Studio Management

Billing, scheduling, collections, fee raising, and other related topics.

Now to choose a method–my first private piano student just signed up. Wait. There are HOW MANY piano methods out there???

How in the world will you decide which to use?

Last month I wrote about starting a private music teaching studio. Five questions I’m most often asked, and one question no one asks, but probably should. Future articles will explore guitar and vocal methods, lesson supplements and business aspects of starting a private music teaching studio.

PIANO METHODS

You could simply start out using the books you learned from as a kid. But you might find others that fit you or your student better.

Ask These Questions about Each Method

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Are you starting up a private music teaching studio? You probably have questions. Beginning teachers often ask the same questions. Usually the first is “How did you get started teaching?”

Let me answer that one before digging into others. I grew up in a family of professional musicians. My sister and I sang and played—and got paid for it—from the time I was five years old. Relatives composed songs and choir cantatas, wrote musicals and played in dance bands. My mother coached countless kids performing vocally and instrumentally, both individually and in groups. I was in on it most of the time, and began to coach others during middle and high school.  By the time I started college, I had sung/played for over three hundred weddings. Yet it never occurred to me to earn a living at it until I discovered how unsuited I was for waiting tables!

So in my hometown, I let it be known I was going to teach beginning piano. I told people at church and put up a couple of small posters, hand-made. I started in the basement of my parents’ home on a 100-year-old piano with three students. I used the books I’d grown up with. I went straight through the books without variance. Somehow those three students stuck with it, thrived, and by word of mouth my studio grew. I was passionate about helping others make music. I added other instruments. And I got bored with the books. That made me take every opportunity, whether at the university or beyond, to educate myself pedagogically and grow as a skilled—and fun—teacher.

There are five questions I am most often asked. However… I will start with

One question no one asks, but should!

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Vacations are just to get away from myself.

I love to travel and explore new places, but I’ve begun to notice something: each time I go away, I gain something.  It’s not just the usual rest, relaxation, and renewal.  That’s vitally important,  but it’s beyond that.  I gain some mental space,  I can think clearer, see my best options, and make better decisions.  I become my best self.

But it doesn’t have to be a big trip.  

Coffee shops, libraries, and hotel lobbies are some of my favorite places to write, plan, and get work done.  Why?  I started wondering about this.  Is it just the beautiful furniture?  The ambiance of the space?  The people?  What I’ve begun to realize is that I’m running away from my stuff!  

Have you ever rearranged the furniture in your home or studio?

I tend to do this a lot.  I feel better immediately with some arrangements.  

Wind and Water

When I lived in Hong Kong, I had a friend who was a feng shui master.  This is the ancient art of harmonizing with the physical environment.   Feng shui literally means wind and water.  As a musician, I have no trouble understanding harmonization!   Who wouldn’t want to be in harmony with their surroundings?   It works, but over time, I forgot about it.

This summer, I was sitting in a state park reading,  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying:  the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  You may have heard of this book as it has been a NY Times best-seller.   

Metaphysically Speaking

As I read, I was intrigued.  Kondo is a bit wacky, and I like that.  She speaks metaphysically about objects and clothes.  If you’ve ever seen any films by the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, then you will feel right at home.  Musicians are metaphysical too!  We believe in the power of sound and waves of energy even if we don’t fully understand it.

So here’s what I realized: you can access your best self from the outside in.  By decluttering and purging unnecessary stuff, you clear space physically, emotionally, and mentally.  It allows you to be the best you can be.

Each and every possession takes a little bit of our mental quota.  Have you heard of decision fatigue?  (I wrote an article about it here.)  It’s why they don’t allow presidents to order their own meals.  There’s a finite amount of decisions a human being can make each day.  It’s why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day.  It’s also the reason car salesmen wear you down with an overwhelm of options!

A 3-Step Process To Your Best Self

1) Purge your unnecessary stuff.  

Donate, sell, or throw it away.  If it doesn’t, in Marie Kondo’s words, “spark joy,” get rid of it.  “Letting go is more important than tidying…Being surrounded by things that spark joy makes you happy.”

2) Digitize papers and/or sheet music.  

Use a scanner or even your smartphone.

3) Organize.  

Don’t buy all the fancy bins and organizing tools, use your closets, shelves, and cabinets.  Kondo has a rule about storing everything vertically.  Even clothes.  She has a special way of folding clothes.

For digital organization, use Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or something similar.  See the guided tour of Dropbox below.

Depending on how much clutter you have, this process can be a weekend project or up to six months!  But it’s worth it,  soon your space will be reflective of the person you truly want to be.  Detoxing your home and/or workspace will also detox your body and mind.  

Clearing Space For Learning

Students and clients can also feel the difference.  By having a clean, clear, tidy space for learning, they can focus on the content, not the clutter.  It’s subtle, but clearing your space will free up energy for them as well.

I’m not quite finished with my detoxing, but already, I feel lighter, clearer, and happier.  It’s a surprisingly simple way to change your life and access your highest, best self.   If you feel overwhelmed during this process, take a break and listen to something like this.

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle.

Recommended Reading and Resources

 

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