This is an article that I wrote last spring, but it seems like perfect timing for those of you looking to grow your studio next Fall or even this Spring. It’s never too early to ask lots of questions and start planning ……or not! Since writing this, I went on to open a small music school in Brooklyn, NY: www.BrooklynMusicFactory.com
For the past three months I have been laying the groundwork for expanding my teaching studio in the fall. I currently don’t teach that many students (13) as I have a number of other professional commitments in music. I spend part of every week scoring for TV/Documentaries from my home studio and the other part practicing for gigs around New York. I have in the last year, though, become really excited about teaching like never before. Not exactly sure what has changed though I think watching my two daughters grow up and seeing how they learn has a lot to do with it. Something seems to have clicked and I’ve decided it’s time to ratchet it up a notch. But then I get a bit nervous….
When is it just the right balance between teaching, performing, and composing? Finding balance, this is my topic for today.
I’ll be honest. I’m still searching as I’m sure a number of you are as well. The challenge is that one moment one facet of my musical life is incredibly rewarding and the next another takes over the top spot. But all the while the students keep coming back for lessons and are looking for inspiration. Truthfully, the teaching has become that constant for me in otherwise economically turbulent times. So, in a way the answer to balance is as simple as dollars and cents. Sure, it’s great in the short term when I get paid a bunch of money to write the music for a 30 second TV commercial. But the chance of that coming around again right when I need it is slim to none. All the while, though, the students keep coming back for lessons. Or I get called to travel to some exotic locale for a really fun gig and I think this is all I ever want to do! But those calls only happen once a year for me…so reality again sets in. And all the while, the students keep coming back for lessons.
Teaching has become a truly grounding experience for me. I am humbled by the weekly challenge and the fact that it never let’s up. I enjoy creating my own curriculum that inspires performance and exploration. The adults present different hurdles in some regards, but the preparation required for a great lesson with a child versus an adult is no different. I like trying to anticipate a students needs. I feed off the students energy and I love to watch them succeed. Bottom line is I’m now hooked. So that leads me to my fall plans of expansion.
So the real question is how do I expand my teaching load without giving up one or both of my other musical commitments. Some of the ideas I’ve come up with are:
- Hire a teaching assistant to handle paper work and studio prep
- Hire one or two teachers to teach in my studio with me, allowing me to focus on curriculum, increase the number of students without increasing my actual teaching load
- Do not increase the number of students but instead increase the offerings, ie. add a computer music lab and/or ensemble classes
- Add only a few new students next semester and build slowly
- Go for broke and open a school with a faculty and administrative help and hope for the best?!
- Stay exactly as I am and just focus on refining/perfecting what I already offer
So, now I’m curious to see how others have succeeded or failed at expanding their studios. Is there a way to keep all the balls in the air? Is there a perfect number of students to teach? How do others juggle their different commitments? When is it time to leave behind a commitment? Can you really be a great teacher and still have time for other musical adventures? And is there anyone who has gone for broke and opened a school with a faculty and administrative staff? What happened?
Please let me know how you have coped with expanding. How have you found balance in your musical life?