Music Teacher’s Helper Member Spotlight – Angie & Marcus

July 30th, 2016 by

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

What instrument(s) you teach?

Violin/Fiddle, Guitar, Piano, Banjo, Mandolin, Ukulele, Drum Set, Cajon, Harmonica, and Shitar.

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

We have a cozy home studio. Our parlor holds our stringed instruments (piano, violin, guitars, etc.), and the adjoining space is the percussion room (drum set, concert xylophone, hand drums). Our goal is to help our students play music with family and friends, so we enjoy inviting our students into our home to play music with us.

Was there a specific moment when you realized you loved teaching music?

Teaching music has been a constant in my life. I started teaching in high school and have always taught part time through college and various day jobs. I guess I realized I loved teaching when I continued to dedicate time to it despite my busy schedule filled with school, work, and family obligations. When something had to give from my schedule, I realized it couldn’t be teaching. It was then I quit my “day job” and dedicated my career to teaching music.

How did you feel in the moment you made the decision to be an independent music teacher? Do you recall being nervous/excited/scared?

As I mentioned before, I’d been teaching for years before I decided to become an independent music teacher full time. The moment I finished reading “The Savvy Music Teacher” (David Cutler) was the moment I decided to make the change. I was nervous to make changes to my existing studio policies, but felt empowered to make the change. Then I read “The Dynamic Studio” (Phillip Johnston) and by the end of the introduction I was excited and had a clear vision for my ideal studio. Now my husband and teaching partner, Marcus, is experiencing similar feelings as he transitions out of his day job and to become a full time independent music teacher in September. The reality of running our own business without the safety net of a “day job” is nerve-wracking, but the flexibility and freedom of spending more time with our family while doing what we love is making it worth it!

What were the steps you took to get your first lessons to having a full student roster?

For the first 14 years or so of my teaching it was fortunately easy to find students. Rather, they would find me! It seems that people are drawn to instruments and curious to find out more when they learn that you play. For the first decade of teaching I gained students through word of mouth. In 2012 my teaching partner, Marcus, and I started operating under the name “Boise Music Lessons” and launched a modest website. Now that we switched to a membership model at the start of 2016 we realized we need more help with marketing, so we hired someone to re-do our website and boost our search engine optimization (SEO) so we can officially make the switch to both of us teaching full time.

What is one piece of advice you could offer to someone looking to start teaching music lessons?

Don’t offer make-up lessons! They are the biggest waste of your time and energy. Once we discontinued them (now offer swap sheet, FaceTime lessons, and a few other options) our attendance went up exponentially and the missed lessons no longer have an impact on our income.

How do you currently find new students? Do you use directory sites like Thumbtack.com, Lessonrating.com, or your local MTA?

We find students through word of mouth, our website, our Facebook page, and by leaving our cards at nearby businesses.

How do you feel when you think back to all of students you’ve interacted with over the years and impacted positively?

My interactions with students and my impact on their lives (and theirs on mine) are one of the most positive elements in my life. My relationship with my students is my favorite part of my work and the reason I’ve chosen to become an independent music teacher.

What is your favorite part of a lesson?

My favorite part of lessons is seeing students collaborate. We offer multiple lesson options like “Tandem” and “Tagalong” memberships that allow two students to share a time and build their skills together. We also have once a month Hootenannies (group lessons) for students of all ages and abilities to perform and collaborate in a common key.

 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 enjoy teaching folk music as it is accessible to many abilities and easy to collaborate between instruments. We always teach a new banjo chord at our Hootenannies as it’s simple to learn due to its open tuning. This is quite different from my original focus on orchestral and chamber music.

Anything else you’d like to share about your studio, management tips, teaching style, etc.?

At the start of this year we switched our studio to a membership model with three components: Lessons (Solo, Tandem, or Tagalong), Hootenannies, and unscheduled instructor Flex Time with a set number of events in a year. The Lessons allow for individualized instruction in an instruments of emphasis, the Hootenannies provide much needed group collaboration, performance skills, and multi-instrumental fun, and the Flex Time allows us to keep our sanity and health as instructors by giving us flexibility through sick leave and vacation time. Our members join for a year, and pay a flat monthly tuition, regardless of the number of events that fall in a given month. This has streamlined much of our administrative duties and allowed us to finally focus on teaching our students to grow as musicians. The students have enjoyed the added variety and their sense of community the Hootenannies and collaborative Lesson options provide. I would encourage other independent music teachers to try and engage their students through group events to foster and inspire community and creativity.

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

4 years

What is your favorite thing about Music Teacher’s Helper?

Automatic recurring payment options and automated lesson reminders. They have improved my attendance rates and reduced my time spent invoicing. I couldn’t live without it!

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

About the Author

Andrew
Andrew is currently the Marketing Director for Music Teacher's Helper. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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