What do you do when you have have four marvelous, faithful, dynamic and long-time pianists who are graduating from high school and leaving your studio? You throw a Senior Showcase AND check to see if their skills match your mission statement–you know–that one you post on your website but forget to check!

I held a senior showcase quite some time ago when I had 3 seniors graduate in one year. I did the same for the four seniors in the picture below. This year’s show included considerable “upgrades” thanks to the latest tech tools and my ongoing desire to provide creative-based teaching.

senior showcase

Program cover made with Canva

The agenda for the evening

  1. Offer a knockout printed program featuring dazzling photos and important info about the seniors. TIP: Canva.com is amazing! Make sure to check out this free graphic design program.
  2. Prepare pianists to perform around 5 of their favorite current or past pieces that best represent their playing AND their creativity.
  3. Present a projected slide show featuring snap shots of “lifetime” pics of each senior to loop prior to the showcase.
  4. Include a projected slide reflecting the mood or style of the piece as each pianist performed.
  5. Meet a special-request for one of the seniors by displaying slides with various movie posters as he played a tribute medley honoring all his favorite film composers.
  6. Set up cool lighting to provide sophisticated staging.
  7. Ensure outstanding and confident performances from each pianist showing their unique personalities and skills sets.
  8. Create an opportunity for each pianist to read a score on an iPad and turn pages with a blue-tooth pedal.
  9. Design a pop medley collaboration featuring all the pianists using the piano and the impressive voice selection of the Clavinova.

Read more…

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Posted in Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

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Welcome to our member spotlight series. Today we have Ruth Hartt, a voice teacher in the Boston area. If you are a current Music Teacher’s Helper user and would like to be featured on the blog, please fill out this questionnaire.

How long have you been teaching music?

15 years.

How would you describe your studio space to someone that’s never visited?

My home studio is comfortable, spacious, and bright, with lots of natural light. It is equipped with a Roland electric piano, microphones, recording equipment, iMac computer, and a portable PA system.

Read more…

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Posted in Studio Management, Teaching Tips

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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

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

Microphone

So you are heading off to your first recording session. What tips can help you achieve a great recording? Even if you are just having fun recording yourself in your bedroom, hopefully, the following tips will help.

Before the recording session
•  If this is your first time being recorded, if you can, visit the studio so as to get familiar with the vocal booth setup to help you relax. Even just looking at the photos on the studio website will help.

•  If you are recording a vocal, get familiar with the words, ideally, memorise them and bring a copy to help the producer follow for accuracy as you record.

•  When you rehearse, check that you only take breaths at the end of sentences to avoid spoiling the flow of the phrases.

•  Focus on your performance. What does the song mean to you? Can you “feel” the emotion as you perform?

•  Head to the session wearing Read more…

photo by:

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Posted in Music & Technology, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

When a Group Class Goes Off Course

By Robin Setinweg

What do you do when a group class goes off course?

“It couldn’t. It wouldn’t!” you say. Well, after successful group classes for years, it happened. And it was probably all my fault.

What was I thinking? Spring weather had just begun. That makes squirrely kids. It was right before spring break. That makes kids mega-squirrely. I made it a pizza party. That brings in higher numbers. And—here’s the biggie—I did not recruit help. I didn’t make sure any older students were attending. So I had oodles of young ones, and no older ones with whom to pair them up. Yikes.

It started great. I had three pizzas cooked ahead. I cut them to give my young learners a visual of whole notes, half notes, quarters, and eighths. They had to ask for the number of eighths they wanted to eat, and tell me how many quarter notes they took, or dotted quarter, etc. (nobody got a whole note!). But then the fun started.

Without supervision.

I was kept busy putting pizzas in, taking them out, cutting them and pouring beverages. So the party became quite noisy and full of high spirits. They weren’t naughty or ill-behaved—these are good kids! Just over-the-top energy and behavior. Which meant it was nearly impossible to get them back.

I had learning games planned. I swapped one in to quiet them down. I played a CD, and they were to draw how it made them feel. I spent the next 10 minutes answering questions like, “Can I draw the London Bridge?” and comments like, “Did you know the London Bridge was moved to (some city here in the States) in (some year I missed)?”

When the quiet music time became noisy due to high spirits, and I astutely realized this was not accomplishing the quiet mood I’d thought it would, I moved on to another game.

I think, by the final game, some music facts sank in. I had four chairs set up, with students on them. Each was a quarter note. We counted them. Remove one or more, the counting stays the same, because after all, rests take as much space up as notes (the chair is still there, simply unoccupied). They needed to decide how to make a half note, whole note, dotted half. Only one student was tall enough to lie across all four chairs to make that whole note.

I know they had fun, and they got the point through some games. But I also know I was done-in. I should have had help. I hope to help you avoid “when a group class goes off course.”

Have you ever had a group go amiss? Can you laugh about it now? Comments welcome!

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Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

I tried a new way of organizing my lesson planning this year which has kept me more on track. It involves just three basic pieces: a small plastic box, 8×5 index cards, and tab dividers. (I have included links for similar items on Amazon.com, but I got all my supplies at Walmart.)Lesson Box, cards

Here are ways you can use your box:

Student Lesson Plans Tabs:

Put each student’s name on a tab divider. You can organize them alphabetically, or by lesson schedule. Write each student’s lesson plan on a new 8×5 card each week. I also include the date, the time of their lesson, and any unusual circumstances, such as a makeup lesson. Keep the most current card in the front, right behind their name tab.

You can write the next lesson plan out on a new card right after a lesson, any time during the intervening week, or the day of the next lesson, using the previous week’s card and notes as a guide. Writing out a plan doesn’t mean that you will stick to it exactly, but it gives you an overview of what you should try to cover. During the lesson, you can also jot notes to yourself on this card, and check off things you covered in the lesson. I review the lesson plans at the beginning of the day and get out any games and props I will need that afternoon.Lindas card

It can also be helpful to put a “master list” card in the very front of each student’s tab, with a list of general things you would like to teach the student this year. Check this list every so often as you make your lesson plans to be sure you are meeting your big goals for the student. This is a great place to write down the student’s goals too.

Teaching Tips Tabs:

Add teaching tips tabs behind the students’ tabs for skills such as scales, arm weight, posture, phrasing, and such. You could have just one tab that says Teaching Tips for all your ideas, or you can have a tab for each separate skill area. Write out any helpful hints you come across for teaching these skills on an index card. You could have cards for scales, blues chords, jazz scales, modes, historical eras, improvisation, one-hand ideasperformance prep, and so on. The possibilities are endless. Make these very concise—just notes that will help you remember all the important points. This would be a great project to expand upon after attending a conference, so you don’t lose all those new ideas in a folder somewhere at the bottom of a closet. You can also fold an 81/2 x 11 paper in half and trim two edges so it will fit in the with 8 x 10 cards. This can save recopying information. I also trim card stock to fit the box on which I have printed out helpful hints or graphics. I love having teaching notes and tips available right by the piano, instead of having to run to the other room and look in my file cabinet.Practice Box

“Wing It” Days Tabs:

Use this section when a student shows up with no books, or is having a bad day. Make cards full of ideas for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students that can be done with no preparation, but will be educational and fun. If you have a lot of ideas, put one idea on each card. If you need less to go on, just make three cards, one for each level. Be sure to include directions to games, and where to locate the supplies quickly.

Extra Cards and Tabs:

Keep extra tabs and index cards in the back of the box so you can access them quickly. With a full studio and lots of teaching tips, you may need to give students and teaching tips each their own box.

If this sounds interesting, give it a try! I would love to hear your comments below about how you organize your lesson planning.

 

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Posted in Studio Management

breaking mental barriers teaching music

Research shows that playing music involves the firing of neurons in multiple areas of the brain at once.  (See my previous post on this.)  And yet many, if not most, learners, and I would venture to say most teachers as well, emphasize verbal and conscious control in the playing of a musical instrument.

I suspect that this emphasis on control not only hinders the musicality and facility of students, but also places improvisation and learning by ear out of the box, as if they’re difficult or unusual.

If the brain fires in many places at once, then clearly the verbal and executive centers are not all there is to playing music.  Is it possible for teachers to help nurture the nonverbal and subconscious activity that is essential to playing music? Read more…

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Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

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The Savvy Musician in Action

Have you heard of it before? It’s an immersive, experiential week-long workshop designed to help artists and increase income and impact. 

The entrepreneurship workshop is brought to you by cutting edge David Cutler, author of  The Savvy Musician and a brand new book, The Savvy Music Teacher. In a nutshell, it is perhaps an event like none other. I’ve been to plenty of conferences but this seems truly unique. Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Studio Management

This week we are excited to announce updates to the Android and iPhone apps!

Under the left sidebar, you will find a new Metronome tab available to Teachers and Students! A great tool for students during their at home practice sessions. 

metronome app for music teaching

The Lending library functionality is now available in the app. As well as the Report section. There is also new interactive 24 hour Today bar with color codes.

scheduling music students music lesson calendar

Other changes made to the apps:

  • API improvements for today’s events, schedule, calendar > events by day, student details
  • The side menu now has a collapsible Billing menu
  • Duration is displayed on the event detail screen
  • Better contact import for iOS 9
  • Adaptive screens: hiding non active fields like hour in case of an all day event
  • Bug fixes

And here are the changes made to the regular software version of Music Teacher’s Helper:

  • Updated Batch Attendance to allow editing of multiple parameters as it was before.
  • Fixed a bug with invoice v1 default due date if none selected.
  • Fixed a condition that gave a “We could not parse the calendar at the url requested” error when attempting to sync to Google Calendar.
  • Fixed a bug that caused some email invoices to be blank PDFs.
  • Fixed a bug that caused a blank subject line on invoice notification email.
  • Updated calendar filter design.
  • Allowed input of Google Analytics UA code in website settings.
  • Allowed input of SEO info in website settings.
  • Corrected a couple dozen minor issues reported by customers and QC.

Let us know if you have any questions by contacting support. Have a great weekend!

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Posted in New Features and Fixes, Site Announcements, Studio Management