Do you give your students gifts during the holiday season? If so and if you’re like me, it’s usually a struggle to find something that is meaningful with a reasonable price tag. A couple of years ago I came up with a solution that I believe I’ll be repeating again this year. It’s a student gift that keeps on giving.

Before I dive in with the details, it’s not a bad idea to step back and ponder the purpose of giving gifts. With all the emphasis on “stuff” in our society, do our students really need one more thing?

A couple of years ago a book caught my eye: What Music Means to Me. The picture book includes large pages with stunning images that capture the essence of various gifted musicians. Alongside each photo is a personal, touching essay about the profound impact of music in their lives.

book-logo1

Bonus features:

  • Poetry by Barbara Kreader (composer for Hal Leonard and one of my favorite authors at Clavier Companion)
  • Forward by Brian Chung (excellent speaker and General Manager of Kawai America Corporation.)
  • DVD which includes photos of the featured musicians along with them reading their own essay.
  • Can’t-put-a-price-tag-on-it bonus: I met the photographer in person, Mr Richard Rejino. and my book includes his autograph.

You can purchase the book here.

So how does the book fit into this blog about giving gifts to students? Let me explain. Read more…

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Posted in Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Leila Viss

The Five P’s of Performing

November 15th, 2016 by

Once a piece is memorized with all the details in place it would seem a successful performance would follow. I believe there are THREE MORE ESSENTIAL elements that guarantee a positive outcome for a rookie and seasoned performer. In my opinion, these steps involving the head down to the toes are almost as important as preparing the piece itself. Here’s the first of the three elements:

Prepare to Perform

Group lessons are the perfect opportunity for peers to test the readiness of an upcoming performance. Besides each pianist playing a well-rehearsed piece, all follow and help each other memorize these components surrounding the performance. The routine encourages students to enter into the desired “performance zone” with a simple ritual. Here’s how I explain it to future performers: Read more…

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Posted in Studio Management

 

magic-cube-

We are drowning in information these days.  There’s so much information that our eyes glaze over.  

The boards of education of every school district in America are touting the importance of having  information about student attendance, test scores, reading ability, curriculum, assignments, and so on. And everywhere, we see charts, graphs, and tables. How can we keep up?

It’s so easy to put all this information into a pretty chart, but do we really understand it?

A few years ago, I read an interesting article in Wired called The Educational Benefits of Ugly Fonts. They discussed a research study where student volunteers were told to read some information. In one group, the information was easily scanned and read with a clear and legible typeface. In the other group, the same information was presented in an ugly, hard to read font.  The students had to really work at making out what was being said.  

The results?  

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Posted in Studio Management

music recital

One of the most difficult things about being a private teacher is organizing performance opportunities for our students. If you’ve never done it before, it can feel extremely overwhelming, to the point where you never end up doing them at all! That’s really unfortunate because if you think back to your music education, I bet you performed a lot.

There is so much that can be learned by performing that by not giving our students a lot of opportunities to perform, we are really holding them back. So how can you get a recital set up? If you have already held recitals in the past, what can you do to make them even better?

1. Charge a Recital Fee

If you already hold recitals and you don’t charge a recital fee, you should really think about it. Even if you have very few costs (I’m sure you have some) it’s going to take some time to set up a recital, and honestly, there’s nothing wrong with getting paid for your time. Do you consider your lesson fee to include the recital fee? I get it, but you’re probably not charging enough to begin with.

How Much to Charge?

The recital fee should typically be charged per student. I always make sure we buy trophies for each student, so it makes sense that each student would have to pay some fee. You should charge at the very least what will cover your costs. Like I said, it’s ok if you charge more because your time is involved in making recitals great as well, but if you’re not charging enough to cover your costs, you’ll find recitals to be a burden and that’s not what they should be.

I’ve done two recitals a year for 7 years now, and I always charge $20/student. I’ve never had one complaint. Each recital has anywhere between 25-30 students. If we were to assume an average recital has 25 students, then you have a $500 budget. As long as you can get a venue for cheap, that can go a long way to making a great recital.
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Posted in Studio Management

contract

My top tip to any new private teacher would be to get a policy drawn up with your students. Everyone will be much happier for it! Pupils and parents need to know how you run things and your business will benefit from establishing some ground rules.

A feature I love about Music Teacher’s Helper is the “studio policy” web page that is part of the included music teacher website package. This gives us an opportunity to explain to prospective students, who might want to register for lessons, how we run our teaching businesses.

When I first started giving private music lessons I had no contract with my students. Things were casual. Some weeks pupils would turn up and pay for that lesson, other weeks they didn’t. It became very frustrating as I waited to see whether they would attend and pay and as a consequence, my earnings were extremely erratic. I began to quickly realise that I needed a solution otherwise I would simply run out of steam. Enter the contract!

I remember the night before I was planning to present my newly drawn-up contract to my students I was feeling rather anxious. What if they didn’t like the idea of a formal agreement? Would I lose pupils? A couple of parents grumbled but most, to my surprise, were very understanding and agreed that it was a good idea to get things into writing. The improvement was immediate! People were now paying for Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Studio Management, Teaching Tips, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Andrew

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

Robin Steinweg

Music Jeopardy Wins!

September 28th, 2016 by

music jeopardy

Are you looking for learning games for your group class? Music Jeopardy could make a big win and motivate your students. I crafted my own. Here’s how.

What you’ll need:

  • Tri-fold project board
  • Velcro dots
  • Cardstock (tagboard) squares, 3” x 3” or 4” x 4” (or similar-sized cardstock figures—I purchased cardstock owls)
  • Sticky notes (smaller than the squares or shapes)
  • Buzzers (or bells, boom whackers, or even good-old hand raising)
  • Markers
  • A non-partial judge to decide who buzzed, rang or raised hands first
  • A game host (you)

To make:

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Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management

music teaching business

A lot of teachers of music, especially private ones, just fell into this line of work. Someone asked them to show them a few chords and one thing led to another. This is fine. But if at some point you find yourself really beginning to love teaching others, you need to start thinking of it as your career and your business. And teaching music is a business.

Systematization

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Posted in Financial Business, Product Reviews, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

teaching young kids music

Have you ever been asked to teach music to a 3 or 4-year-old? Do you turn them down? It’s completely within your right to only teach older students. Some teachers just prefer to have students start at an older age, and that’s fine. Let me try to make a case for taking younger students, though.

If your studio is not yet full, you’re turning away income and perhaps discouraging a parent from getting lessons for their child until they are older. There are real benefits to early childhood music lessons that I don’t think should be ignored.

When Can Young Children Start?

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Posted in Studio Management, Teaching Tips

autumn-leave-1415541_640

Summer is coming to and end and students will be going back to school. You’re just about through it! All the canceling, rescheduling, and vacations are just about over. You’re headed back to the normal weekly lessons with your students. This is a great time to consider how you’re doing both as a teacher and a business person. Is there anything you could be doing better that will help both your wallet and your students’ progress?

Look into New Teaching Methods

I’m a piano teacher, so there are quite a few method books out there. For just about any instrument there will be a few methods that just about everyone uses. For piano, the go-to method books are Bastien, Alfred, and Faber. Although those are probably the most used methods, they definitely aren’t the only ones.

For me, there seems to be something missing from these method books generally. I’ve never been overly excited about any of them, so I’ve started looking into alternatives. Right now I’ve been using Piano Safari with my daughter, and I’m impressed with how they incorporate learning by rote into the method.

I haven’t been using it long enough to give a great review about it, but the point of me bringing it up is it’s helped me think about teaching in a different way. Before the Fall begins, take this time to analyze how you teach. Could you be more effective? Would changing methods help?

Raise Your Prices

September, or January as well, are good months to raise your prices. You probably won’t be able to raise your prices significantly, but every little bit helps. A 5% increase usually doesn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers too much, but it can be really helpful for you and your family.

As an example, let’s say you’re charging $50/hour, and you’re teaching 20 hours a week of private lessons. With a 5% increase, you’ll be making an extra $50/week or $200/month. That’s a nice chunk of change!

If you’re worried about raising prices on your students, think about it this way. Inflation averages around 3% a year. If you’re not raising your prices at all, you’ll be losing 3% in spending power every year. That’s not a good way to run a business and make a living. You’re also becoming a better teacher every year. You deserve a pay raise. 5% helps you keep up with inflation, and then gives you a small raise as well.

It’s a good practice to write it into your policies, so students expect it every year.

Review and Adjust Your Studio Policies

Hopefully, you have some pretty amazing studio policies. It’s important to define how rescheduled and canceled lessons will work up front. Most parents and students don’t have much of a problem as long as they are told up front what your policies are. Take some time and look over what you have. Can you add some more policies that will make your life easier? Can you collect more payment up front? Maybe you decide to use Music Teacher’s Helper’s great new feature to collect payments automatically every month. Are you going to make that your only option?

With current students, sometimes a change in policies can come as a shock, but most people don’t have a problem for you sticking up for yourself.

Cut Off Problem Students

If you’ve been teaching for a while, you’ve definitely encountered one or two difficult students. Maybe the parents are always harping on you, or are hard to deal with, or maybe the student is just rude. Whatever the reason, your student is causing you stress. You may dread that half hour every week. Life is short. Don’t let people stress you out like that.

If you’re a new teacher, and you need to build your studio, you may have no other options. It may be best to stick it out. Hey, you’ll get some experience, you’ll get paid, and maybe you’ll learn something. But if you are more experienced, don’t let these problem students take over your life.

You teach because you love it. You aren’t making millions, and you don’t plan on it. So why let someone suck the joy out of teaching? Be professional, be kind, but let the parents know that you will no longer be able to teach them anymore.

Create New Marketing Campaigns

If you are still looking for new students to build your studio, spend some time and think about how you can market to them. Marketing can be difficult, but there are plenty of students out there that would love you as their teacher. It’s your job to find them and let them know.

For free advertising, try Craigslist or local Facebook buy and sell groups. Don’t stop advertising yourself just because the first or second ad didn’t net any results. With advertising, you’ll find that a small subset of a small subset of the people who see your ads will sign up for lessons. That’s OK. You don’t need hundreds of students to make a living. Just keep advertising and you’ll see results.

Practice!

If you’re a full-time teacher, perhaps you’re not practicing like you used to. You know, life gets in the way, and practice can sometimes take a back seat. But this Fall is a great time to recommit yourself to practice every day. Practicing will release stress and it will even make you a better teacher. The skill I teach to my students more than anything is how to practice.

Sometimes I feel like I learn more from teaching than my students learn from me. Since I emphasize practicing so much, I apply what I learn by teaching my students how to practice while I practice at home. My personal practice solidifies what I teach and helps me explain myself better.

Start Preparing Recitals

Performing is one the most important part of music education. I’m sure you already have a recital once or twice a year. Start preparing for them now. But even better, what if you had more this year? I know I know, it sounds like a lot of work. Recitals are hard.

You can make it worth your while, though, by charging a small recital fee for each student. If you already charge one, raise it if you can. Most teachers use the recital fee just to pay for the cost of the recital. It’s not wrong to make a little profit as well! Don’t forget you are spending time getting it all setup. Get paid for that time.

See if it’s possible to hold a quarterly recital this year. Yup, that’s one every three months. Soccer players have games pretty much every week, yet somehow musicians only perform once or twice a year. Parents will appreciate it, students will learn how to overcome performance anxiety, and you may actually make a little extra income.

Conclusion

Don’t let this school year be the same as last year. Happiness in anything is all about progression. If you’re being stagnant in your profession, you’ll be more stressed and less happy. What do you think? Is there anything else you’ll be focusing on before school starts in the Fall? Let us know in the comments!

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Posted in Studio Management