Posted in Studio Management
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.
2. Find a Great Venue
If you’re a piano teacher, you want to do your best to find a venue with a grand piano. Most students don’t have the opportunity to practice or play often on a grand piano. I’ve actually had students play at recitals that have never played on a grand piano in their life! It could be the first time for a lot of your students.
Do you go to church? If you do, the first place I would check is the church you go to regularly. Often churches are more than happy to have a recital during the week when services aren’t going on. The church might see it as a service to the community, but it can also help bring in new patrons.
If you don’t go to church, or you know your church wouldn’t allow a recital, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other local churches that might love to host your recital for you. You can call your local churches, or even just make some rounds and go to many different churches. Some churches may charge a fee for use of their venue. That’s one reason you’re charging a recital fee. If they do, and as long as your recital fee can cover it, then by all means, try it out!
Be prepared to give a deposit as well. Your deposit will normally be held just in case you really dirty the place up. For the most part, if you clean up after yourself, they likely won’t even cash your deposit check.
Another great place to look is music stores. Piano stores specifically often have some room to hold a recital. You may find that many local teachers already use venues like these. These venues often charge very little (some don’t charge at all!) because they just want customers walking into their store. You likely have a lot of these type of stores nearby. Start making some calls!
Find the Venue Early
Some venues are booked solid for months. You don’t want to get stuck with a bad day. Initially, I always had to pick a day in the middle of summer when everyone was on vacation because no one wanted those days for recitals. It was hard to get a lot of attendance. Then I wised up. I asked if I could book a bunch of recitals. I had to pay the venue fee and deposit for each day, but I booked 3 years in advance. I got some great dates, and I didn’t have to stress about worrying about it in the future. If your venue allows it, try to schedule as many recitals as possible.
3. Give Awards
There are a lot of opinions on whether you should give awards out to everyone “just for participating”, but I personally think it’s a great way to get kids excited to perform. Each child get’s a nice trophy after the recital with their name on it and the season/year of the recital. Kids love it. I mean they really do. You think your stickers are a big hit? Just wait until they get this gold trophy in their hands. Regardless of how well they think they did, when they get a trophy they feel good about the recital. You can have a little mini award ceremony after the recital as well. You can call up each student one by one and say a little something. The specific attention really goes a long way.
4. Make Programs
At a college recital or even a professional recital, there will always be a program. You should have one too! Make the program simple. The name of each performer, the piece they’re playing, and if applicable, a composer and their dates are all you need. You don’t need some elaborate pictures or backgrounds. Just black text on normal paper. The front can have the date and your studio’s name. The back can have a little thank you note to the parents.
When I first started doing recitals, I went all out on the programs. I had them printed in color, on nice paper, with a lot of graphics. Printing 100 color pages front and back is not cheap. You know what I noticed? No one cared! It was just a big waste of money, and honestly, the simpler programs ended up looking better. Print them in black and white. 100 copies will only cost around $10-15.
Save your program template because it will help make your next recital that much easier.
5. Send Out Recital Invitations Early
The first thing you should do is send out a recital invitation in an email to all of your students at least 2 months early. That may sound like a lot, but the more time you give your students to clear their schedule, the more likely you are to have a lot of people there. Letting people know 3 or 4 months early is fine too! Just don’t forget to follow up with reminders when the date gets closer, as some people may have missed the first email, or completely forgotten about it by then.
If your budget allows it, make up some postcard flyers. I always have them printed nicely, and I give 10 or so to each family. It should have the date/time of the recital along with a map and address to the venue. Don’t forget to include “Free Admission!” on the flyer. These postcard/flyers are a fantastic way for your students to let their family and friends know about it.
You’ll notice people walking into the recital with the postcard in their hand. Whenever I do this, we always have many, more people at the recital. I’ve had 150 people at a recital with just 25 kids before. It’s a pretty fun event.
The first time you run a recital, you’ll likely be stressed out of your mind. It’s a lot of work and there are a lot of unknowns. Now each time I run a recital all I need to do is get a list of students, send the list to my trophy place, make the programs, and show up. The programs take me about 30 minutes because I already have a template. The whole process is pretty seamless and simple.
You know that performing is important. It helps with performance anxiety, it gives students confidence, and most of all, it’s fun! Hold recitals as often as you can. Your students and their parents will appreciate it.
Posted in Studio Management
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…
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?
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?
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)
- A non-partial judge to decide who buzzed, rang or raised hands first
- A game host (you)
September 22nd, 2016 by Andrew Ingkavet
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.
September 16th, 2016 by Brian Jenkins
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?
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.
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.
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!
Posted in Studio Management
July 30th, 2016 by Andrew
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.
The Virtual Music Education Conference produced by Janice and Kevin Tuck packs four days with online presentations by experts in the field of music education. Even though it’s been around for years, my very first time to attend the online conference was this year. To be honest, I attended because I was invited as a presenter for the conference. I discovered that it was not only an honor to be included in the schedule as a speaker but also an honor to have access to the highly esteemed conference and learn from so many leaders in our field. There’s still time to access the conference. Learn more here.
I was glued to my seat listening to the first day’s presenters. In fact, I already purchased a couple of books while listening to the first two sessions! One of the books that I’ll be rereading soon is Todd Whitaker’s entitled, What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most. As I listened to Whitaker speak and then while reading his book, I kept thinking that I should have absorbed his advice years ago. It would have helped me to deal more professionally and effectively with troublesome student behavior and needy parents!
As I know you’ll want to purchase his book yourself I won’t “ruin” it by providing those 17 things here in this post. Instead, I’ve made some tweaks that show how I applied Whitaker’s advice for me as an independent piano studio teacher. For those you don’t teach piano, please make minor adjustments!
Begin each of the following sentences with: Great piano teachers…
1) Know that it may be the teacher that needs to improve before the student can improve at the keys.
Ex: Before you believe the student is the problem, check to see if you might be the problem and make steps to find a solution.
2) Understand that the method book and exams are not the keys to measuring success on the bench.
Ex: If a student wants to play “Fur Elise” great teachers will adapt their curriculum and realize that even though this may be the 100th student in their studio playing “Fur Elise”, it’s the student’s very first time to experience and enjoy “Fur Elise.” Read more…