music lessons in today's busy attention economy

The Information Economy?

People sometimes say that we are living in the “information economy.”  I think that is only partially true.  Instead, I believe we are living in the attention economy.  Think about it.  There is nothing more precious than our attention — not time, money, or material possessions –and everyone wants a piece of it!

Mindfulness

There has recently been a lot of talk about mindfulness in the media,and I believe it’s exactly because of information overload.  We as a society need to stop and learn to filter out the signal from all the noise.

Fully Present

I specialize in teaching music to children.  One thing that I have done from the beginning is made it a point to be truly present while teaching or interacting with my students and their families.  At recitals, I give my unwavering focus to each child on the stage, to the point where I feel both emotionally and physically exhausted by the end of the performance.  It is as if I am willing their success through my 100% attention.  

I didn’t realize that I was doing this until my wife mentioned it to me.  She said,

“I love to watch you at your recitals because you are completely there for your students.”

I believe that this total focus on each student in front of me is a big part of why I have such a strong rapport with them.  

It is unfortunately so rare for a child to have that complete and total attention from any adult these days. Many parents are so distracted.  Not only is there the normal work/life balance, but now there is also the ubiquitous smartphone constantly beeping in the background.  Many children seem to never have full attention, and “act out,”  because negative attention is better than no attention at all.

An Audience of One

Each lesson is also a performance.  You have an audience of one, and you are fully engaged in listening, responding, and leading the student to new heights of understanding and ability.  

What happens when you give a child your complete presence is remarkable.  You have complete trust;  you have a safe space where you can encourage, coax, or even cajole your student to move far beyond their previous internally-constructed obstacles.  When the student says, “I can’t do it”  you can say, “…yet!”  and they believe you.

I was so humbled to receive this comment from a parent:

“You have a unique capability to communicate, share and nurture enthusiasm for music…  you teach to the individual child.  You find a way to access each student where he/she is, and to find the music that touches him/her.  I have noticed with Mary* that (while she never wants to disappoint you) she does not fear judgment from you…you have created a safe place for the journey of learning.  While you gently push your kids, you are an incredibly patient and kind teacher. 

Be Present

So the lesson is this: Stop trying to multi-task.  Be completely present, and it will enable you to move mountains and maybe even change the world.

*Student’s name has been changed

Read More » Comments (1)

Posted in Teaching Tips

Big news! Next week you will be able to access dozens of new features through a Beta option. These features include many that our members suggested such as lesson swapping, text message notifications, custom rate packages, and more.

We’ll provide instructions to opt-in (hint: it’s as easy as clicking a button) so you can experience the many new features and contribute feedback prior to each feature moving live. With the beta option, we’ll make the features available right away for those who are excited to use them, and then make them live for everyone as soon as they’re ready.

You’ll be able to easily switch out of the beta features if you’d like, but we hope you love how they work so much you won’t want to! You’ll have detailed instructions for using each feature.

Look out for instructions next week for how to take advantage of the new features.

Read More » Comments (2)

Posted in New Features and Fixes

This past month I gave a piano masterclass in Jakarta, Indonesia. How? Read below – this post will hopefully inspire you with ideas to help your students (and bring more students to you).

Back in May, I had a dilemma that many teachers face: our piano students leave town for the summer. I could teach my remaining students until the fall rolled around, but what if I mixed in a little adventure?

I brushed with the travel bug last year, but I had never been to Asia. I started thinking, how cool would it be to visit and teach music somewhere out there?

It never hurts to check. I was enticed by Bali, so I chose to look into the city of Jakarta, a short plane ride away.

Steps to Teach Music Overseas

  1. Created a spreadsheet and Googled Indonesian music schools.
  2. Made a list of ~20, with links and contact info.
  3. Crafted a short email, stating that I wanted to teach a masterclass and/or teach lessons while I was visiting.
  4. Cut down my already short email by half, to be clearer and to-the-point.
  5. Sent this to each school.

Within the week, two had enthusiastically responded. I chose to work with Rosa Mistyca, the super sharp and talented owner of Ensiklomusika, based in Jakarta. We Skyped once to confirm that, yes, we’re both real people. Rosa agreed to promote my visit to Jakarta residents (a ton of work on her part). The deal was – I’d give one presentation for teachers looking for tips on teaching, and one masterclass where I teach individual students for ~25 minutes each, with their families and other students in the audience. Over the next month, we coordinated dates and suddenly I realized: Oh this is really happening. Can’t back out now.

No Longer Just a Fantasy: I’m Really Going to Asia

I booked my ticket, got my shots, and started to prepare. I had never done any of this before. But after a decade of teaching and making music in NYC, I felt ready to share what I’ve learned, to challenge myself, and to embrace a little chaos and uncertainty.

I sat down, nervously started to write…and realized I knew a lot more than I thought.

Until you write down or present what you know in a codified way, it’s tough to know how much you truly know. This is why blogging and writing lesson notes to families are so crucial (Music Teacher’ s Helper lets you do this easily, by the way). It doesn’t just help them but gives your teaching clarity. Weak habits get broken. You start to see how to approach the problems students face but also why, at a deeper level, an approach is good or needs to change. Very powerful.

Still, I was intimidated. Ensiklomusika was counting on me, paying me, to prepare something clear and useful, in an unfamiliar context, in a foreign country. It would be nice if they all loved it, and loved me, but maybe they’ll think I’m a fraud. Then what?

A wise man once wrote: “the future is indeed terrifyingly unknowable when you can’t even focus on the present.”

So I focused on what I could control: my own effort, in that moment.

Weeks later, I arrived in Jakarta and spent some time wandering around the city.

After a few stimulating days dodging Southeast Asia traffic, I hunkered down in my hotel to work on my presentation.

The Presentation

I arrived, sat down at the piano, and relaxed for a few minutes. Oh wait, I know how to do this.

Soon, a dozen teachers from Jakarta filed in, with pens and paper, and sat down, waiting for me to begin.

So I took a deep breath, and began. I talked about rhythmic approaches, how to sight-read, and common problems students have. I shared stories about my students to show why rapport matters so much – students often stay or leave because of this alone.

Finally, I brought in a unique approach to helping kids, as young as four, read and play music from their first lesson. I’ve used Andrew Ingkavet’s Musicolor Method for close to a year and watched as referrals flew in, my roster almost double, and my confidence as a teacher grow like crazy. Andrew’s approach not only works, but kids (and even one of my adult students!) really love it. What an opportunity to show a room full of Jakarta residents something new, from the other side of the world!

masterclass-group-1-high-res

After two hours, the conference ended. The masterclass began soon after.

Again, this was new for me. I was to give each of seven students a private lesson…with their families, friends, and students watching. To take the searing spotlight off the student, I planned to address the audience at times, to include them in the learning process.

This means I had to:

  • immediately identify the problems that particular student (a student I had just met!) was facing
  • help her feel comfortable enough to listen to me and try my suggestions (with a watching audience)
  • throughout each lesson, I had to observe, frame, and simplify those problems to the audience in a way that 1) didn’t alienate the student herself, and 2) helped the audience understand some technicals without alienating them

masterclass-student-6-CROP-high-res

By the end, I was totally wiped out.

And who headlines the entire masterclass? A wildly talented student, Elnino, six years old, sits down and crushes a tricky Sonatina. This boy used every part of his body gracefully and played it passionately. Not like a robot at all. It was easy for him.

Elnino’s physical instincts were top-notch. I nudged the audience to observe what he does so effortlessly with his arms and body overall, to open their minds to how he’s intuitively solved his own physical problems, the same problems that plague other students.

What a reward, to present material that I love to new faces, and they were thrilled!

We finished, grabbed a beer, and Rosa forced me to eat a durian (a fruit that smells so bad it offends cockroaches). Then I hopped on a plane to Bali the next morning. What a trip.

durian-rosa-high-res

Takeaways: What I Learned by Teaching Teachers and Giving a Piano Masterclass

It challenged me to condense all my knowledge in a simple, actionable way, and to do this publicly, on the spot.

I learned to repeat myself, helpfully. For instance, unclear rhythms cause most problems for students. During the masterclass, I saw five students struggle with this. So I approached them with a similar solution, five times, and noted the common thread to the student and the audience. Everyone wins.

The experience gave me more confidence as a teacher. It gave my work visibility, legitimacy, and a bridge to a whole new set of relationships on a different continent. As a busy teacher in NYC, I know that relationships, and ultimately businesses, are built and sustained on trust. I managed to create a pocket of that within an entirely new part of the world.

____

Want to try something like this? You never know, all it takes is a quick email. Plan ahead now before next summer comes – Ensiklomusika continuously accepts foreign teachers during their visits.

brett-recital-high-res

Brett Crudgington runs a private piano studio in Brooklyn, NY for over 20 students. He studied jazz as a teenager and spent formative years in college working with John Kamitsuka on classical music. It was here that he learned Abby Whiteside’s physical approach to the piano, how to make music that emanates from the core rather than the fingers. He actively brings a wide range of pedagogical tools to his lessons, including Andrew Ingkavet’s Musicolor Method.

Read More » Comments (0)

Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio

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!

Read More » Comments (4)

Posted in Studio Management

This week, we’re announcing three more exciting upcoming feature improvements that will be ready later this month.

Set Attendance Separately for Each Student in a Group Lesson 

You will soon have the option to set individual attendance for group lessons. Sometimes it’s helpful to provide individual lesson notes for a student in a group lesson and setting their attendance individually will allow this. You’ll still have the efficient option to set attendance collectively and send off notes to the entire group. This highly requested improvement provides an additional option with more flexibility.

Student Profile Photos

One of the upcoming improvements to the student area will be the option to add a student profile photo. For larger studios, it’s nice to put a face to a name, especially for those new students. And your students will have a more personalized experience when using Music Teacher’s Helper.  

More Customizable Rate Options

 

Rates settings Cropped No Border

Last but not least, rates will be updated so you can have greater flexibility and customization in how you charge your students and update your rates for multiple students at once. Rather than only being able to charge per lesson or a flat fee, under the new rates feature you will be able to set up rate packages to:

  • Bill hourly, weekly, monthly, or by  semester
  • Charge for a series of lessons (a set amount for a certain number of lessons that you specify)
  • Bill up front in a lump sum or pro-rate the amount over the rate package
  • Choose to receive a reminder to reschedule a student when they are nearing the end of the lessons they paid for

All of this will be managed from one easy place in your Settings so you can create, edit and remove rate packages as needed and then assign each student a particular rate package that meets both their needs and schedule as well as yours.

Have questions about these upcoming features? Email us anytime at support@musicteachershelper.com.

Read More » Comments (0)

Posted in New Features and Fixes

Reuben Vincent Studio March 14-170

If I had a penny for every time I heard a grumpy, narrow-minded, middle-aged moaner say something like: “They don’t make records like they used to” or “They only churn out rubbish in popular music these days” I’d be a millionaire! Concerning popular music, some people seem to be trapped in a time-warp, suspiciously based around the period when they were teenagers and young adults. Like as if the music that was made before and after isn’t worth considering!

And then there’s the classical crowd. Content some are to listen to the faithful few – Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Now don’t get me wrong, I love those composers but what about all the fabulous writers that have come afterwards, some still living even? Come on chaps, let’s be more open-minded!

Personally, I think music has been on an incredible journey since the invention of recorded music and the internet. Now music from all over the world and from every period is easily accessible. Children aren’t just exposed to the music of Read more…

Read More » Comments (0)

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music History & Facts

Hi, Everyone! Over the next several months, we will continue launching many updates to existing features, and some very exciting new features. Some of these updates will be ones you’ve been requesting, but others will be completely new features that we think will dramatically enhance the way you run your studio and connect with students.

Stripe Autopay Subscriptions for Families

First, an important new feature that is live! You can now bill and charge your families automatically each month for whatever amount they owe. Once you enable this feature, and the student/parent has entered their credit card information, you can set up the recurring billing option for that student, and never have to chase after money again! Your students will also save time in making payments to you, as it will be automated each month. A big thanks to those of you who helped us out as beta testers and offered input.

146991563053588

(Students can upload a credit card in their login for you to bill them automatically)

 

For full instructions on how to setup and use autopay, please refer to this knowledge base article.

We also have two improvements to the student management area that will be available by August 31st. (Note: This is just a small part of everything we’re releasing by August 31, to whet your appetite. We’ll be announcing more as the month rolls on.)

Allow Separate Parent Records in a Family

Entering contact information for a child student can be difficult if their parents have different last names or addresses, or if someone other than the parents is paying for the lesson. Soon you’ll be able to accommodate this by including separate contact records for a child student. This can also include grandparents or others who should be receiving student notifications. For instance, if someone other than the parent(s) or guardian is paying for lessons, you can add that person as a contact and invoice them directly. You’ll be able to add an unlimited number of contacts per student so you can stay in communication with everyone necessary.

Switch a Child Student to an Adult Student

Sometimes students taking lessons grow into adults students and begin paying on their own. Now, you have the option of switching that student from child to adult without having to re-enter any information.

Additionally, sometimes the parent of a student decides to start taking lessons and you will have the ability to switch them to a student while maintain their status as the primary contact for their child. 

Thank you to our members that provide feature suggestions and feedback. That communication allows us to make the product better and teachers’ studios’ run more efficiently!

Read More » Comments (5)

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

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

Read More » Comments (0)

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

51is1eijSjL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

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…

Read More » Comments (1)

Posted in Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

The Art of Silence

July 27th, 2016 by

music teaching resources

The art of silence often has sad beginnings. I point to a spot in the music and say, “What about that?”

My student, blank-faced, says, “That lightning-shaped thing (or “squiggly-shaped” or “the seven with a bump” or “that hat-looking thing”)?”

“Yes. Did you do that?”

“Um, what am I supposed to do with it?”

And there we have our problem. Our students are in Go! mode in a world that’s in Go Faster! mode. Telling them to pause is akin to telling toddlers to walk at the pool. They don’t have that gear yet! It’s time to…

Teach them the Art of Silence

Make it Memorable
Read more…

Read More » Comments (2)

Posted in Music Theory, Teaching Tips