Music Teacher's Helper Blog

How to rebuild a studio from scratch

I have had an interesting life of moving. I was born in Taiwan, immigrated to New Zealand with my family when I was a teenager, moved to Long Island, New York with my husband in 2005, and most recently moved to southern California in 2009. After graduating from university, I had a very successful full time teaching career before moving to the United States, then after much effort, just as I finally re-established a full time studio in New York, I had to move again! It has been a year since my last move, and I am happy to say that my studio is once again financially healthy. I am going to share the secrets of how I rebuilt my studio from scratch, twice!

1. You have to spend money to make money. You must be prepared to invest in advertising your studio. I have tried putting ads and classifieds in newspapers, direct postcard mailing, flyers, etc. These traditional methods work, but can be quite expensive and not all that cost effective; they have a very limited “shelf life” – once the ad is run it is gone, you must pay again to have it appear in next week’s paper. Then, through becoming a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music by MTNA, I got the idea of establishing a studio website – best thing I ever did! Luckily for me my brother happens to be a website designer, so the set up cost for me was minimum. I can honestly say that internet advertising is the way to go! It is the only form of advertising that I do now. Even if you do not have a handy website designer brother, you are still in luck because Music Teachers Helper will give you one for free!

2. Be generous. When you are new to a place and do not yet have a reputation as a teacher, you must be prepared to be generous with your time. I offered free trial lessons to all new students, gave extended lesson times, and offered family discounts. This is a separate topic in itself; I do not offer them anymore now that my schedule is full, and I would not normally recommend them if you are an established teacher, but if you are a new teacher trying to start a studio in a new place, they certainly help to get your first students in the door.

3. Review your rates. You must research what is the going rate in your new city, and price yourself accordingly. Are you as qualified and experienced as the top charging teachers in your new city? Are you more qualified and experienced than the average teacher in your area? Be prepared to take a ‘pay cut’ in the first year of your move, especially if there are already many established teachers and no one knows who you are or how good you are as a teacher!

4. Word of mouth is your best friend. Produce results. ‘Show off’ your students in recitals, enter them in auditions and competitions, publish their success stories on your website through studio newsletters. The quicker you can produce results, the quicker parents will start to talk about you to their friends and get you more students. This means you may have to put in extra time and effort to get the students ready for recital/evaluation events in a short time, but personal recommendation goes a long way in our business.

5. Professional memberships and networking. Join your local and state teachers associations. Even if you only have beginner students and you can not yet take advantage of all the student programs that are available through being a member, your affiliation with music teachers associations give potential students and parents the assurance that they are studying under a professional, and that they will have the opportunity to participate in many activities once they reach a certain level.

6. Professional Development. When you don’t have many students yet, you have more precious time for yourself. I use this time to practice old repertoire, learn new repertoire, take private lessons, attend workshops and conventions, read music and teaching books, browse and learn from the many wonderful music blogs out there. Always take every opportunity to improve yourself as a musician and teacher; the better you are as a teacher, the more students you will have eventually.

I hope the above will help those of you trying to re-establish a studio. If you have other tips, please be generous and share them with me, just in case I move again!

About the Author

Yiyi Ku
Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National As... [Read more]

2 Comments

  1. Jael Strong

    Over the past six months or so, I have more than quadrupled my private teaching studio unitilizing some of the vary things that you have described. I have invested very minimally. I did a post card advertising campaign and did some cold-calling as well as community performances. I am no longer accepting students, but when I was I always gave the first lesson complimentary. Having a strategy really works. For me, it worked much faster than I had expected.

  2. Regina

    I’ve had to do this twice during my teaching career. I started off as a young piano teacher in college in SC. When I married we moved to CA, which meant closing my SC studio and starting all over. I found a local music studio where I rented space for teaching for the 2 years we lived in CA. Knowing we wouldn’t live there permenantly, I felt it best to rent space at this well known studio. In no time I had over 60 private students. Then we moved to NC, where I taught out of my home. Within 2 years I had hired an assistant teacher and had over 80 students in my home for lessons each week. Then in 2008 I opened a music school in the area. We now have 21 teachers on faculty!

    So I say all of this to encourage those who may have a relocation on the horizon. It can turn out to be a very good thing! Network among music teachers in the area. Join local professional teacher organizations. Make yourself known among parent and homeschool organizations. You’ll find yourself with a waiting list in no time!

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