In this article, I would like to share some of my experiences in maintaining a thriving private studio.
My best recruiting and motivational tool is regular studio recitals. I have four studio recitals each year. It keeps students, parents, and myself motivated. In our day to day teaching it can be hard to see progress in student’s playing. Recitals provide an excellent opportunity to assess each student. Most of my students and parents look forward to the studio recitals.
I strongly believe in having the performance as a positive reinforcement of students’ abilities. I never criticize them after their performances. I try to find something positive about their playing and maybe one or two things that we can improve on.
I encourage all of my students to play. Even if they haven’t learned the whole piece, I will let them play just the exposition of the sonata, or sometimes I will cut a section. I try to avoid that as much as possible, but it is more important for a student to perform than have strict rules about playing a whole piece.
Some parents will ask you if you participate in local festivals, competitions, and music testing. In Michigan we have several testing options provided by local chapter of MTNA, AGM, or Music Teacher Federation. I’ve had a mixed experience with these tests. Some students like doing them. It motivates them, and they want to see a certificate with their accomplishments. I also had a few negative experiences when students quit their lessons after taking a test. It was just too much for them to keep up. I do not participate in any testing programs at this time.
Attracting new students takes a lot of effort and time. I try to keep my students’ long term and have a very low turnover. Treat your students and parents in a professional manner and with respect.
I have had a few instances where parents did not have much respect for me initially. Usually, it changes once they notice that you care about teaching music and their child’s progress. I’ve had some problematic students and parents who later turned around and became my best students. Patience is the key.
Sometimes new students will ask me for a trial lesson. I usually will provide a short, 10-15 minute mini-lesson. We mostly only meet each other. I will ask the prospective student to play something, and we talk about what kind of music they like. I don’t do full lessons.
I do not have written studio policies. I tell students before we start the lessons about a few simple rules. They need to let me know ahead of time about cancelations. If they are sick, they can cancel any time. I prefer it if they do not come when they are sick, even if it is a last-minute cancelation.
I am flexible regarding their payment plans. Some students pay me at the beginning of a month, some students pay me at the end of the month, and a few students prefer to pay weekly.
I don’t think there are any particular advantages either way.
I try to communicate with the parents and students in a timely fashion. When I was a graduate student at Michigan State University, we had a rule that we had to respond to an email within 24 hours. I think this rule works great. Even if you don’t have a response ready, just let the parent know that you have gotten the email, and you will get back to them. Try to keep your teaching schedule very consistent. Changing your lesson schedule will create much confusion, and as a result, you will miss lessons.
I hope you found some of this information helpful.
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