Moving soon? Join me while I build a brand new violin studio in a brand new city!
Hey, folks. I’ve taken a break from writing blog posts for the last few weeks because I moved to Arizona. (Thanks for being patient, Brecklyn, and doing all the work. Oh wait, you always do all the work. Yay, Brecklyn!). Although we moved for my husband’s job, I think Mesa will be a great place for my studio. Although I loved our last town, the “teaching” scene was really slow. Not very many kids took lessons and their parents weren’t willing to pay very much. I keep hearing from everyone I know that this area is very supportive of the arts and arts for kids specifically, so I am so excited to start fresh! When I started teaching I made so many mistakes. I basically set myself up for failure with very poor decision-making and a lack of planning for what I really wanted out of teaching. My mistakes created so much heartache and frustration that could have been avoided. I feel so lucky that I get to press the restart button.
Although I taught violin lessons before, I really began trying to start a music studio in earnest about four years ago. I came to the job with desperation for students, a total lack of confidence, and very little planning. It was a terrible combination. I could (and maybe should) write a series of blog posts about everything I did wrong. I can’t even pick what was the worst. It was bad.
This time will not be the same. I’m not desperate, I’m eager for students (an important distinction.) I am confident that I am a good violin teacher. I am not by any means the best, or perfect, but I love my students and work hard for their success. And most of all, I got a plan.
This is my checklist to start a music studio in my new home. Some of this may be pertinent to your situation, some not, but hopefully there is something in here that can help you get started.
Before I moved, my best friend and my sister-in-law (both named Heidi oddly enough) babysat for me every week. Oh, it was so great. Unfortunately, they refused to move with me, so I have to figure this out again. Bleck. Seriously, child care is the number one stressor associated with my job. I need to find someone close, trustworthy, and reasonably priced. And I probably won’t be able to focus on anything else very well until this is figured out.
Join and Get Involved with the Arizona Suzuki Association
I am anticipating other local Suzuki teachers to be my best contacts to find new students. Also, I love discussing pedagogy with other teachers (hence why I write for this blog.) Suzuki associations are such an incredible resource, for students and teachers.
Figure Out My Prices
When I started teaching, I priced my lessons really low because I wanted students. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I made no money and I didn’t always attract students who thought that violin lessons had value in their lives. I increased my prices here and there, but I never wanted to do a huge tuition hike because I didn’t want to lose students that I already had and adored. When I graduated from college, I didn’t increase my rates because I thought we would be moving soon and it wouldn’t matter. Short story, I didn’t charge very much.
This time I will have confidence in my worth as a teacher. I will do my research and charge a competitive rate that will a) show that I offer a valuable product and b) actually support my family. That is my daily affirmation for the next few months.
Figure Out My Essential Question
Hopefully you have read Brecklyn’s recent blog post about our January book club pick, The Savvy Music Teacher. If you haven’t, go and read it right now, because she explains it better than I can. The gist is that you need to continually ask yourself a question that self-evaluates how well you are performing as a teacher. As I’ve been brainstorming what this question will be for me, I’ve identified a few core objectives for my students: creativity, hard work, and kindness. My top three may change, but as of today, that’s it.
Learn How to Improvise
Yup, this one seems totally random, but it’s not. Because I chose creativity as one of my new top objectives, I really want to find a way to teach all of my students how to improvise. This was always something I wanted to learn and didn’t. Before I teach it, I really need to learn how to do it myself. Wish me luck!
Revamp My Policies
A few things that I’m going to change from my last policy sheet:
- Charging Tuition by Semester– I will break it up into monthly payments and offer a discount for those who pay the whole semester up front. I’m hoping this will contribute to a higher level of commitment for my students and a better understanding that they are paying to be part of my studio, not an hourly fee.
- No Rescheduling– I didn’t use to mind rescheduling every single student several times a month. I was busy, I had to reschedule, too. No problem! Then I had a baby. My life revolves around schedules: Breakfast, Nap, Lunch, Nap, Dinner, Bed. When I rescheduled I always ended up waking baby up during a nap to get her to the babysitter. And did I mention how much I hate finding a babysitter at the last minute? No more. I will set aside one week at the end of each semester to teach makeup lessons. If they are sick, they can send me a video of what they’ve been working on lately, and I will send them a reply. Of course, if I cancel a lesson (which is rare), I’ll reschedule, and of course there may be extenuating circumstances like long illnesses. I’m just saying no more rescheduling my entire life around dentist appointments.
- More Recitals– I love recitals. They are so good for my students and I have so much fun. After reading The Savvy Music Teacher I have some more ideas of ways to change up recitals to make them even more exciting. More to come on that.
- Texting/Phone Call Ban in Lessons– I’ve had a problem with various parents texting with the sound on, answering phone calls, watching youtube videos, etc. I can usually tune it out, but my student is always so distracted. I encourage taking notes and video on a phone or tablet during lesson, but if it makes noise, it’s out.
New System for Tracking Practicing
This is something I’ve never done well. I encourage my students to take their own notes and to practice, but, to no one’s shock but my own, that doesn’t work. I have some ideas, but I want to have a better system before my next first lesson.
Get to Know Local Music Stores
Local music stores can be great places to advertise, hold recitals, and of course, buy music. My students always ask for recommendations for where to get rehairs, rent instruments, and buy their music. I need to do a little research so I can tell them where to go.
Next month the Savvy Music Teacher Book Club is going to read Nurtured by Love, which is the book that initially made me fall in love with this job. I’m looking forward to rereading it and remembering the reasons that I teach.
Have You Ever Started Your Studio from Scratch After a Move? What Are Your Tips for Me?
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