AN ONGOING CONCERN for many independent music teachers is the change of commitment level of students during the summer months. While some teachers enjoy the usually lightened studio schedule during the summer months, most of us depend on our teaching as our livelihood and have bills that do not go away during this time. I would love to hear your ideas, especially those of you that have been successful at insuring yourselves regular employment year long!
ESTABLISHING A SUMMER REQUIREMENT (a minimum number of lessons, with the option of replacing some private lessons with one of the various summer workshops), has been most helpful for me in keeping things going in my studio. Though I cannot really make anyone take classes, the ones that do are assured their slot, or first choice of times in my schedule when the school year comes back around. My students and parents seem to really enjoy the flexibility with having a couple of options for summer lessons and a variety of supplemental classes. I can pretty much count on earning at least two out of the three months salary this way, and usually bring on a few new students by offering the workshops to my students as well as students outside my studio. Those who want to do above and beyond the minimum requirement, and anyone who is responsible for an outside registrant receive a 20% discount on a class or monthly tuition charge. This has been a motivator for some, taking advantage to afford extra music involvement for their child, or additional siblings. New students have also joined the studio through these summer referrals.
AS I PONDER MY CLASS OFFERINGS for this coming summer workshops, I am reflecting back to past years. Which classes were most successful and most popular? Which ones am I feeling enthusiastic about teaching again? Which ones brought in new students? Which ones stretched or broadened my current students the most? All of these things are important considerations. I have learned from last year’s experience to limit my offerings to a few subjects that will fit the student interests that particular year. Offering too many different classes can end up with you using lots of your time and resources to teach many small classes. I tend to enjoy most having six students in my workshops, give or take (depending on the subject and activities that will be involved. This allows enough for good interaction, games, and good hourly wage and at the same time is a manageable number (most of the time!)
It has worked well for me to distribute brochures, giving extras to my students to share with friends and school music teachers. I usually post a few on church bulletin boards and local music stores. Thenthere’s the whole question regarding how to market your summer program, what to call it, if you want a catchy heading for your brochure, etc. Working on my brochure, I remembered a recent comment, “Do you think kids are really going to want to sign up for something called a WORKshop in the summer??? You need to call it a CAMP! Camp sounds like more fun!” I sure don’t like to think that everything has to have “fun” as the prerequisite to be successful with kids. But of course, it sure does help nowadays, doesn’t it? We’re competing with church camp, horse camp, Lego camp, sports camp, and a myriad of others. I know my students think music is fun, but some of the most valuable things in life require WORK too! If the title on the brochure is too fun and childlike, my high school kids won’t find it as appealing, and I find they’re a bit difficult to reel in this time of the year anyway! So, two brochures? Maybe one brochure, half fun/child appealing and half cool and sophisticated for the more mature group? Actually, I haven’t tried the idea of separate brochures or sections to target the different age groups yet…maybe this time I’ll go with that approach.
STUDENTS HAVE ENJOYED and benefited greatly from a change of pace and material over the summer vacation (pianist adding voice or composition lessons, singers learning some basic piano and chords or songwriting to help round them out as musicians. ) Some have even added additional lessons in a new area of study with me for the following school year because of having been introduced through a summer workshop.
Here are some of the workshops I have offered over the years. The ones with asterisk were most popular and successful in recent years, and will be among the choices for my future summer offerings:
- Musicianship and Techniques for Singers
- Theater Prep*
- Keyboards for Worship*
- Classical Composition
- Jazz & Improvisation*
- Piano Chops (technique builders)
- Theory for Singers (adult course)
- Theory Games
- Music History
I’m sure many of you have other great ideas for keeping students motivated and in your studios over the summer months. Please share your ideas by replying with a brief (or not so brief) comment to this blog article! We’d love to hear from you!