As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, there are two main goals for every music lesson:
Students want to have fun!
How can we make lessons fun and fit in all of those activities and learning experiences that are vital for students to become musicians?
Don't think multiple keyboards and everyone learning Twinkle, Twinkle at the same time. These group performance classes provide opportunities for private students to learn all of those skills you don't have time for in weekly private lessons through fun and engaging group classes.
If you want to know more about why I started group classes and what my students have to say about them, read Part 1 of this series.
Let's look at how these group classes are structured and the logistics of scheduling.
Which of the following do you consider essential for music students of any instrument?
Repertoire, theory, scales, improvisation and chord study, performance preparation, harmonization, playing by ear, composer study, technique exercises, music games, composing.
They say that whatever you spend time on is what you value.
Yikes! My weekly private lessons usually include scales, chords, 2 repertoire pieces, and a theory page. Sometimes we add in another activity such as harmonization or playing from a chord chart. But that's really all we have time for. And yet, I really do value all of those "other skills".
How can you possibly pass on all of the fun, challenging, and motivating knowledge that made teaching music become your passion in only 30 minutes a week?!
Have you ever thought of group classes? Not the kind where you set up multiple keyboards in a room and each student is forced to play the same piece, no matter if it is too easy or too difficult. This is a whole different animal!
You're tight on money this month and your conversation with the electric company goes something like this:
“You can’t pay your electric bill this month? No problem. You’ve been a loyal customer for three months now, so just mail us a check when you can.”
What utility company would operate their business with a ‘pay when you can’ standard? It's just not going to happen.
Businesses that succeed have good business practices, including timely collection of payments from clients.
So, if you’re hearing something like this from your clients …
“Oh, sorry. I’ll bring you a check next week. I forgot it.”
“We won’t be here next week, so can you adjust our bill?”
“Would you be willing to barter for [fill in the blank]?”
… you can make some simple changes to get paid consistently and on time – every time!
Are you frustrated by multiple absences, cancellations, and even no-shows?
Do you wish students would take their private lessons more seriously and be more considerate of your time?
When I first started teaching, I drove to clients’ homes to teach students private piano and flute lessons. Occasionally, I would show up and no one would be home! Or, I would receive a phone call (the day before, if I was lucky), saying that they needed to cancel (often from the same student multiple times). This meant I would have to sit in my car for 45 minutes, waiting until it was time to drive to the next students’ home. How annoying!
It also resulted in inconsistent income – and that’s really a bummer!
Now, I understand that things come up. Life happens to all of us! But, wouldn’t it be great to have a 99% attendance rate?
Out of 881 lessons taught during the 2018–2019 school year, there were 53 absences (94% attendance rate). However, I only taught 2 make-ups for any of those absences. How many make-ups did you teach?
Back to teaching
I received a call from a church music director a few months after quitting my public school job. He asked if I was interested in teaching private lessons at their church through their conservatory. I told him I needed a break from teaching, but would like to be able to call him in the future.
After several months of working at Starbucks and then a yarn store, I wised up. I knew I wanted to go back to teaching music, so I called him. I was lucky! He still needed teachers so we set up an interview. I was hired and started teaching piano and flute lessons in the spring semester.
The following school year, I was hired at another local church's conservatory. I had students every weekday afternoon, but I still needed to tweak my job just a bit to fit what I really desired for my life.
I still needed to tweak my job just a bit to fit what I really desired for my life.
Do you remember that moment as a kid when your eyes lit up; when your mind started racing with ideas; when you got so excited you had to tell your friends or your parents; when you realized what your passion was ... the moment you knew exactly what you wanted to do when you "grew up"?
I vividly recall sitting in band class as a 7th grader and thinking, "This is it! I want to be a music teacher! I want to give students the amazing musical experiences and opportunities that I've been given!"
"You like an interest. You live a passion."
“Isn’t it great? You’re getting two choir classes this year! They will both be mixed choirs from all grades!” My vice principal smiled as she informed me three days before the new school year was starting.
This was horrible news!
I was crushed!
I had been hired two years previous as a choir and math teacher at a public Intermediate School (grades 5–8) in Santa Ana, CA. After a fantastic second year, my program was cut in half and I would be teaching more math classes. Yes, I had a credential for it, but my passion is music! I had dreamed about teaching classroom music since the 7th grade. I was crushed!
A budding business
My first year of teaching private piano lessons ended with almost a 100% growth rate in new students. I started with 8 budding pianists and finished with 15. I was thrilled! Word of mouth by parents was my only marketing tool. I was grateful to add on students to my schedule during the year, though I certainly didn't anticipate so much growth!
I loved creating my own schedule and being my own boss.
The following summer in 1997, I received an unexpected phone call one afternoon that brought about big changes in my life. I was offered a job teaching at the "Old Towne Academy" in Orange, CA, pending a positive interview with the Board. They had lost their piano teacher and had been given my name by someone, somewhere (the details sure do get fuzzy after 20 years!). At that point, the academy consisted of only two other teachers — voice and dance — that taught in classrooms at the First United Methodist Church.
A few weeks later, I was hired.
1996 – The Beginning
I pulled up across the street from a gorgeous house in an affluent neighborhood in Orange, California. As I shut off the engine, I realized how my VW bug echoed in the quiet cul-de-sac. This was my first day to meet my future private piano students. I was 21 years old and it was the summer before my senior year at Vanguard University.
"Don't be intimidated. Just remember, you know more than they do."
Are you offering your first lesson for free? Or perhaps a free consultation?
There’s no doubt about it, everyone likes the word FREE!
Unfortunately, “free” also sometimes equates to: “If I have time I’ll show up, otherwise I’ll reschedule — maybe.”
I'd like to challenge you to replace your free consultations with an Introductory Lesson.
When I moved to Colorado Springs, I decided to implement Introductory Lessons. After 10 years of teaching I believed I could jump-start a student’s lessons by offering more than just a consultation. I could prepare clients for a very positive and productive first lesson!