Five Essentials for Your Teaching Studio

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I love cool gadgets, but when it comes to teaching music students, the best teachers go old school. They realize that having a successful and profitable teaching studio requires a few basic ingredients to run smoothly and create opportunities for their students to grow.

If you teach, you probably have all these systems in place already. But if you’re like me, there are always refinements you want to implement or ways you would like to make things better for yourself, your students and their parents. 

So here are five essentials that will help keep you and your students motivated and organized. Please feel free to share your favorite tips in the comments below!

1. A written fee schedule
Don’t be shy about setting a fee and sticking with it. Write it down, so there can be no misunderstanding. Be sure to include price per hour, half hour or 45 minute lesson. State how and when students should pay. For example: “Lessons will be paid monthly in advance,  due on the first of each month, cash or checks made payable to… Checks returned by bank will be subject to a charge of $.” I have rarely had any trouble with this, but the larger your studio is, the more you need a very clear policy.

2. A written absence, missed lesson and make-up policy
Is it okay if your students cancel at the last minute? How far ahead do they need to let you know if they will miss a lesson? Again, the more students you have, the more essential it is that you are prepared in advance with a written policy . Will you make allowances for illness? What is the policy if YOU need to cancel a lesson? There are lots of ways to deal with these situations. Just find the one that works best for you.

3. A curriculum or study plan
Students (and parents!) like to know what they will get for their investment of time and money. While you can’t promise them Carnegie Hall next year, you can outline a course of study. Some teachers have standard plans that each of their students follow,  perhaps the same progression of technical studies or recital pieces. Other prefer a more individualized approach. Either plan needs to include mile markers for the student to be able to assess their progress. Possible things to include in your curriculum:  technique, repertoire, theory study, exams, recitals, practice expectations.

4. A quiet studio
Be sure your students have a calm and distraction-free place to work with you.  This shows respect for your students and for music study itself. You can’t expect a student to focus well if there is a loud television in the next room, or a ringing phone or constant email alerts. Model good cell phone and email etiquette for your students. Turn it all off, and focus with your student on the task at hand. Also, be sure your studio is equipped as you would like their practice area at home: a fairly tidy space with pencils, good lighting, metronome, tuner, etc.

5. Students
The most important thing! If you want students, you need to recruit them. A couple of quick ideas:
Offer a free introductory lesson as a door prize at an auction or bazaar
Perform at kid-friendly events or places like fairs, libraries, and schools
Be sure to always have business cards with multiple ways to contact you – email, phone, cell phone, website, etc.

Once you’re organized, all that’s left is the teaching and that’s the most rewarding part!

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  • Anne Sullivan

    This great tip comes from Rob:

    One thing I have found helpful over the years is to contact school music teachers in my area-they all have listed e-mail addresses now at all the public and private schools, so they’re easy to find- my message is usually, “thanks for the referrals in the past, I now have some room in my schedule, if you would like to refer any new students to me”- even if they have no students to refer, it still gets my name out there as a teacher-also, each school in my area, Lower Merion, Radnor, Trediffryn, all have approved private teacher lists, which if you contact the school system, you can get your name added- harp teachers in my area might want to try to get on these lists, even if there is no harp in the school orchestras.


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