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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.

Process

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:

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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-music-lessons

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 TeachPianoToday.com,

More camp ideas from Sara’sMusicStudio.com

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.

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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 support@musicteachershelper.com.

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

Robin Steinweg

Student-led Group Class

February 27th, 2016 by

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By Robin Steinweg

How can a visit to a museum turn into a winning student-led group class?

My student, a high school senior, recently visited “the world’s only global music instrument museum,” located in Phoenix, Arizona. She took dozens of photos. Her enthusiasm bubbled over during her lesson.

I love to strike while the iron’s hot! So I asked Sarah if she’d share some of her photos (and excitement) with my other students at a group class.

The Musical Instrument Museum boasts over 6500 instruments on display, from some two hundred different countries or territories. I asked Sarah to choose fifteen or twenty photos, and spend 1-3 minutes telling us about each.

Though I’m sure it was difficult to narrow the field, Sarah chose fascinating subjects. She put them in order on her laptop, and while the rest of the group finished their snacks, Sarah captured their interest completely with her stories of instruments beautiful, rare, ancient, or bizarre.

One showed a metal piano which Steinway & Sons produced during WWII. They were called the “Victory Verticals” or G.I. Models, and some were parachute-dropped to troops fighting in Europe. They included tuning kits and instructions. When I asked my mostly young students why Steinway would do this, they seemed perplexed. One of them thought perhaps it was so they could hold funeral services. This ended up in a discussion about the impact music has on us. To impart courage, bring comfort, lift the spirits, entertain…

Some of the students there have great-grandfathers who served in the military during WWII–so this example touched them.

We ended the class in a state of musical entertainment: with each attendee taking a turn on my ukulele playing “The Hokey Pokey” (quite amusing).

I was so pleased with Sarah’s presentation. She fielded questions like a pro. I am continually impressed with music students’ creativity, maturity, and responsibility. All they need is opportunity.

I hope to find more ways to have a student-led group class!

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music History & Facts, Performing, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

creative music teaching tips

Is your lesson schedule jam-packed? Have you maxed out your income because you’ve run out of teaching days and times? Are you nervous about making ends meet during the summer months? As private music teachers, sometimes we have to be really creative when it comes to drumming up more income. Here are a handful of creative tips that will help you boost your income with group lessons and summer camps. Don’t get nervous… you don’t have to be a group expert to make these ideas work!

1) Keep it fun. Sure, summer camps are great for reinforcing basic music concepts, but they’re also an opportunity for you to foster comradery and imagination in your studio. One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen from other teachers about summer camps is about low enrollment: students and parents are reluctant to sign up because from their perspective, the camp just doesn’t sound very fun. That’s why it’s so important to make your camps fun and creative – students are more likely to sign up for something that’s unique and exciting than for something that comes across as an “educational experience.” This summer I’m holding a Hogwarts themed summer camp, and I know my students will be interested in something like that! Check out the video below for a montage of the fun camp we did last year: Music Blast Summer Camp Read more…

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio

 violin

 

Want to find more students for your music teaching business? If you are a good teacher, and pupils enjoy your lessons, you may pick up the occasional referral from time to time.

However, if you want to earn a healthy income and find students more quickly, you need to understand how to market yourself as a music teacher.

This article contains seven methods for promoting your business:

1) Word of mouth

This is the best place to start. Tell everyone you know about your teaching business and hopefully they’ll spread the word. Tell family members, friends and acquaintances.

You can offer a “finder’s fee” and pay the person who refers you 100% of the first lesson fee.

2) Business Cards

Get hold of some business cards with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address and website address. You can contact your local print shop or do it online. It doesn’t need to be too fancy, but shop around as you get some great deals, especially online. Keep the design fairly simple, but you might want to consider a theme linked to your profession.

Leave a few of your tutor business cards in local shops, libraries, sports centres and start giving them to people you meet at events. Don’t be pushy, but when people ask what you do, tell them and offer them your card.

3) Posters and Flyers

Create some flyers, posters and put them here, there and everywhere – local shops, libraries, sports centres, notice boards schools, music colleges and universities.

Also, think about demographics. This is important.

For example, while many music teachers target younger people, college kids, school pupils etc, they often overlook one important age group.

The retired.

If you can find an area in your town or city with a predominantly older demographic, pop a few flyers through their letter boxes. Many retired people have time on their hands and would love to learn a new skill.

In my profession, I meet so many who wish they’d learnt the piano when they were younger and I simply tell them it’s never too late. Also, you might meet some who had lessons years ago and just didn’t like their teacher.

Don’t forget some ‘old school’ teaching methods would make you wince if you used them in the 21st century!

4) Phone/E-mail

I’m not saying go and cold call 1000’s of residents in your town, but it might be worth contacting local music teachers in schools and ask if their students would like music lessons. These people are well connected and once they pass you one student, you can quickly gain some referrals.

While I was building my teaching business, I remember sending about 100 e-mails to local independent schools, offering my services as a piano teacher, with a link to my website, and I got 2 job offers with two full days of teaching!

5) Contact the competition

If there is an established music teacher in your town, give them a call. If they have a full teaching timetable, they might be turning away students, when they could be passing them on to you. This strategy can work well, and as long as you show it is in their interest, most will go for it.

I often perform at weddings and if I’m busy I have 2-3 pianists who I recommend people to contact. And these guys do the same for me.

I also teach jazz and popular music on the piano and pass on students to classical pianists in my area if I feel they will be a better fit for the pupil. And again these piano teachers do the same for me.

You should learn not to fear competition and use it to your advantage! You can never have too many connections…

6) Stage a taster event

You could hire the local village hall and invite people to watch a short presentation showcasing what you do as a music teacher. You could also talk about how your instrument works and even ask members of the audience to come to the stage and have a go!

This might cost a bit of money to do, but I know some music teachers who’ve had remarkable success with this method. In addition to the local hall, why not approach schools and see if you can give free presentations there.

Make it exciting so pupils will go home in the evening and beg their mum and dad for lessons  on your instrument!

7) Local celebrity endorsement

See if you can get a local celebrity, or someone really well known in your town or city, to recommend your services as a music teacher. They can use their connections with the local media to boost your profile.

These are just some strategies which can help you start and expand your business. Although it might seem tough to get started, it will pay off in the long term, and eventually you should pick up some referrals which will make things easier.

Try to set aside some time each day and ask yourself…

“What can I do today to grow my business?”

Martyn Croston helps music teachers who want to build a successful tutoring business. He shares more advice on his website: http://www.mytutorbusiness.com.

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Posted in Promoting Your Studio

marketing

In my last post I suggested you double your prices. If you’re marketing stinks though, you’ll never find students to fill your studio at those prices. Your low prices may have found you students just because you were inexpensive, and there was little risk on the part of the students. When you raise your prices however, you need to do a much better job at marketing yourself.

Before we can talk about advertising we all need to be on the same page about important metrics.

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio

Success

When I first began teaching piano lessons I had no idea what my pricing should be. I didn’t understand the economics of it all, I honestly was just looking to make some money on the side while I was going to school. I started off at $30 for an hour lesson. I was in college, and most of my friends were working some retail job for a little above minimum wage, so I thought $30 was really good, and it probably was. But what I didn’t realize was I was leaving a lot of money on the table.

As self employed teachers, the single most valuable asset we have is our time. If you price your lessons low, you may get more students, but you will be working more and making less. Before we start thinking about what we should be charging for lessons, we need to understand how the market works.

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Posted in Financial Business, MTH 101, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management