teaching how to teach

Some of you will remember my post about one of my dear piano teachers, in which I mentioned that she emphatically stated at our first meeting, "I teach teachers." I love that.

It is because of her dedication and love for teaching that I became a teacher. And it was also because of her help and constant encouragement. She actually found my very first student for me (her next-door neighbor). She encouraged me and gave me advice. But one of the most helpful things that she did was this: one week, instead of my regular lesson, she taught me a lesson on how to teach a first lesson.

Looking back on this, I think this was one of the best things she could have done for me. Teaching a first lesson can be nerve-wracking, especially if and when you don't have a clue what you are doing. It was so helpful to have her sit down with me and go over exactly what you should do on a first lesson.

I have had the privilege of teaching one of my own students a lesson on how to teach a first lesson. By this time I had quite a bit of experience to draw from, including pedagogy classes in college, but I still used quite a bit of the same material that my teacher taught me that day. It was actually a really cool feeling to encourage one of my own students to teach, just as my teacher had encouraged me. I would highly recommend encouraging some of your students to teach by teaching them how to teach a first lesson - after all, sometimes we just need a little push in the right direction!

What or who encouraged you to begin teaching? Did you have any help in learning what to do at the first lesson?

Don't forget to take this week's poll - and you can actually vote for more than one answer this week!

some poll results & a fun new topic

Well another week has gone by, and here are our poll results for this week's poll about your studio!

What kind of studio space do you have?

Thanks for participating in our poll! It's always interesting to see the results we get. We have also loved all the wonderful comments we've gotten this week. The comments are what really makes the blog great, because it turns into a discussion and we all help teach each other. Love it!

Now onto our new topic:
Teaching a FIRST Lesson.

Because let's be honest: we have all experienced that brief moment of panic when we are teaching our very. first. student. ever. and we realize we don't know what the heck we are doing. We thought this would be a useful topic :) Plus we have tried to go in a somewhat chronological order with our topics of the week, and once you get your studio set up, decide on a few policies, advertise and get a few students - that's when the teaching/fun begins!

So let's hear it: leave us a comment and tell us about your first lesson you've ever taught (this could be fun...). Or, tell us how you go about teaching a very first lesson to a beginning student. How about transfer students - how do you handle their first lesson with you? Any tips for teachers who are just starting out? Leave a comment - ready, go!

Also, don't forget to take our new poll as well as our reader survey! Become a follower or a Facebook fan to get updates when we have new posts...and to let you know about our giveaway that is coming up later this week!


Piano Teaching Q&A: Curve Those Fingers!

Each week we will be featuring questions asked by our readers, and will do our best to answer them and to give some ideas :) We have had some wonderful questions that will be addressed in the next few weeks' topics. So, this week instead of answering a question, I'd actually like to submit a question to all of you

Here is my question: How do you reinforce the concept of playing with nice, curved fingers and help your young students to actually make it a habit? I have a seven-year-old boy that I teach who constantly forgets, and plays with flat fingers and collapsed knuckles. When I remind him, he fixes it immediately and plays with a great hand position. But after a few minutes he forgets and goes flat again!

yes those are the lovely curved fingers of Janina & yours truly.
So anyway, I'm afraid I sound like a broken record to this kid because I keep on reminding him over and over to "curve those fingers!" Any brilliant ideas to help reinforce this concept in a fun way?

oh and p.s. In case you have wondered, Janina has been SUPER busy as of late with her masters, moving her little family out of state, buying a home, etc. - so that is why she has taken a little "hiatus" - but don't you worry! She will be back! Let's send her some happy *you can do it* vibes her way!!!

If you have a question you'd like to ask us, leave it in a comment or submit it here.


get ready...

Sometime in the next week or two we will be having our first GIVEAWAY!

One of our lucky readers who enters the giveaway (more instructions to be announced!) will win a great gift! So, make sure you become a follower of our blog (click on the button on the sidebar) OR become a Facebook fan so you won't miss out! We will be sure to post about it on our Facebook page, and if you are a fan it will show up in your news feed.

Be excited! :)

my studio space.

I teach in my home. As a mom, that is something that is so important to me. I love having this wonderful job that I can do without leaving my home. Having said that, I do think it is also important to make sure that your studio space is an environment that is free from distractions and conducive to learning and teaching. (We will definitely be spending a LOT more time on the topic of Balancing Teaching & Family - because I know a LOT of you teachers are also moms. This is a topic that I ALWAYS am thinking about and trying to balance!)

Right now I teach in my living room. It works just fine. I make sure it is nice and clean and free from distractions, and I have my music library and supplies nearby and it is great.

However, I would LOVE (in the distant future when circumstances and finances permit, mind you) to have a studio that is in my home that is separate from our living area. Like with a separate entrance. And a nice copy machine and computer completely for the studio, and a NICE piano or two, and nice decor and a really nice music library and a great listening library and stereo system, and...and...and....the list goes on and on, doesn't it? It would be so fun to have a whole space just devoted to music and teaching.

So, tell us about YOUR studio space - where is it, why is it there, how do you make it a good learning environment, what your DREAM studio would be - let's hear some comments!

p.s. take our poll about your studio space :)


organizing your music library

Recently I really needed a new way to organize my music library.

I used to have them all lined up on a bookshelf. That worked alright for awhile - like until someone grabbed a few books to play from. Then they all would start leaning and falling over. Plus it never really looked very nice anyway, with the mixture of spiral bound books and sheet music and old books with falling-apart spines. And I would initially try to organize them by composer, but they would inevitably get all out of order.

So next I found a large, cute basket at Walmart, and had it in my living room next to the piano. My music books fit perfectly and it was easy to grab a book and put it back in the right place without them getting all disorganized. But I quickly outgrew that! And inevitably the organization still went right out the window.

Here is my most recent way of organization, and I quite like it!

First I bought a nice shelf to use. Then I went to Ikea and bought a whole bunch of their cardboard magazine holders (they are really inexpensive, and look nice!). I organized all my music by composer and labeled each magazine holder and put them on the shelf. It looks nice, plus it's easy to pull out the needed music and keep them all in order.

The only problem is that my two-year-old loves to pull the little labels out and bring them to me (luckily I found all but one for this photo!)

How do YOU keep your music or teaching materials organized? Any fun ideas to share?

Check out some more studio organization ideas in our "Helpful Resources" section.


something fun for your waiting area

A piano studio should be warm and inviting, and conducive to teaching and to learning the joys of music. One fun idea I have had (which I will implement once I have the $$ to purchase these books....until then library books will have to do, since I usually have quite a large stack on hand) is to have a little area in the "waiting area" of your studio (which, in my studio, is my living room couch/coffee table) filled with fun music-related books for students or siblings/parents of students to read. There are some really amazing picture books out there all about music. Sometimes a wonderful book can convey the JOY of something, such as music, better than anything. I think these would be a wonderful asset to any piano studio. Here are some of my recommendations (these and other books can also be found in our store):

A Winter Concert by Yuko Takao

Janina and I actually found this wonderful book one day at the BYU Bookstore on a clearance rack, and each bought a copy (how could we not??). It is about a little mouse who goes to a concert on a snowy evening. The drawings are all in black and white, until the pianist comes out on stage and begins to play - and then beautiful colors start coming out of the grand piano and pave the little mouse's pathway home. It really is quite touching. I actually blogged about this book on my personal blog the other day, because my 2-year-old son just loves it. I noticed that you can get this book on amazon.com for a buck forty-five - not a bad deal if you ask me! (Click on the link above to see it.)

The Composer Is Dead (Book & CD)The Composer Is Dead (Book & CD) by Lemony Snicket

Oh wow, this book is AWESOME. If you are a musician/music teacher and have not read this book, go find it now and read it. Or pop in the accompanying CD and follow along. You know when someone writes music, it's called "composing?" Well in this book you'll learn that when the composer is dead, it's called "decomposing." This is a musical "whodunnit" and is especially funny if you have ever played in an orchestra.

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue W /CDGershwin's Rhapsody in Blue W /CD by Anna Harwell Celenza

A wonderful picture book that tells the story of Gershwin and his famous Rhapsody in Blue. Gives some great background information, has lovely pictures and comes with a CD recording of the piece.

Bach's Goldberg VariationsBach's Goldberg Variations by Anna Harwell Celenza

I haven't checked this book out yet, but I imagine it is wonderful, as it is by the same author as the book above.

Pictures at an ExhibitionPictures at an Exhibition by Anna Harwell Celenza

Ditto to the above book. Wouldn't these be a wonderful way to teach music history/piano literature??

M Is for MusicM Is for Music by Kathleen Krull

This is a fun alphabet book featuring so many genres of music. I love that it mentions Elvis, The Beatles, Hildegard von Bingen, Prokofiev, yodeling and Louis Armstrong all in the same book - and it totally works.

This is such a creative overview of music, and would be a fun teaching tool. After going through the complete alphabet ("B is for Beatles," "G is for guitar," "P is for piano and practice, practice, practice," etc.), there is a glossary section called "Musical Notes from A to Z" which goes into greater detail on all the instruments, genres and composers listed in the book.

Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought)
Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull

I remember reading Kathleen Krull's books Lives of the Writers and Lives of the Artists in elementary school and just loving them. I am happy that she has now written one about musicians. This is a great book that tells about famous musicians in a fun and interesting way.

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin (Aladdin Picture Books)Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin (Aladdin Picture Books) by Lloyd Moss

A fun book (with accompanying CD) that tells about the different instruments in an orchestra. Great for learning music appreciation!

What are some fun books you know that would be great "waiting room books" for a piano studio?

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Poll Results: Studio Policies - plus a new topic!

I have loved all the input and ideas this week about studio policies, and now plan to implement a couple more things in my own studio. Thanks to our wonderful contributors for their great posts!

Ok so I can't believe another week has already gone by! I am so happy that spring is here - anyone else? It has been a beautiful week here in Utah! Here are the poll results for both of our polls about studio policies:

What kind of studio policy/contract do you have?

What is your make-up lesson policy?

Our three "other" responses for this question were as follows:

  • I make up lessons when they can switch with another student in the schedule
  • For each 13-week semester, the student gets 12 lessons
  • I have one day per month set aside for make-up lessons, if needed

Thank you to all who participated in our polls this week! Polls are a great way to participate and give your input, without having to actually type something :) So take a second each week and share your ideas with the click of a button :)

And now for our new topic: Your Studio Space. We want to hear all about how you set up your studio space: do you have a studio in your home? If so, how do you make it nice and inviting to your students? Is your studio outside of your home? How do you organize your studio and your teaching materials? Any money-saving decorating/organizing tips for a piano studio? Anyone want to share a picture of their awesome studio to give us all a little inspiration? How do you decorate your studio? What fun things do you do with your studio to make it an environment conducive to learning? What hangs on the walls in your studio?

Anyway, you get the idea! Seriously, we'd love to hear from you! Leave us a comment or shoot us an email. We'd love to feature some of your great ideas on the blog.

p.s. a little reminder, please go take our reader survey! We'd love to know more about our audience, and more about the things that are important to you as a teacher that you'd like us to discuss on the blog.

Have a wonderful week!

shared by a reader: studio policies

We received this studio policy from a reader and thought we'd share! If anyone else would like to share some of their policies, feel free to comment or send us an email! Sometimes I think it is so helpful to read other policies to get some ideas. Here is what our reader, Michelle, said:

I have been teaching for 7-8 years. I currently have a small studio with only 2 students. I've had excellent piano teachers who had smoothly-run studios, which is where I have gotten ALL my ideas. I live in a small-town, relatively low-income town and especially enjoy teaching children.

Payment: I typically request that payment is received at the end of the month. However, my student's parents (or students if they're adults) commit to paying at the end of every month. If they can't commit, then I ask that they pay by lesson. For example, I have a student now who has a pretty fluid lesson time because she's heavily involved in dance as well. Since once every 2 months or so she has to miss a lesson for a major rehearsal, we usually pay per lesson--that way neither of us is being cheated out of money.

Practice: For younger students, I tell them how many times they need to practice each song. It's easier for them. They have to keep track of it. That way I can ensure that they get all of their practicing in, even if if takes longer than a certain number of minutes. For older students who I know are more dedicated to improving their songs daily, I recommend a certain amount of time because they're more likely to use it wisely.

Rates: I typically charge $10 for 1/2 hour and $15 for an hour. Here in my town, I'm one of the more expensive teachers (they're SO cheap here, but then again, I'm one of the only ones with a degree too). If a student can't afford that, then the student's parent and I will sit down to discuss a better cost for their family.

Recitals: Twice a year I have the students do recitals for the student's family. As my studio grows, I will be doing group classes every other month and recitals 3 times a year for everyone in the studio.
Missing Lessons and Making them up: If a student has to miss a lesson, I need to know beforehand. I'm willing to do a make-up lesson, as long as it's a valid excuse. If the student is a no-show, there is no option of a make-up lesson.

Materials: I order the materials for my students (because there is no good music store in town and I know what I'm looking for) and the student pays for the material. Understanding that music can be expensive to buy, I try to be judicious in my purchases. I also have a good library of my own for more advanced students and will (sometimes!) make copies of individual pieces if I think that we'll only be doing one or two songs out of that particular book. Students are required to have their own notebook.

Thanks for sharing, Michelle!


Piano Teaching Q&A: Practicing

Each week we will be featuring questions asked by our readers, and will do our best to answer them and to give some ideas :)

This week's question is about practicing. Carrie asked:

How much do you ask your students to practice? As much as it takes to reach a certain goal? A certain number of minutes? Or a certain number of repetitions? How much is the right amount for a young student, and how do you communicate and enforce your expectations?

picture from here

Ah, the joy of getting your students to practice. What a topic. What music teacher has not struggled with this issue? We will most definitely be having a week or two all about practicing & motivation here on The Teaching Studio, but as a brief answer to this question:

I do feel that it is more important to complete/pass off assignments rather than practice a certain number of minutes. However, I still think it is helpful for students to keep track of minutes for various reasons, particularly so I have an idea how long they are actually practicing, and also so they don't just play through their pieces once and think they are done (more about teaching students to practice later!)

I have my students make their own practice goal, with my help (for example, a goal could be to practice for 30 minutes a day for 5 days out of the week). That way they have a little bit more ownership over their practicing than if I just told them they had to practice a certain amount. However, I also make sure they have a clear idea of what the assignments are for the week, and I stress passing those off. I use a point system, where they earn "points" for doing certain things - 2 points for reaching their weekly practice goal, 1 point for completing an assignment or passing off a piece, 1 point for performing a piece, etc.

Usually a good amount of practice, I have found, is about 30 minutes for young students (although for very young ones with short attention spans and very short pieces, 15 to 20 minutes might be fine), 45 minutes when they are more intermediate with longer/more challenging repertoire, and 60 minutes once they get more advanced. However these are just guidelines, and I think it totally depends on the student, their attention span and their assigned repertoire.

If you have a question you'd like to ask us, leave it in a comment or submit it here.

2010 MTNA Conference

I just discovered that Natalie from Music Matters Blog is live blogging from the 2010 MTNA Conference in Albuquerque! This is wonderful for anyone who was not able to go but would still like to know what they are talking about in the classes and workshops. Go check it out! Today she posted some wonderful ideas for games to use in your studio.

Another Payment Option

These posts about the studio policy and contract have been great! So many smart ideas have already been shared so I don't have much to add. However, I thought I would share the way I do lesson payment in my studio.

First of all, let me say that automatic online payment (like mubus.com) is the ideal collection method for the teacher. However, if your students' parents feel at all uncomfortable with providing their credit card information or having payments automatically drafted from their account, another option is to use post-dated checks. At the beginning of each semester, my parents write checks for each month of that semester and date them the first of each month. This means that I only have to collect payment once a semester (because isn't asking for payment the worst?), but parents don't have to pay for the entire semester all at once, which can be a financial burden to some families. The bonus for me is that at the first of each month, I already have all the checks for that month in my possession and they are valid for deposit.

Just an idea, but it has worked really well for my studio.


the evolving studio policy

Importance of a studio policy/studio contract:

Every teacher should have some sort of typed-out studio policy and contract. I believe these are important for many reasons:

If nothing else, it forces you to sit down and decide how you are going to run your studio - what kind of billing practices you will use, how you will handle missed lessons and other things that come up, what is expected of students, etc. It makes you more professional. It gives students and parents a clear-cut knowledge of what to expect out of lessons in your studio.

Also, particularly if you have a contract to sign that goes along with your policy, it protects you, as well as the student. Ninety percent of the time you will have no problems, but the other ten percent of the time you will be so glad that they signed that contract.

This is something you learn as you get experience, and it is just that - experience - that has shaped my policy over the years. I think my first policy was a one or two paragraph thing that basically told what my rates were, and possibly some kind of make-up lesson policy. But then as I taught lessons, I learned exactly what I wanted and needed to put in my policy (and it is still always evolving!)

It is times like these when you learn what you really should put in your studio policy:

  • One week when I was in high school a little girl showed up to her lesson with a note from her mother saying, "This will be so--and-so's last lesson. Thank you." She had only taken lessons for about a month. Are you kidding me? Who does that? But alas, I had no policy about a situation like this, so I couldn't do much about it.
  • I taught a little girl for a few weeks and the parents just did not pay me. I ended up having to knock on their door to get the check.
  • One boy showed up at his lesson acting quite a bit under the weather. When I questioned him, he told me he had strep throat. I think I was pregnant at the time. Boy was I bugged that this kid showed up, coughing, to his lesson that day.
  • A parent strongly questioned the tuition amount (which is the same every month) because her daughter had missed a lesson (which was a no-show).
  • A teenage boy hardly ever, and I repeat EVER practiced, despite my noble efforts. (Hence came the line in my policy, "Students who do not practice do not belong in my studio.")
  • A student was consistently at least ten minutes late for his lesson.

Anyway, I could probably go on and on. The point is, as you teach and encounter weird (and sometimes annoying) situations, that is when your studio policy really starts to take form, and you learn exactly how you want to run your studio. Hopefully we can all learn from each other, and hopefully avoid some of these situations by starting out with a great policy that covers all the bases.

I decided to share my (current) studio policy with you (I probably change things in it each semester) - and I am sure you will be able to pinpoint which parts of it were results of previously mentioned situations :)

If any readers would like to share all or part of their own studio policy (because sometimes it is helpful to read some examples of different policies), then feel free! You can either put it in a comment, or email it to us and we will post them all together in a post. (If you do share your complete policy, I'd suggest taking out any personal information such as email address, phone number or address.)

The Piano Studio of Jennifer Boster - Studio Policy & Contract


Studio Policy Essentials

A good studio policy can make the difference between loving and hating your job as a teacher. While there are many things you can address and ways you can personalize your policy, I would like to talk about two essential areas that can make a big difference in your relationship with your students and their parents.
  • Make-up lessons: This is an area where I think many teachers fail to demand the respect they deserve. Do not let your students take advantage of your valuable time! If you are clear and up front about your policy, parents will respect you and your time.

    • Don't offer refunds for missed lessons.
    • Don't offer make-ups for no-shows or late-cancellations (less than 24 hours notice). Some people will think this is unfair in the case of illness, which often doesn't allow for advance notice. But though it may seem unfair to the student, consider that it would also be unfair to the teacher to ask them to reschedule. I am sympathetic to the situation, but it doesn't magically free up my schedule. If, on the other hand, I do happen to have an opening later in the week, I will often offer it to a student who is ill (provided they recover in time, of course).
    • Be clear about how you will handle lesson conflicts for which you do have advance notice. Some teachers offer make-up lessons one Saturday a month. Others have students spend extra time in their computer theory labs. I prefer to give my students a phone list and have them trade with other students when they have a conflict. Occasionally this doesn't really work (if the student is gone the whole week, for instance), and I will make other arrangements with the student. Because I don't teach in my home, and I have to arrange childcare anytime I teach, I only teach these rare make-up lessons when I will already be at the studio, and when my husband can easily be home. You may want to limit the number of make-up lessons to one per quarter per student, if you have students who are constantly rescheduling. Don't be afraid to revise your make-up policy as you discover what does and doesn't work for you (although don't spring changes on parents mid-semester—it is probably best to make revisions at the beginning of the calendar year or the school year).

  • Tuition and Billing: This is another area where you want to be very clear and professional. Nothing is more awkward than having to ask a parent to pay you, so it is best if you can set up a system that is very clear, and won't require a lot of follow-up or maintenance. In fact, if at all possible, I would recommend using a service like mubus.com to handle your billing automatically, so that you don't really even have to think about it, and you are guaranteed payments every month.
    Include the following information in your policy:

    • How much is your tuition? How often is it to be paid? Are there any discounts for paying several months up front, or for multiple students in one family?
    • When is tuition due? Is there a late fee?
    • How is tuition to be paid? (include details if you are using an external service, or just make it clear to parents when and where they need to provide payment, so you won't have to ask for it)
    • Will there be an extra charge for recitals, festivals, and other activities?

There are obviously many other things you will want to include in your studio policy, such as practice expectations, how music purchasing will be handled, recital participation, and calendar events, but these are two areas that, if handled professionally, will significantly increase your happiness as a teacher!


become a fan!

Help get the word out about The Teaching Studio - become a Facebook fan!

Our Facebook page will also be another great place for discussions about piano teaching.

If you haven't taken our weekly polls, take a minute and do it - it's a great way to share your input with the click of a button!


poll results & a new topic!

It's the end of our second week here at The Teaching Studio - thanks so much for reading and sharing! We have had many wonderful comments and ideas shared, we have a lot of new followers this week, and we are so excited that we got seventeen votes on our poll! Here are the poll results:

What has been your most effective way of finding new students?

The "other" answer that we had was:
contacting local music stores, giving them my info

Looking forward to this week:

Our topic this week is going to be Setting Up Your Studio: Studio Policies. So whip out your studio policies and get ready to share your great ideas! This could involve policies about tuition rates & billing, make-up lessons, practicing expectations, required supplies, recitals, etc. Should be a helpful week!

Also, if you have not taken our reader survey, take 1 or 2 minutes and fill it out! We would love to learn a little about you!

We also will be starting a regular feature where readers will have a chance to submit questions about teaching, and they will be answered (and hopefully discussed through readers' comments!) We want readers to have the chance to discuss the things that come up in their own teaching, whether or not it fits with the topic of the week. So, start thinking about the things you need a little inspiration on, and submit your questions here!

Have a wonderful week!


interviewing & auditioning

A few more thoughts on finding students:

Hooray, you got a phone call from a prospective student! So...now what?

When I get phone calls or emails from people interested in piano lessons, I usually 1) am very pleasant, 2) ask for some basic info about the student's age and musical background, 3) give some pertinent info about myself/my studio, 4) get their email address, 5) set up a meeting/audition for the prospective student to come meet me and play for me, and 6) follow up with an email to the parent (or adult student) with a copy of my studio policy and a helpful link.

Seriously, sometimes you need a sort of "script" planned out as to what you need to tell them and what you need to ask them. At least I did when I was starting out.

Then, when they come and meet me/audition for my studio, here's what we do:
  • I introduce myself and talk about my teaching philosophy/style of teaching
  • get to know the student. I give them a nifty little form to fill out with all the basics, as well as some very helpful questions such as "WHY do you want to take lessons, and WHAT do you hope to get out of all this?" Seriously very good to know. Here's my little form...it's super helpful to keep these on file for each student...

  • the student then plays a piece or two for me
  • hand over a copy of my studio policy/contract (which they hopefully already read in the email) and go over some things/answer any questions
  • I also think it's fun to give them a CD recording of myself performing some pieces, so they can take it home and listen; or of course you can just perform for them right then and there! I think too often we don't perform enough for our students - let them know you're good and that you know what you're doing!
What do YOU do to "interview" new students? Any ideas on how to make you and your studio stand out to prospective students?


Advertising for Piano Students

I've LOVED what everybody else has written so far - what awesome ideas! My thoughts on how to increase your studio size will mostly be a reiteration of what's already been stated. I especially love this post because, as I'll be moving to a new area soon myself, I need all the tips I can get!

A few ideas:

1. Like Jonathan suggested, give a lecture-recital (or just a recital) in the area. Put ads for it in the newspaper, in schools, etc - get the word out!

2. Join a local music association. Find out who the leaders of such organizations are in your area, CALL them and become acquainted - introduce yourself and don't be shy about your accomplishments and what YOU have to offer as a teacher! Then let them know that you'd be interested in contributing to your community by becoming actively involved in their organization, and is there anything you can do at this point to help? (I think this is one of the most effective ones, since you'll then become acquainted with other teachers who can refer other students to you).

3. Fliers in all the previously-posted locations ;)

4. I read about this one and I'm going to try it when we move: Bake piano-shaped cookies (I already have the cookie-cutter for it!) and visit the local schools in your area - introduce yourself (and give cookies to) the principal, as well as the music teachers in those schools. Alright now, this might be a lot of cookie-baking, but maybe it'll be worth a shot! I'm excited to try it!

5. As stated before, the *most effective* way to gain more students is by having your current students refer you to others! In one of my undergraduate piano studio teaching classes, I remember our teacher told us a very effective method he uses to motivate student referrals: He tells his students "If you refer at least one student to me, then the first month that the new student starts lessons, YOU get free lessons that month!" Saving money is ALWAYS a motivator for parents, he explains, and you won't be LOSING money the first month you're teaching that new student, but you'll DOUBLE your money the next month (since now you have one more student in your studio). I hope I explained that clearly enough!


Getting the word out

Jenny Bay's post on this subject has a really great list of ways to find students, so I thought I'd just share my experience in moving to a new state in August.

First, my misconceptions about finding students. I had two groups in mind that I was sure would jump to join my studio: people at church (the first people I met here), and my immediate neighbors once we moved the piano out. Most people at church already had piano teachers so it took a bit of time for students who hadn't started any lessons before to come to me. As far as my neighbors, I think their children are just too young, at least right now. :)

On moving to our new city priority number one was to get permission. We live in student housing and they have certain rules about working in your apartment. Since we didn't have the piano yet I would be teaching in a common area, and therefore couldn't charge. This actually worked out really well. I've heard of people who offer a first free lesson or couple of lessons, but I did this out of necessity. I gained the trust of my first few students because I followed the rules. Those students have brought me referrals, but more on that later.

The students came to me after I put fliers up at all the bus stops. Our community has a lot of international students, so it would have been good for me to put an e-mail address on the flier for anyone who was nervous about speaking English on the phone to a stranger. I got my first five students with these fliers.

Since then I've gathered a total of 11 students: 2 students directly from other students, and four more who heard that I teach piano. Like Jenny Bay said, word of mouth is really the best way to find students--the parents are already more comfortable with you because they've heard good things from their friends and they can support each other as piano student parents, an under-appreciated but worthwhile pursuit.


wanted: piano students

Oh the joys of advertising for students.

Obviously, we all know that this is an important step when setting up your studio. For a young teacher starting out (or any teacher looking to expand their studio, for that matter) it can be a daunting task. I seriously would love to get to the point where students come to me with little to no effort on my part, and to where I actually have a waiting list. That would be the life. Unfortunately I have moved around quite a bit during my years of teaching, so I have never actually gotten to that point yet.

I have had quite a few students in my teaching career, so I obviously had to acquire them somehow. Here are some ways I have found students in the past:

1. teaching unsuspecting younger siblings & cousins as some of my first "guinea pigs"
2. mailing little brochures to people with young children in my neighborhood
3. delivering fliers to every. single. door. within a five mile radius of my house with the help of my [amazing] mom and her minivan (probably got 1, 2 students tops from this method - plus a lot of exercise)
4. putting business cards and fliers in random places, such as a car wash (got one student from the car wash. awesome.)
5. putting fliers in music stores (this method actually works pretty well)
6. advertising on craigslist or some other online classifieds website (this method guarantees you will receive plenty of spam email from folks in other countries who are sending their children to America on holiday and they would like you to teach them for x number of hours per day for x number of months and they would like to know how to wire the money directly to your bank account. score!)

And, the absolute best method, in my opinion:


So, I guess what I'm getting at is this: feel free to tape fliers to hundreds of doors and advertise online to your heart's content (and you may have to use some of these methods when you're just starting out), but my advice would be to get to know other teachers in your area and let them know you're looking for students. Be the best teacher you know how to be, so your students will refer others to you.

I'd love to hear what others have to say on this topic, as I am currently searching for more students myself. I could use a little inspiration in that department :)

I am a teacher.

As part of our contributors' bios, we asked them to tell us why teaching is a joy to them. Here is what Bonnie Jack says about being a teacher, and what she loves about it. You can also read this on her bio, but I wanted to make sure you didn't miss it!

I started teaching piano 15 years ago, when I was 15 years old. I was excited about new books and notepads, studio policies and spring recitals. But I was inexperienced, and not a great teacher. Not a single one of my original students loved to practice, and not a single one progressed very far under my tutelage. And yet, I will never forget the moment, many years later, when my own nephew introduced me at his wedding--not as his aunt, but as his piano teacher. My teaching technique may have been weak, but I still left a mark in the lives of those students.

I've come a long way since then. I've had some great mentors, and I've faced a lot of my own fears and inadequacies. As I've progressed, I've learned to love what I do more and more. I love watching students grow. I love sharing in their accomplishments, whether it is winning a tennis match or memorizing a new piece of music. I love watching a student's face light up when he begins to understand. I love teasing a teenager about her first date. I love hearing a student say, "I love this piece!" I love watching a student do something he couldn't do a week ago, or maybe a year ago. I love figuring out new and better ways of presenting concepts so they make more sense. I love inspiring kids to work hard, and I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they realize how much progress they've made.

When I first became a mom almost two years ago, I wondered if I would enjoy going back to teaching. I feared I would resent the time I spent with my students, since it was time I couldn't spend with my own child. I learned two important things when I started teaching again. First, these students are also my children. I am a partner with their parents in the effort to raise exceptional human beings. And the second thing I realized is that this is who I am. I am, and will always be, a teacher. Nothing will ever change that.


Looking ahead to this week's topic!

Thanks for a fun first week on The Teaching Studio! We are super excited about the great comments we've received and the excitement about the site that we've seen from so many pianists and teachers, and that we already have some followers!

We have loved talking about the joy of teaching and hope that if you have any thoughts on this topic in the future that you will still feel free to comment on these posts and share why teaching is a joy to you (because sometimes we seriously need a little inspiration, am I right?). We will be keeping a list of links *here* to all our topics we discuss, and we hope that, with our posts along with wonderful posts from our contributors and comments from our readers, it will become a nice little database of teaching inspiration and ideas.

And speaking of the joy of teaching, here are our poll results for this week (thanks to all who participated!)

What about teaching is a JOY to you?

(isn't it sometimes so (sad but) true that the most joy you find is when the lesson is over??)

And now, looking ahead to this week's topic:
Setting Up Your Studio: Finding Students.

Be thinking about any comments and ideas you might have to share! This topic could include things such as advertising for students (how to get your name out there to actually get students), conducting interviews/auditions with prospective students, how to make yourself as a teacher and your studio appealing to prospective students, when to be picky about which students to let into your studio, specific things you do in your studio when you get new students, etc. We can't wait to hear your comments!


What do YOU want to discuss?

Hello, everybody! Jenny Bay and I are wondering: What do YOU hope to get out of this blog? What specific topics do you want to discuss? We want this to be like a forum, so if you have questions...we wanna hear 'em!

Even though we already have a list of topics created, we always have room for more and we know we didn't come up with EVERYTHING CONCEIVABLE...so tell us what you want to talk about, and we'll be sure to include it in our discussions!

Thanks, everybody! We are SO EXCITED to be starting this blog and to have such wonderful participants! We seriously can't wait to hear all about the suggestions and experience YOU have to offer as an experienced musician and teacher!


Contributor Bio: Bonnie Jack

Let's get to know our next wonderful contributor, Bonnie Jack! Wow we are getting so excited to hear what our amazing contributors have to share.


Bonnie Hopper Jack

she is from:
Kaysville, Utah

she is:
a detail-oriented, list-driven, project-loving people-person

she attended:
Brigham Young University, B.A. in Music, 2000 (studied with Robin Hancock); M.M. in Piano Performance, 2006 (studied with Scott Holden)

lives in Spanish Fork, Utah, with her husband and little boy; teaches 14 awesome piano students at the Art City Music Academy

her studio:
she has been teaching piano since 1995, and has been a teacher at the Art City Music Academy since 1999

she loves:
reading, writing, songwriting, scrapbooking, blogging, teaching, diminished 7th chords, and the circle of 5ths

what she says about the joy of teaching:
I started teaching piano 15 years ago, when I was 15 years old. I was excited about new books and notepads, studio policies and spring recitals. But I was inexperienced, and not a great teacher. Not a single one of my original students loved to practice, and not a single one progressed very far under my tutelage. And yet, I will never forget the moment, many years later, when my own nephew introduced me at his wedding--not as his aunt, but as his piano teacher. My teaching technique may have been weak, but I still left a mark in the lives of those students.

I've come a long way since then. I've had some great mentors, and I've faced a lot of my own fears and inadequacies. As I've progressed, I've learned to love what I do more and more. I love watching students grow. I love sharing in their accomplishments, whether it is winning a tennis match or memorizing a new piece of music. I love watching a student's face light up when he begins to understand. I love teasing a teenager about her first date. I love hearing a student say, "I love this piece!" I love watching a student do something he couldn't do a week ago, or maybe a year ago. I love figuring out new and better ways of presenting concepts so they make more sense. I love inspiring kids to work hard, and I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they realize how much progress they've made.

When I first became a mom almost two years ago, I wondered if I would enjoy going back to teaching. I feared I would resent the time I spent with my students, since it was time I couldn't spend with my own child. I learned two important things when I started teaching again. First, these students are also my children. I am a partner with their parents in the effort to raise exceptional human beings. And the second thing I realized is that this is who I am. I am, and will always be, a teacher. Nothing will ever change that.

read more:

her posts:
click here to read all of Bonnie's articles on this blog!

Contributor Bio: Jen Swendsen

A big welcome to our next fabulous contributor, Jen Swendsen. We shall see if we can keep all the Jen's straight! :) Here is a little about her:

Jen Swendsen

she is from:
Houston, TX

she is:
a planner, a hard worker, lazy, your friend

she attended:
BYU, where she studied with Scott Holden and received a bachelor's in piano performance and pedagogy

teaching piano and taking care of her two little girls

her studio:
includes students of all ages, abilities, and commitment levels!

she loves:
exercise, cooking, baking, reading, performing

she recently:
learned she will be relocating to somewhere in Texas this summer

read more:
on her family blog at thurber55.blogspot.com

her posts:
click here to read all of Jen's articles on this blog!

inspiring our students through joy

I know I already posted about joy in teaching, but I just had to add this. :)

When I think of the word "joy" in the context of teaching, I think of my dear piano teacher, Bonnie Winterton. She is definitely one person who has truly inspired me in my life. She always exemplified joy and love in her teaching, and through her positive example inspired me (and I'm sure countless others) to become a teacher. When I went to her as an awkward, somewhat unsure of myself thirteen-year-old to audition for her studio, she said to me, "I teach teachers." And the way she said the word "teachers" made it sound like the noblest, most important career you could ever have. I think that really made an impression on me.

Her joy and love for teaching has everything to do with her love for her students, and I believe that this is something that truly instilled us with confidence. Whenever I performed at a much-prepared-for recital or concert or audition, no matter how I played she would always come up to me afterwards, look me in the eye with a big smile and say, "Be happy!"

To me, this is the kind of teaching I want to strive for; teaching that is full of joy and positivity, that instills in my students not only a love and appreciation for the music (and for teaching, if they choose to teach one day), but a confidence that will change their lives for the better.

Bonnie & I during my senior year of high school


Contributor Bio: Jenny Jones

We are very excited about our contributors, who will be posting along with us on this blog and sharing their great insights and wonderful personalities! Here is our first little get-to-know-you. Welcome to our blog, Jenny! (*Jenny, I hope you don't mind that I borrowed this lovely picture from your facebook page!)

Jenny Jones

she is from:
Ft. Collins, CO. Right now we live in Madison, WI!

she is:
fond of baking, but not cooking; right-handed and mostly left-brained; a Trekkie!

she attended:
BYU and will be starting a master's at UW-Madison in the fall

teaching, babysitting, primary-ing

her studio:
have taught since high school but enjoying post-pedagogy-classes-teaching in my own studio

she loves:
Brad :)

she recently:
drank a banana milkshake and ran a 10k

read more:
not a piano blog, but just a life blog: brad-jenny.blogspot.com

her posts:

click here to read all of Jenny's articles on this blog!


why Janina loves to teach piano

I was thinking a lot this past week about why I chose to teach piano for the rest of my life. Since my family is preparing to move to Idaho soon, I've been trying to figure out how I'd like to set up my studio in Idaho Falls, including how much I want to charge. To be completely frank, I started to become a little bit obsessed with the money factor: trying to figure out what new accomplishments I could acheive that would allow me to charge more, or what additional teaching certificates I could earn so that I could charge more, etc. Don't get me wrong - becoming the best, most qualified teacher you can be is a noble goal for all of us, and we should charge what we're worth! But I think if I earn those credentials just so that I can charge more money...then I think I'm doing it for the wrong reasons. And that's what came to me on Sunday. I asked myself Why do I want to teach? Is it to earn as much money as possible? No. Where's the fulfilment in that? The purpose of music is to uplift others, and the purpose of teaching is to help others discover and nurture that gift within themselves - to help them create those uplifting moments for themselves. As cliche as that may sound, to me, that's the whole purpose of music and music education.

I thought about how truly blessed we are, as pianists and piano teachers, to have this gift that so many others wish they themselves had - and that, having been so greatly blessed, it's our duty to pass that gift on to those around us. We are so lucky to be in a profession that doesn't require us to ever "retire" - we can teach while we're still in our 80's, and we'll still be needed by others! We'll be able to contribute meaningfully to society all the days of our lives - what a blessing!

I love that we, as teachers, will never know the extent of our influence on future generations - like Jenny said, we don't realize how much our students look up to us. We are an example to them - and not just musically. I think that's the biggest reason why I love to teach piano - because I'm helping others. I'm helping them develop greater self-esteem while also helping them develop a whole new aspect of themselves. When I think of my piano teacher back home, my heart fills with love and gratitude for all that she taught me - not just notes and theory and technique, but she helped me get through my challenging teenage years, and she shaped the rest of my life. If it weren't for her, I wouldn't have pursued my bachelor's and master's degrees in piano and I wouldn't be teaching piano myself. And that's what I want to give to all of my students, in return. I whole-heartedly believe that teaching music is the most rewarding of all careers - not just for the students, but for the teacher as well! So here's to teaching!
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