

So why not do something similar for music lessons?   

Music Instruction As A Service

Music instruction is a service business. By framing it as this, you can start to ask questions like, what else can I do to offer a richer level of service to my clients?  

I send home a weekly email that details what we worked on, what they should be practicing and even links to videos I’ve created in the lesson or YouTube videos of the pieces being performed. I’ve been told that this is one of the best parts of my service.

I started using Music Teacher’s Helper a little over six years ago. Before that, I was cobbling together a bunch of other services like Google Sheets, Gmail, PayPal and an assortment of databases on my local hard drive. It worked, but the upkeep was a real pain. Initially, I figured the Music Teacher’s Helper (MTH) billing management and automatic email reminders would be all I would be using. But over the years, I’ve discovered the real power is the lesson notes. This is how I send home the aforementioned emails. By using the MTH system, both I and the client gets a copy and they also can log in and review the entire history at any time.


My process is like this. Each teaching day, I check my MTH automated “Daily Summary” email, which arrives at 5:15am, to see my schedule and what was taught in the last lesson. I do a lesson prep on a paper template of my own design noting what I am going to work on this day for each student.

When the student arrives, I am mentally prepared to pick up right where we left off in the previous lesson. I don’t know what I would do without my lesson notes! During the lesson, I write down what was actually done and what I have assigned for the next week. What I planned to do and what actually happens differ often!  

Later that evening, glass of wine in hand, I sit and type up the day’s lesson notes and send them out to the parents. It has become a very efficient workflow.

So what are the results?

I just went through my student logs on Music Teacher’s Helper and I have several students with lesson notes going back over six years! My average student seems to have been with me for 4-5 years. It is rare to have an opening on my roster and when I do get one, I have usually filled it within hours.

Is my success all because of this weekly email? No, but it’s a part of it. I encourage you to start thinking of your lessons as a true service business. Think of ways to offer that extra bit that keeps your students and clients happy, coming back and referring all their friends and family.

What other ideas do you have for serving your clients? I look forward to your comments below.

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Posted in Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Photo Credit

When I was studying music in college I taught lessons from any unused practice room that I could find. Usually after K-12 schools were finished for the day the stuffy white rooms would start to clear out as well.

This set up was far from ideal, however. My instrument was perched on top of the room’s out-of-tune old piano and students (who were often too short to reach the top of the clunky chordophone) were forced to unpack in one of the room’s dusty corners. If parents wanted to observe the lessons they had to find whatever space was available and dodge flying bows.

As I have started to break into teaching in the real world, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good studio good, beyond the teacher, of course. What can we change about our studios to make them inviting and encouraging to students? Or if we’re moving into a new studio, what should we look for before we sign a lease? When 50% of young musicians quit after two years, it’s clear that we need to grab onto every advantage we can in order to maintain student interest.

(1) Consider your windows. There’s no simple answer to the question of windows in studio rooms, but it’s much better to think about how you want them than to ignore the issue. Some students will be energized by sunlight and a view of the outdoors, but others may be easily distracted and dispense with your lesson in favor of a bird that’s flying by.

In my experience younger students tend to be the easily distracted ones, while older more self-directed students are able to avoid the distractions and stay upbeat with the aid of some natural light. However, it’s up to you to judge what’s appropriate for each student. Consider investing in some curtains so that you can change the room on a fly.

(2) Think about your position in the room. If you’re like me then you’ll be all over the place to observe the student and watch his or her technique from every angle, but you’ll always default back to a specific spot. Maybe you’ll have a chair there, or a desk, depending on your situation, but one thing is clear: you need to give your students room to breathe.

No one likes to have their teacher breathing down their neck and we need to remember that we can often be intimidating to our students. Give your student some space. You’ll both be happier.

(3) Spice up your studio with some music-themed decoration. My viola teacher in my high school years had a Beethoven action figure that gave the room a sort of fun vibe. That’s not the only way to get your students excited about music, though. Maybe think about a poster of a famous composer or perhaps a page of one of your instrument’s great concertos. Reminding students that they’ll be playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto one day can inspire and motivate them through difficult times.

A few inspiring measures can go a long way.

A few inspiring measures can go a long way.

Perhaps a life size cutout of a famous violinist is what your studio calls for. What student doesn’t want Jascha Heifetz’s stony gaze scrutinizing their every note? Or maybe a get a cutout of yourself so that you can take a well-deserved nap.

(4) Give your students some space to unpack their instrument, resin their bow, or do whatever else they need to do in order to get set up for the lesson. Don’t repeat my mistake and stand idly by while your student slides their case along the floor, picking up dust and God knows what else along the way. All you need here is a low table, which can double as a place to keep your lesson box. That one investment can go a long way.

(5) Keep photos of your old students around. Every student who sticks with their instrument after they’ve stopped taking lessons is a story worth telling. On top of inspiring your current students to stick with it, having a reminder of your successes around can help you keep going through the rough days.

(6) Get yourself some sort of audio setup. This can be as simple as a pair of mobile speakers to hook up to your laptop or phone. As long as you’re getting your student to listen to some of the music for your instrument, you’re on the right track. I’m reminded of the story of a young Lynn Harrell, who listened to the records of Janos Starker for inspiration in his youth. Having your own equipment “in house,” so to speak, is more important than it seems here, since many students won’t have the resources or the motivation to go out and find recordings on their own.

These are some of my ideas, but I’m not the perfect teacher. Let me know how you make your teaching studios exciting in the comments!

About the author:


Nick Cesare is a violist and teacher from Boise, Idaho. He has a degree in viola performance from Boise State University, where he learned that the viola belongs in the left hand and the bow in the right. When he’s not practicing, Nick likes to write about music, bike in the Boise foothills, and cook.


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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio

Robin Steinweg

Summer Music Lessons

April 26th, 2016 by


Summer lessons…

Do you lose students (and income) over the summer? Are you tired of the same old same old? Would you like to infuse new life into your summer lessons? Would you like to keep your income and promote your studio?

Here are 15 options to consider:

  • Break it up into three-month-long “semesters” and let families choose one, two or three months of summer lessons.
  • Teach piano students to play by chord symbol.
  • Zero in on a specific genre (folk, country, pop, blues, classical…)
  • Immerse the studio in theory. Use games.
  • Teach students a new instrument (guitar and vocal students could learn some piano, while piano students could learn to match pitches vocally, or learn some guitar chords/teach them all to play recorder…).
  • Use a video series, such as Mark Almond’s Piano for Life. or see Reuben Vincent‘s article in Music Teachers Helper blog.
  • Use an online series such as podcasts from James Dering.
  • Show them how to create their own arrangements.
  • Teach composition. Have them put a favorite poem to music.
  • Choose a theme and songs to go with it (oceans, animals, bugs, space, summer fun…).
  • Have a duet summer, and pair up students for lessons. Or just bring them together near the end.
  • Have an ensemble summer and teach them their own parts alone, then bring them together for a few weeks before they perform as a group. Add other instruments.
  • Teach every student one or more songs on several instruments (piano, guitar, recorder, voice,percussion,  bass…).
  • Many churches look for special music in the summer–teach them appropriate songs. Take on an older student as an apprentice—let them teach with your supervision.
  • Put on one-week camps, emphasizing rhythm, technique, note-reading… Ideas from,

More camp ideas from Sara’

How do you change it up after the school year ends?

Have a stupendous time teaching summer lessons!

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

MTH has the wonderful option to send Lesson Notes after each lesson. Although designed to simply let parents know what’s assigned or happening at lessons, this is an opportunity to save yourself time and keep your customers informed!

Answering ten unnecessary emails = wasted time!

How many emails do you get asking  questions about schedules or upcoming events, even though you previously sent emails or other correspondence with that exact information? Read more…

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Posted in MTH 101, Music & Technology, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is the act of helping your website rank well in search engines for specifics words or phrases, called “keywords”.

You’ll place these keywords in the content of your website or blog to help people find you. For example, you might title one of your web pages, “violin lessons in San Diego” or “advanced harp teacher”. You could then use those keywords periodically throughout the page.

Overloading a page with keywords is not looked upon highly by search engines, but if you write content that a person would find useful, then search engines will likely rank it higher, too.

Another way to increase your search engine rankings is by having your website or pages shared on social media, or getting other relevant websites to link to yours.

Under each page of your Music Teacher’s Helper studio website, you can also enter meta keywords and a page description. These can help search engines know what keywords you intend to be found under, and can help the search engines know how to describe your page to visitors.

To Enter Keywords and Descriptions:

First, click on the Profile dropdown arrow in the upper right corner.

Next click on Settings.


Then click the Website Preferences tab.


Add Keywords into the Box below Website Meta Keywords. This will be one word followed by a comma for each word you want to use. Typically it’s better to use 5-10 words, such as the instrument(s) you teach with the word “lessons” and your location such as city and neighborhood. 

Lastly, enter Descriptions for Website Meta Description. Descriptions will be for each page of your website such as blog, website, policy, etc.

You’re all set! If you have any questions about this feature or anything else, please contact

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Posted in New Features and Fixes, Promoting Your Studio, Using Music Teacher's Helper