Part 2 of the Group Teaching series written by guest contributor Marissa Erekson
Studio Set Up
I had learned about group piano lessons from workshops I had attended while in school. I had heard lectures detailing how the purchase of the digital pianos was a big expense upfront, but would then be made up for with the additional income. So, when I moved to set up my studio I purchased a grand piano and four digital pianos. It was a huge purchase, but with the additional students, I had the pianos all paid off seven months later (the bulk of that expense was for the grand piano, otherwise it would have been paid off much sooner).
I had the four pianos in a rectangle: two pianos side by side with the students facing in to each other. Then I could walk around the four pianos to help and correct them as needed. The students also were able to work well with counting, etc as they were looking at each other.
I had a large open area for the kids to sit on the floor for the games.
Students were charged the same rate for the 50-minute group class as more advanced students were billed for a 30-minute private lesson. If you charge less than this, then you have simply created an organized babysitting service. Also, if you charge less, then you are setting yourself up saying that group lessons aren’t as valuable as private lessons. I had an incredible amount of success with the group lessons, both in the development of the students’ skills and in the number of years that students remained in lessons. I never had a parent complain about tuition prices due to the time factor. You will need to find out what the general tuition rate for a 30-minute lesson in your area.
Books were included in the tuition for group class students. I created a “music book account” for private students and then deducted the amount of any music I purchased for them. I purchased the music online through various different websites where I received a discount and watched for sales for even higher discounts.
All students also paid a registration fee at the beginning of the semester for recital fees, etc.
Another note for billing – I strongly recommend using a billing service. I had a lot of students, but even if I only had 5-10 (like now) I would still use a billing service. I used MuBuS (Music Business Solutions) and was very happy with their service (very low user fees and very good service). I know of other teachers who said that they didn’t think it was necessary to hire somebody else to do what they could do for free. But then when I asked how much time they spent on billing issues I was appalled by the length of time spent sending email reminders and the number of times they had to bill late fees. I wanted lesson time to be spent strictly on teaching and all of the out-of-lesson work time to be spent on lesson planning – not on billing. It took minimal time to set each student/family up with a music account the beginning of their study time with me. Then if their credit card expired MuBuS would contact parents for the updated info. I only dealt with financial matters the beginning of the year when I set up new students and programmed the new rates.
I can’t even remember how many parents told me how much they loved that I used an automatic billing service and how many of them had even recommend MuBuS to the teachers who taught their other kids other musical instruments.