When I studied voice there was no discussion about what I wanted to study, nor did I ask. My teacher invited me to join her studio after hearing me in a performance, she taught, and I sang. I never questioned the style she was teaching me, the technique, nor the direction we were headed. I just sang.

I too invite students to join my studio whom I believe have great talent by writing them a note and inviting them to come sing with, me as my first teacher did for me. I then invite them for a “preview lesson” to see how we gel together, and then we move forward. However, I differ from my first teacher in that I begin by asking each student what they want out of their lessons, and where they want to go with their voice and their music. [···]

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I have been a member of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) member for years and always enjoyed our meetings.  On a friend’s recommendation, I joined MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) last fall, but this past week was the first time I was able to attend a local meeting (PMTA – Phoenix Music Teachers Association).  It was a joy to meet with teachers (even though they were mostly piano teachers, and I’m a voice teacher).  We talked business, and then we had a presentation on “Encounter Resistance In Our Teaching,” by nationally certified piano teacher Shellie Ruge.

Shellie gave us a fabulous presentation, including many clips from “The Karate Kid.”  She raised several points; the biggest for me was that RESISTANCE IS A TWO-WAY STREET.  If a student is not progressing, is wasting time in lessons, shows up late, if the parents are not paying on time, PART of the responsibility is ours as a teacher.  We need to investigate OUR part of the equation and see what we can do about it.

As a result of this challenge, I have spent time in the two weeks since talking with my students about THEIR goals for lessons, both short- and long-term.  I’ve worked together with almost all of my students in the time since, with great results.  Students are invested in their lessons and almost all have signed up for the Spring Recital next month – the few who cannot attend have legitimate scheduling conflicts.  I am also having students sign up for summer lessons at a greater rate than I had expected.

I have had one student who I challenged to sing more and better who have stepped up their resistance – coming late to lessons and then canceling late, as well.  These students who don’t want to be there, we need, as teachers, to figure out WHY they are resisting.  What is their reason? Are they scared to sing? What are they avoiding when all they want to do is talk?  What can I do as a teacher to best use the lesson?  Often, my seniors in high school need what I call (to myself) “counseling sessions.” What do I do when EVERY lesson turns into a session?  I am allowing this to happen, so I need to redirect myself, and be very conscious of how I enable resistance in my students. [···]

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AN ONGOING CONCERN for many independent music teachers is the change of commitment level of students during the summer months. While some teachers enjoy the usually lightened studio schedule during the summer months, most of us depend on our teaching as our livelihood and have bills that do not go away during this time. I would love to hear your ideas, especially those of you that have been successful at insuring yourselves regular employment year long!

ESTABLISHING A SUMMER REQUIREMENT (a minimum number of lessons, with the option of replacing some private lessons with one of the various summer workshops), has been most helpful for me in keeping things going in my studio.  Though I  cannot really make anyone take classes, the ones that do are assured their slot, or first choice of times in my schedule when the school year comes back around.  My students and parents seem to really enjoy the flexibility with having a couple of options for summer lessons and a variety of supplemental classes.   [···]

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