Music Teacher's Helper Blog

What you as a teacher can do for your students….

Support your students:

  • Go to their performances, even if it takes extra time (I recently drove 150 miles round trip for a 30 minute performance – see picture of the band The NevaeH

    The NevaeH Live at the Pima County Fair

    playing live at the Pima County Fair, opening for Anberlin; my student is the lead singer and main songwriter; we spent the next lesson dissecting the performance and finding places he has improved and what he still needs to work on)

  • Always be honest with your students
    • Always be kind to your students
    • Always be encouraging with your students
  • Let your students know your professional opinion of their potential
    • Give them the information THEY need to make progress
    • Help them to understand their expectations and how realistic those expectations may be
    • Help students to understand the true level of professionalism required (if that’s their goal) – then, give them the tools to achieve that goal
  • Stay on task in the studio
    • Especially towards the end of the year, students like to talk rather than work – gently guide them back to the task at hand
    • Give individualized practice goals at the end of each lesson
    • When students have practiced, acknowledge that they worked on the goal you set last lesson
  • Give your student a break if they really need it
    • Do a “sight-reading” lesson
    • I like to have my students pick out a Broadway songbook, often of one composer, and just read through – they may have heard of some of the songs, but often many are new
    • Go to YouTube and watch videos of performers – CRITIQUE the performances in a nuanced way that specifically points towards goals you have for THIS student (it helps to spend some time and create playlists that you can quickly access)
  • Always be on time and prepared for lessons
    • If you’re running late, let the student know (text messages work very well)
    • If you need to cancel, give as much lead time as possible
    • If you made a mistake, own up to it – “What was I thinking?” is one of my favorite phrases when I’ve made a scheduling error
  • Enforce timeliness in lesson times
    • I have recently switched to 50-minute lessons in hour slots – this allows me to have some “slush” time between students, have a chance to use the facilities/grab a snack, I can take time to do some administrative work (such as email lesson notes via Reconcile on MTH), as well as give my voice a much needed break
    • YOU also, keep to the schedule & your students will as well – I’ve also started scheduling lessons at 10 AFTER the hour, rather than on the hour, it’s a great psychological tool for getting people there on time
  • Most of all, LOVE what you do – that will rub off onto your students

What do YOU do for your students?  What ways have you found to support them in their endeavors?

About the Author

Rachel Velarde
I began my music career in Bloomington, Indiana. After receiving my B.A. in Music from Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, I earned two Master of Music degrees at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Luminaries I have worked with include Vernon Hartman, James Caraher, Lorenzo Malfatti, Shirlee Emmons, Mary Sue Hyatt, John Sikora, David Jones, David Britton, and Carol Smith.

I offer ... [Read more]

8 Comments

  1. Bob Woody

    Rachel – Thanks for the great advice. I’m sure your student really appreciated you coming to his gig like that. No substitute for a teacher investing time and energy in a student. Your list of tips here really underscore how influential teachers are in musical development.

  2. Rachel Velarde

    Thanks Bob!
    What do you do for your students – please add anything you’d like to the list? What do you remember teachers doing for you?
    Rachel

  3. Craig Tompkins

    Thanks for a great post Rachel! I know too many teachers that do NONE of these things. The most important thing I can do outside the lesson is to attend performances. I just returned from Montreal where a former student was giving his semi-final Bachelor’s recital – I’ll be back next year for his full graduation recital. I love your idea of 50 minute lessons, and starting at 10 past the hour. I’m going to implement that in September… great way to keep on top of lesson notes.

    I bring flowers for my students (guys & gals) when they perform solos in a concert or show… for a solo recital, a nice presentation bouquet, otherwise a smaller bouquet – 5 tulips or a spray of carnations etc. A simple, gesture of acknowledgement that really makes them feel special. This is something that my teacher always did and it made her students want to work that much harder for her.

    When I have a student graduating from high school and pursuing post secondary music, they always receive a bundle of books. Those going on in classical voice get one of the Richard Miller books for their voice type plus a general book on voice care, either The Voice Book http://www.amazon.ca/Voice-Book-Caring-Protecting-Improving/dp/1556528299/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1304277180&sr=8-1 or The Singer’s Companion http://www.amazon.ca/Singers-Companion-Sharon-L-Stohrer/dp/0415976987/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304277243&sr=1-6 or How to Take Care of Your Voice http://www.amazon.ca/How-Take-Care-Your-Voice/dp/160145256X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1304277354&sr=1-1 as well as something that reflects their vocal interest – a specific composer’s biography; art song translations; a Hoffnung book or one of the other smaller Richard Miller books. Those going on in Musical Theatre get Singing and the Actor http://www.amazon.ca/Singing-Actor-Gillyanne-Kayes/dp/0878301984/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304277682&sr=1-5 instead of a Richard Miller book for their voice type. Students not going into voice get something related to the discipline they’re going into plus the other books. Three books is a nice package to send them off with, and I always write a short note inside the front cover.

    Care for your students and their families and it’s returned to you a hundred fold!

  4. Rachel Velarde

    Craig –
    I LOVE the thoughts of sending students off with books. I have often given students books, but never in the organized fashion that you have. Fabulous.
    Yes – I’m implementing the 50 minute lesson, in large part because I need breaks after drinking all the water I do here in the desert. 😀 I also just feel like I’ve been wasting student time by inputting monies into MTH and other miscellany of studio management. Finally, because of the voice issues that happened to me this past year, I really need to hold that 10 minutes sacred so as to give my voice a full rest (this is NOT my time to return phone calls) between students. Gotta maintain that vocal health!
    Thank you!
    Rachel

  5. Dave

    Do any of you have ideas for using social media to connect with students and reinforce them? I bet if you took 10 minutes every month and gave some positive reinforcement to your students on Facebook posts, they’d keep coming back for more appointments.

    Linkedin can be a powerful tool for more professional musicians. It’s one thing to say you trained under so-and-so, but to have them give you a personalized recommendation could really boost their career prospects.

    I think the problem is getting an older generation of music instructors more involved in the internet, period. There are so many great tools out there, if we only decide to get out of our comfort zone.

  6. Rachel Velarde

    Thanks for your thoughts, Dave. I have used SOME social media (connected with some students via Facebook), but not enough in studio management – I’ve used it more for my own professional development. I love your idea of commenting just once a month or so on each student. When I do my lesson notes after each lesson, it wouldn’t be hard to just throw something onto FB – “So and so did XXX really well in their lesson this week” (not even have to be today – to protect student privacy). I do have a studio FB page, but I definitely do NOT use it effectively.
    One thought for engagement that I have been given, but haven’t used, is to start a commentary on a specific video regarding style, etc. and starting a studio discussion. Again, I haven’t implemented it, but that’s a fabulous thought.
    I have also signed up for Linked In, but again, haven’t had a chance to really use it effectively.

    I find MTH simple enough that it can be an asset for those more technologically challenged teachers (of any generation). With the automatic emailing of lesson notes, it is a beginning. Getting out of our comfort zone is (or should be) a priority – but then again, look how long it took me to respond to your post. 😛
    Happy Teaching!
    Rachel

  7. Craig Tompkins

    Dave, I’m “friends” with most of my students on FB, so they will often message me or chat with me about various things. I don’t have a studio page there because my studio is full with a wait list and I don’t have the time to devote to maintaining a page. I’m impressed with my colleagues who DO have and use their FB studio pages. Maybe I should make that one of my (many) summer projects!

  8. Rachel

    Craig, I wish you had been my teacher when I graduated! The gift of books shows a lot of care and encouragement!
    Also, thank you to Rachel for this article! It’s fascinating. I’m a young singer and having my own studio is a future goal, so this website and your voice-related blogs in particular are fascinating.

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