improving as a teacher, Studio Business

Forum Q&A | When to Say “No” to a Potential Student

For our previous Forum Q&A, I asked about the legal side of being a business – becoming a Sole Proprietorship or an LLC, dealing with taxes, etc.  My previous private teaching has mostly been as an employee of the university’s Community Music School.  I find all the legal stuff for getting set up on your own to be so complicated!  I am thankful for all the infomation online, books in the library, and the advice I’ve been getting from other teachers.

I’m still sorting this all out, but I did decide to be a Sole Proprietor.  Becoming an LLC does have the benefit of protecting your personal assets in the event that someone should sue the business for some reason (they can go after your business assets but not your personal assets).  But setting up an LLC is more complicated and costly than a Sole Proprietorship.  Of course, as a piano teacher, the chances of getting sued are relatively low.  If you do want some protection, extra liability protection can often add something on to your current homeowner’s insurance policy for this purpose.  Oh, and another thing I learned — be sure to check with your city to see if they require a zoning permit for running a home business and having a sign outside for your studio.  Don’t I sound smart?!  I’m learning so much these days!  ;)

Regarding taxes — I decided to hire a CPA to handle my taxes for my first year or two, or until I can learn how to manage it all on my own.  I feel good about my decision.  Keeping track of my income and expenses shouldn’t be too complicated, but estimating quarterly taxes is complicated for me since I don’t really have anything to refer to from previous years.  My CPA should be able to help me get up-and-running.  :)

Anyway — I received a question yesterday from a reader that is perfect for this week’s Forum Q&A.  Here goes:

How do you know when to say “no” to a potential student?  What do you look for when you interview an interested student?  What kinds of questions do you ask to sift out whether you are going to accept the student?  And what do you do when you realize you’ve made a mistake with a student you said “yes” to?  

In all honesty, I kind of wish I had this problem!  Right now, I am saying “yes” to anybody who comes through my door.  Such is the life of a recently-relocated piano teacher.  :)

Advice, anyone, for this reader?

Photo Credit: Valerie Everett | CC 2.0

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson

Okay, so I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few weeks now, and today I’m spilling all!   Sorry about the length. =)

Don’t Make My Mistake!

When I first began teaching, I created a mental list of all the things I felt were essential for a new student should know.  I thought very carefully about what to say in order to cover all these topics with my student during the very first lesson.  “The List” included things like:

  • How to sit properly at the piano.
  • How to hold one’s wrists.
  • How to curve one’s fingers.
  • The finger numbers.
  • How to find the black key groups of 2’s and 3’s.
  • How to find Middle C.
  • How to find A-G on the piano.
  • What a steady beat is and is not like.
  • What a quarter note is.
  • etc.

These are all important things, of course.  But I hadn’t really stopped to consider what the student might be feeling at that very moment on my piano bench.  I jabbered away cheerily through my long, long list, anxious that my student would learn all the right things the right way from the very first day.

Do you remember what it was like at your very first piano lesson as a kid?  Usually, new students are anxious, curious, unsure, maybe nervous — and usually they are very excited to play the piano.  They might tell you they can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for you which their mother taught them by rote.  Or they might show off that they figured out Mary Had a Little Lamb by ear.  Or they might not know how to play anything at all, but they are definitely sitting on your piano bench practically drooling, anxious to get their fingers on those beautiful, shiny keys!

So what do you do?  What do you do about all this crazy excitement, energy, and motivation that is radiating from this student?   Continue reading “Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson”

improving as a teacher, Motivation

Teaching With the Student’s Goals in Mind

This week I gave a few first lessons to some new students.  One of the things I always ask during the first lesson/interview is:

What are some of your goals in taking piano lessons?

Here are some examples of answers I’ve received from students:

  • I want to be able to play classical pieces that everyone knows (i.e., Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata, Bach’s Minuet in G, etc.)
  • I want to be able to play hymns and hymn arrangements for church services.
  • I want to be able to play from chord charts to play with my church’s worship band.
  • I want to record a Christmas CD for my family.  (This was a fun project! We worked on Christmas pieces over the whole summer.)
  • I like to play by ear but but I want to learn how to read music too.
  • I just want to get better at piano just because I enjoy playing for my own enjoyment.

I’m always surprised at the variety of answers I receive when I ask this question.  Not all students have specific goals in taking lessons, but it’s always worth asking because you may be surprised at what you learn.  Knowing the student’s goals can help the teacher make the piano lessons more relavent to them.   Continue reading “Teaching With the Student’s Goals in Mind”

improving as a teacher, Studio Business

Building Your Studio: Offer Free Trial Lesson, and Have References Ready!

A few months ago, I received a call from a parent who was looking for lessons for her two daughters.  She was a little reluctant to commit to lessons because of a past experience with another teacher: the teacher was an excellent performer, but unfortunately not as great of a teacher.  I chatted with her for a few minutes and I told her about my studio and my teaching experience.  Then I offered to give her a trial lesson for free, so she could see for herself what my teaching style is like.  She agreed to this, and afterwards, was happy to commit to lessons.  We’ve been continuing ever since.

At her daughter’s lesson this week, the same parent kindly offered (with no request on my part) to be a reference or write a letter of recommendation should I ever need one.  When she said this, I realized that having a reference or two (from other happy parents) ready to give her would have been a another great way for her to learn about my teaching style and personality — and it would have been much more convincing than hearing it from me!

Lessons learned: DO offer a free interview/first lesson, and DO have references ready to give out!  =)

Click here to read ideas for activities to do with the student at the first free trial lesson and click here for some free printables for use during the first trial lesson.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenliveshere/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Music Theory, Printables, Worksheets

Just Added: Navigating at the Keyboard Worksheet

A new free worksheet has just been added to the Printables page: Navigating at the Keyboard.

This worksheet is for young beginners who have only just recently been exposed to piano.  This worksheet is designed to help them become familiar with the layout of the keyboard so that they can locate and identify the keys by name.

This worksheet reinforces:

  • recognizing black-key groups of 2 versus 3
  • finding C on the keyboard
  • the musical alphabet (it only goes to G, and then repeats)
  • then finding D-G on the keyboard

This is an excellent worksheet to send home with a young student after their first piano lesson.  Visit the Printables > Worksheets page and scroll down to the N’s for “Navigating at the Piano worksheet” to view it now!

Printables, Studio Business

3 Printables for Interviewing New Students

Just added: THREE new printables on the Printables > Studio Business page:

  1. Beginner Student Interview Form
  2. Transfer Student Interview Form
  3. Student Information Form

These resources are useful for conducting student interviews at the first lesson with a new or transfer student.  The interview forms help evaluate the student’s musical aptitude and background, to help the teacher determine what level repertoire the student should be playing, as well as what technique exercises should be assigned.  The student information form is designed to gather basic contact information from the student — as well as some information from the parent regarding the child’s personality/learning style and musical background. Read on….

Continue reading “3 Printables for Interviewing New Students”