Studio Management

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

It has been a year since I created an amazing opportunity for my students – paid gigs! 

Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon (except Christmas, Easter, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day), one of my private students performs at a local restaurant for two hours. They get a small stipend, a free meal, and whatever tips they happen to receive from customers! This program has been so successful, and I will share with our dear MusicTeachersHelper blog readers on how you can create a similar one for your students!

  1. Find a restaurant with a piano. The one I work with has a baby brand. It is a very nice, upscale restaurant, and has a newly opened wine tasting lounge – perfect for live entertainment. 
  2. Talk to the owner. My program started because the restaurant was looking for a classical pianist who can perform for two hours every Saturday and Sunday. Someone gave them my number, I said I could not do it myself, since I have a baby and weekends are precious time, but I offered my students. Based on my studio reputation and student success, they accepted. (This is why you absolutely must have a studio website and Facebook page to showcase your students!) 
  3. Negotiate the terms. How much will the students get paid, if any? Can they expect tips? What else? Perhaps a free meal? My students and I are very lucky that the restaurant we deal with is very generous. Obviously the students should not expect professional fees, but some sort of stipend should be negotiated. It really motivates the students!

Benefits for the students

This program has greatly benefited my students. It gives them real life, professional performance experience. As mentioned before, they also get paid and a free meal, and many have made handsome tips. Kids love money, and food! It really motivates them to practice harder so they can be ready for their next paid gig. Many students, after having performed once, tell me they realize they don’t have enough repertoire (two hours solo playing is not a short time!), so they are motivated to learn new pieces. It is also good to send those that have a major exam or competition coming up so they can test-drive their program. I also use it as an incentive – “if you finish learning all these pieces you will be ready to perform at the restaurant and make some money!” Many of my students are very seasoned performers now because of this program. Their sight reading skills have also improved dramatically, as I tell them to sight read some easy classics so they can fill their two hours. They have gained confidence (for many it was the first time they ever got paid), learned the value of hard work, responsibility, and time management skills. The restaurant was so impressed with one particular student, that he got his own gig deal! One door opens another. 

Benefits for me

It is a lot of work to coordinate. The restaurant does not contact the students. All they know is that someone will show up every Saturday and Sunday. I do all the communication. I book who is to perform when, and I use Music Teachers Helper to help me keep track. I do it for free, and my students get all the stipends and tips. Every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm I expect a text from whoever should be there to let me know they showed up. At 5pm I expect another text to let me know things went well. Every now and then something unexpected can happen – for example one time the restaurant had a private party and forgot to tell me not to send someone, or the manager is away and no one is in charge, so I have to chase down the payment on behalf of the student, or the student has an emergency or is sick so I have to quickly find a replacement, etc. It is extra work for me. But all of this is giving me publicity as well, as I ask that my students put my business cards on the piano. Mostly, knowing that my students are greatly benefiting from this experience is why I do it. The parents really appreciate it, too, and they know this program is unique, no other teachers offer it.

Benefits for the restaurant

The restaurant gets new customers. Parents go, grandparents go, friends go, to support the students. They find out the restaurant exists. It is now on their list of dine out options. I also tell everyone I know how wonderful it is that they support live classical music. It truly is amazing that a business would do this, and I convey my appreciation to them often. 

What unique opportunities do you offer your students?

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We all have felt it before a performance: the jitters, the knocking knees, the slight panic that sets in prior to walking out on stage. Whether with a group or solo, musicians feel nervous before performances to varying degrees, and this is especially true of students. As instructors, directors, and teachers know all too well, some students can pull it together and appear calm, cool, and collected – even at an early age. Others, however, are just the opposite and start sweating, pacing, panicking, and can even experience heart palpitations and shortness of breath because of pre-performance anxiety.

As teachers and mentors, it is our obligation to help students calm down and regain their composure before a performance. Encouraging effective coping mechanisms can make a world of difference not just in how they feel pre-performance, but also during the performance and long afterwards, too. Following are some of the best tips we can use to help students ease anxiety before performances at any age:

The importance of practice

1. You know the importance of practice, but does your student? Seriously, think about it for a minute. Teachers tell students that practicing is important, but do your students realize that with practice, not only will they become better players, but they will also become better musicians and face much less stress before performances? Have you told them that the more they practice, the better they’ll be able to recover if they make a mistake, and the fewer jitters they’ll have beforehand? If they practice enough to almost play it in their sleep, students will feel more confident and less nervous. Encourage students to run through their pieces a few times each day before a performance.

Arrive early

2. Encourage your students to arrive early to the venue whenever there is a performance. The last thing a performer needs is to take on additional stress from running behind schedule on performance day. When your student has time to prepare and can take his or her time tuning and warming up, frazzled nerves will be calmed and jitters can more easily be soothed. Having to rush can cause undue stress on top of a lot of stress that is already present.

Visualization techniques

3. Many teachers find that teaching their students visualization techniques, which have been proven to help with performance anxiety in many ways, is one of the best ways to help with performance nerves. Professional performers use these techniques in a variety of applications, from public speakers to athletes to musicians. This is a type of meditation that has students visualizing his or her perfect performance. The more details that the student can include in the visualization, the better. They should visualize their breaths, the notes they will play, the audience, and their fingers moving. They can consider visualization as mental rehearsal, which over time can improve performances because the brain won’t tell the difference between the visualization and the real thing.

The importance of breathing

4. Breathing techniques involve controlled breathing that is a natural, effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. Students can sit in a comfortable position, whatever they may choose. With their chin pointed down as close to the chest as possible, they should close their eyes and inhale to a count of five, then exhale for five. Then, the chin movement should be repeated but this time, the count both times should be extended to 10. Many students find it helpful if they also visualize something positive, like the audience giving them a standing ovation or a peaceful waterfall.

Anxiety? get help.

5. Some students may continue to struggle with anxiety on performance day despite trying these techniques. If your student continues to suffer from a level of anxiety that is strong enough to consider further intervention, it may be best to instruct him or her to talk to their doctor. He or she might be able to begin taking a natural supplement, over-the-counter medication, or prescription drug to help, although the risk of side effects from medications may pose additional issues.

Your students will be able to overcome their jittery nerves before performances with your guidance, encouragement, and instruction. Mental rehearsals, controlled breathing, making good time, and conscientious preparation are all healthy ways for the student to cope and if all else fails, his or her doctor may be able to assist further; your student will be able to cope with various levels of stress in a variety of settings and circumstances, with your help.

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