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When I was studying music in college I taught lessons from any unused practice room that I could find. Usually after K-12 schools were finished for the day the stuffy white rooms would start to clear out as well.

This set up was far from ideal, however. My instrument was perched on top of the room’s out-of-tune old piano and students (who were often too short to reach the top of the clunky chordophone) were forced to unpack in one of the room’s dusty corners. If parents wanted to observe the lessons they had to find whatever space was available and dodge flying bows.

As I have started to break into teaching in the real world, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good studio good, beyond the teacher, of course. What can we change about our studios to make them inviting and encouraging to students? Or if we’re moving into a new studio, what should we look for before we sign a lease? When 50% of young musicians quit after two years, it’s clear that we need to grab onto every advantage we can in order to maintain student interest.

(1) Consider your windows. There’s no simple answer to the question of windows in studio rooms, but it’s much better to think about how you want them than to ignore the issue. Some students will be energized by sunlight and a view of the outdoors, but others may be easily distracted and dispense with your lesson in favor of a bird that’s flying by.

In my experience younger students tend to be the easily distracted ones, while older more self-directed students are able to avoid the distractions and stay upbeat with the aid of some natural light. However, it’s up to you to judge what’s appropriate for each student. Consider investing in some curtains so that you can change the room on a fly.

(2) Think about your position in the room. If you’re like me then you’ll be all over the place to observe the student and watch his or her technique from every angle, but you’ll always default back to a specific spot. Maybe you’ll have a chair there, or a desk, depending on your situation, but one thing is clear: you need to give your students room to breathe.

No one likes to have their teacher breathing down their neck and we need to remember that we can often be intimidating to our students. Give your student some space. You’ll both be happier.

(3) Spice up your studio with some music-themed decoration. My viola teacher in my high school years had a Beethoven action figure that gave the room a sort of fun vibe. That’s not the only way to get your students excited about music, though. Maybe think about a poster of a famous composer or perhaps a page of one of your instrument’s great concertos. Reminding students that they’ll be playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto one day can inspire and motivate them through difficult times.

A few inspiring measures can go a long way.

A few inspiring measures can go a long way.

Perhaps a life size cutout of a famous violinist is what your studio calls for. What student doesn’t want Jascha Heifetz’s stony gaze scrutinizing their every note? Or maybe a get a cutout of yourself so that you can take a well-deserved nap.

(4) Give your students some space to unpack their instrument, resin their bow, or do whatever else they need to do in order to get set up for the lesson. Don’t repeat my mistake and stand idly by while your student slides their case along the floor, picking up dust and God knows what else along the way. All you need here is a low table, which can double as a place to keep your lesson box. That one investment can go a long way.

(5) Keep photos of your old students around. Every student who sticks with their instrument after they’ve stopped taking lessons is a story worth telling. On top of inspiring your current students to stick with it, having a reminder of your successes around can help you keep going through the rough days.

(6) Get yourself some sort of audio setup. This can be as simple as a pair of mobile speakers to hook up to your laptop or phone. As long as you’re getting your student to listen to some of the music for your instrument, you’re on the right track. I’m reminded of the story of a young Lynn Harrell, who listened to the records of Janos Starker for inspiration in his youth. Having your own equipment “in house,” so to speak, is more important than it seems here, since many students won’t have the resources or the motivation to go out and find recordings on their own.

These are some of my ideas, but I’m not the perfect teacher. Let me know how you make your teaching studios exciting in the comments!

About the author:

NC_Headshot

Nick Cesare is a violist and teacher from Boise, Idaho. He has a degree in viola performance from Boise State University, where he learned that the viola belongs in the left hand and the bow in the right. When he’s not practicing, Nick likes to write about music, bike in the Boise foothills, and cook.

 

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creative music teaching tips

Is your lesson schedule jam-packed? Have you maxed out your income because you’ve run out of teaching days and times? Are you nervous about making ends meet during the summer months? As private music teachers, sometimes we have to be really creative when it comes to drumming up more income. Here are a handful of creative tips that will help you boost your income with group lessons and summer camps. Don’t get nervous… you don’t have to be a group expert to make these ideas work!

1) Keep it fun. Sure, summer camps are great for reinforcing basic music concepts, but they’re also an opportunity for you to foster comradery and imagination in your studio. One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen from other teachers about summer camps is about low enrollment: students and parents are reluctant to sign up because from their perspective, the camp just doesn’t sound very fun. That’s why it’s so important to make your camps fun and creative – students are more likely to sign up for something that’s unique and exciting than for something that comes across as an “educational experience.” This summer I’m holding a Hogwarts themed summer camp, and I know my students will be interested in something like that! Check out the video below for a montage of the fun camp we did last year: Music Blast Summer Camp [···]

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 violin

 

Want to find more students for your music teaching business? If you are a good teacher, and pupils enjoy your lessons, you may pick up the occasional referral from time to time.

However, if you want to earn a healthy income and find students more quickly, you need to understand how to market yourself as a music teacher.

This article contains seven methods for promoting your business:

1) Word of mouth

This is the best place to start. Tell everyone you know about your teaching business and hopefully they’ll spread the word. Tell family members, friends and acquaintances.

You can offer a “finder’s fee” and pay the person who refers you 100% of the first lesson fee.

2) Business Cards

Get hold of some business cards with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address and website address. You can contact your local print shop or do it online. It doesn’t need to be too fancy, but shop around as you get some great deals, especially online. Keep the design fairly simple, but you might want to consider a theme linked to your profession.

Leave a few of your tutor business cards in local shops, libraries, sports centres and start giving them to people you meet at events. Don’t be pushy, but when people ask what you do, tell them and offer them your card.

3) Posters and Flyers

Create some flyers, posters and put them here, there and everywhere – local shops, libraries, sports centres, notice boards schools, music colleges and universities.

Also, think about demographics. This is important.

For example, while many music teachers target younger people, college kids, school pupils etc, they often overlook one important age group.

The retired.

If you can find an area in your town or city with a predominantly older demographic, pop a few flyers through their letter boxes. Many retired people have time on their hands and would love to learn a new skill.

In my profession, I meet so many who wish they’d learnt the piano when they were younger and I simply tell them it’s never too late. Also, you might meet some who had lessons years ago and just didn’t like their teacher.

Don’t forget some ‘old school’ teaching methods would make you wince if you used them in the 21st century!

4) Phone/E-mail

I’m not saying go and cold call 1000’s of residents in your town, but it might be worth contacting local music teachers in schools and ask if their students would like music lessons. These people are well connected and once they pass you one student, you can quickly gain some referrals.

While I was building my teaching business, I remember sending about 100 e-mails to local independent schools, offering my services as a piano teacher, with a link to my website, and I got 2 job offers with two full days of teaching!

5) Contact the competition

If there is an established music teacher in your town, give them a call. If they have a full teaching timetable, they might be turning away students, when they could be passing them on to you. This strategy can work well, and as long as you show it is in their interest, most will go for it.

I often perform at weddings and if I’m busy I have 2-3 pianists who I recommend people to contact. And these guys do the same for me.

I also teach jazz and popular music on the piano and pass on students to classical pianists in my area if I feel they will be a better fit for the pupil. And again these piano teachers do the same for me.

You should learn not to fear competition and use it to your advantage! You can never have too many connections…

6) Stage a taster event

You could hire the local village hall and invite people to watch a short presentation showcasing what you do as a music teacher. You could also talk about how your instrument works and even ask members of the audience to come to the stage and have a go!

This might cost a bit of money to do, but I know some music teachers who’ve had remarkable success with this method. In addition to the local hall, why not approach schools and see if you can give free presentations there.

Make it exciting so pupils will go home in the evening and beg their mum and dad for lessons  on your instrument!

7) Local celebrity endorsement

See if you can get a local celebrity, or someone really well known in your town or city, to recommend your services as a music teacher. They can use their connections with the local media to boost your profile.

These are just some strategies which can help you start and expand your business. Although it might seem tough to get started, it will pay off in the long term, and eventually you should pick up some referrals which will make things easier.

Try to set aside some time each day and ask yourself…

“What can I do today to grow my business?”

Martyn Croston helps music teachers who want to build a successful tutoring business. He shares more advice on his website: http://www.mytutorbusiness.com.

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