Welcome to our member spotlight series. Today we have Angie & Marcus. The questions are answered by Angie, but the husband and wife duo teach music lessons together in Boise, Idaho.
We have a cozy home studio. Our parlor holds our stringed instruments (piano, violin, guitars, etc.), and the adjoining space is the percussion room (drum set, concert xylophone, hand drums). Our goal is to help our students play music with family and friends, so we enjoy inviting our students into our home to play music with us.
Teaching music has been a constant in my life. I started teaching in high school and have always taught part time through college and various day jobs. I guess I realized I loved teaching when I continued to dedicate time to it despite my busy schedule filled with school, work, and family obligations. When something had to give from my schedule, I realized it couldn’t be teaching. It was then I quit my “day job” and dedicated my career to teaching music.
As I mentioned before, I’d been teaching for years before I decided to become an independent music teacher full time. The moment I finished reading “The Savvy Music Teacher” (David Cutler) was the moment I decided to make the change. I was nervous to make changes to my existing studio policies, but felt empowered to make the change. Then I read “The Dynamic Studio” (Phillip Johnston) and by the end of the introduction I was excited and had a clear vision for my ideal studio. Now my husband and teaching partner, Marcus, is experiencing similar feelings as he transitions out of his day job and to become a full time independent music teacher in September. The reality of running our own business without the safety net of a “day job” is nerve-wracking, but the flexibility and freedom of spending more time with our family while doing what we love is making it worth it!
For the first 14 years or so of my teaching it was fortunately easy to find students. Rather, they would find me! It seems that people are drawn to instruments and curious to find out more when they learn that you play. For the first decade of teaching I gained students through word of mouth. In 2012 my teaching partner, Marcus, and I started operating under the name “Boise Music Lessons” and launched a modest website. Now that we switched to a membership model at the start of 2016 we realized we need more help with marketing, so we hired someone to re-do our website and boost our search engine optimization (SEO) so we can officially make the switch to both of us teaching full time.
Don’t offer make-up lessons! They are the biggest waste of your time and energy. Once we discontinued them (now offer swap sheet, FaceTime lessons, and a few other options) our attendance went up exponentially and the missed lessons no longer have an impact on our income.
We find students through word of mouth, our website, our Facebook page, and by leaving our cards at nearby businesses.
My interactions with students and my impact on their lives (and theirs on mine) are one of the most positive elements in my life. My relationship with my students is my favorite part of my work and the reason I’ve chosen to become an independent music teacher.
My favorite part of lessons is seeing students collaborate. We offer multiple lesson options like “Tandem” and “Tagalong” memberships that allow two students to share a time and build their skills together. We also have once a month Hootenannies (group lessons) for students of all ages and abilities to perform and collaborate in a common key.
I enjoy teaching folk music as it is accessible to many abilities and easy to collaborate between instruments. We always teach a new banjo chord at our Hootenannies as it’s simple to learn due to its open tuning. This is quite different from my original focus on orchestral and chamber music.
At the start of this year we switched our studio to a membership model with three components: Lessons (Solo, Tandem, or Tagalong), Hootenannies, and unscheduled instructor Flex Time with a set number of events in a year. The Lessons allow for individualized instruction in an instruments of emphasis, the Hootenannies provide much needed group collaboration, performance skills, and multi-instrumental fun, and the Flex Time allows us to keep our sanity and health as instructors by giving us flexibility through sick leave and vacation time. Our members join for a year, and pay a flat monthly tuition, regardless of the number of events that fall in a given month. This has streamlined much of our administrative duties and allowed us to finally focus on teaching our students to grow as musicians. The students have enjoyed the added variety and their sense of community the Hootenannies and collaborative Lesson options provide. I would encourage other independent music teachers to try and engage their students through group events to foster and inspire community and creativity.