Music Camps

Offering Summer Music Camps for Piano Students

Are you thinking about holding any camps/workshops this summer?  Here are some great reasons to consider holding camps:

  • It allows you to reinforce concepts or cover topics that are difficult to cover during private lessons.  E.g., music history, rhythm, improvisation, composition.
  • It is a great way to build camaraderie among your students.
  • It allows you to have a different/lighter teaching schedule during the summer if you desire.
  • It creates the possibility of increasing your income during the summer months.

Here is what I do during the summer months.  This is pasted directly from my Studio Policies:

Summer Months: During the summer months (June _ through August _), private students are expected to continue taking lessons; however, they have two options: 

  1. 5 lessons scheduled as convenient for the student and teacher, plus all two 4-day summer camps (one each in June, July, and August).  Each camp meets from 10-noon Monday through Thursday.  Summer camps themes vary each year, but may include Musical Olympics, Music History Blast From The Past, Music of the World, etc.  
  2. Or, students may continue weekly lessons (10 in total) as normal.  Students who choose this option may also participate in one or more summer camps for a nominal fee.   

Not only does the teacher feel strongly about the value of continuing the student’s musical education throughout the summer months, but the teacher’s livelihood depends upon a regular income throughout the summer months because the tuition rate has been determined based on a 12-month calendar.  For these reasons, if a student does not continue lessons through the summer, the student unfortunately cannot be guaranteed a spot in the schedule in the Fall especially if there is a waiting list.  

For either option, students are expected to continue paying the flat monthly tuition rate.  This system has worked very well for the past two years and I plan to do it again this summer (2014).

Things to consider as you are planning your camp:

  • How long do you wish for it to last?  Examples: 4 consecutive days for 2 hours each day; or 5 hours in one day; or 6 Tuesdays for 1 hour each day.
  • What is your ideal number of participants?  What is your minimum and maximum number of participants to make it worth your time?  Personally, my range is 4-10 but my ideal group size is 6 or 8.
  • Consider how much you’d like to get paid as a minimum hourly wage during the camp.  Also consider your time involved in all of the preparations beforehand.
  • Choose a theme/topic.  Consider what kind of curriculum you will use — will you write your own lesson plans or buy them?
  • Make a list of all of the materials you will need and total the expenses.  Examples: paper, printer ink, glue, scissors, food for snacktime (or you could ask students to pack their own snack/lunch), game materials, pencils, crayons, craft supplies, etc.
  • Price your camp so that you will be profitable even if you have the minimum number of participants sign up.   Research what it costs for students to attend other types of camps in your area.

Setting Tuition

Be sure to crunch the numbers for a different scenarios until you find a tuition rate that is profitable for your business but also reasonable for your students.  For example…

Scenario 1: Let’s suppose you charged $100/student for an 8-hour camp (4 days, meeting 2 hours each day).

  • If you have 4 students attend and the expenses totaled $100, you would make $300.  If you divide this by the 8 hours of contact time with the students, you are earning only $37.50/hour (not including prep time).  [As with all of your income, of course, you will lose between 20-30% of your income to pay self-employment taxes.]
  • If you have 6 students attend and the expenses totaled $100, you would make $500.  If you divide this by the 8 hours of contact time with the students, you are earning $62.50/hour (not including prep time).
  • If you have 10 students attend and the expenses totaled $100, you would make $900.  If you divide this by the 8 hours of contact time with the students, you are earning $112.50/hour (not including prep time).

Looking at these numbers, I would probably decide that this tuition rate is not profitable in the event that only 4 students register.  Therefore, I would either set my minimum number of students to 6 (which means risking that I might have to cancel the whole thing if I don’t get 6 registrants), or set a higher tuition rate.

This is just a scenario for how you might go about deciding what rate is right for you and your area.  I’m not trying to suggest a particular tuition rate, but rather show you how to think through the numbers.  🙂  Here is another scenario.

Scenario 2: Let’s suppose you charged $60/student for a 4-hour workshop (1 day).

  • If you have 4 students attend and the expenses totaled $75, you would make $165.  If you divide this by the 4 hours of contact time with the students, you are earning $41.25/hour (not including prep time).
  • If you have 8 students attend and the expenses totaled $75, you would make $405.  If you divide this by the 4 hours of contact time with the students, you are earning $101.25/hour (not including prep time).

As you can see, the success of your camp depends largely on how many students will register!

If you are thinking of holding a camp for the first time and are looking for an easy, complete curriculum, I would highly recommend holding a music history camp using my lapbook curriculum, “Great Composers and Their Music.”  Read more about Music History Camp here.  The curriculum is ready-to-go and students absorb SO much information when they learn through lapbooking.

Other camps I’ve offered in the past include So, You Want To Be A Composer?, Music of the World, and Musical Olympics.

Please share your thoughts about how to plan special camps/workshops in the comments.  I would love to hear from you!

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23 thoughts on “Offering Summer Music Camps for Piano Students”

  1. Joy, thanks for this post. I am encouraged by your statement in your policy regarding your livelihood being dependent upon students continuing throughout the summer months. I too teach year round and feel that taking the summer off is not good for the student’s progress. However, another BIG factor for continuing lessons throughout the summer is financial. But I have never stated that factor in my policy. My daughters also teach with me and right now this is their only income. The mother of one of my oldest daughter’s students has already mentioned that she doesn’t know how this summer is going to go with their busy schedule — thus I half-way expect that they will drop out for the summer. My policy does state that they will not be guaranteed a slot in the fall unless they pay for the summer months. However, I will reconsider stating our livelihood as a factor for continuing summer lessons.
    Last summer I did try something new that went over well. I normally teach 30 minute lessons. However for the summer, students had the option of taking the normal number of 30 minute lessons or a fewer number of 45 minute lessons. This gave families more freedom for vacations and other summer plans. Several of our students took this option. I do like group classes and am going to think more about the possibility of using them as an alternative to some of the summer lessons. Thanks again!

    1. I LOVE the idea of teaching longer lessons in the summer! I would love to have an hour-long lesson with some of my students and have more time for games, improv, composition, or whatever. Sounds like a win-win for everyone involved.

  2. I teach year-round myself due to income with regular lessons. I have done summer camps in the past. I have been very disappointed in registration. Yes, it does depend upon the number to be profitable and worth my time. I’ve only had 2-3 at most which makes planning harder. Those who attended said it was the best week ever and learned so much more than in a regular lesson. Content is not the problem. I think scheduling is a problem! I usually send a survey in April with weekly options and their intent about camp and still not much interest. I did do something different last summer with regular lessons. I gave the option to come every other week for one hour instead of 30 minutes weekly. This was a hit! So I only taught two weeks each summer month which allowed me to have a break too! Loved it. I also have a policy that they must continue through summer to keep fall slot. But I hit a road block last year….divorced parents that don’t live in the same area and the other parent had them for the summer. I didn’t have the heart to penalize that student for their situation that they had no control over. I let them keep their time slot. Your thoughts/comments would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Donna,

      Yes, scheduling can definitely be a problem. But as you said, once students try out a camp, they LOVE it and will likely try to come back next year. The first year I offered summer camps, I had 3-4 registrants. The second year, I had 5-6 for each camp. This year, I anticipate that I will get 6-8.

      In the event that a student wants to take off for the summer, I would definitely think about asking them to continue paying monthly tuition in order to hold their spot in the Fall schedule. Or, at the very least, I would charge a monthly “holding fee” set at 50-75% of the normal tuition rate. I guess it would depend on how badly I wished to keep the student in my schedule and how much I depended on that income during the summer. The situation with the student with divorced parents is certainly not a normal circumstance. When these kinds of situations arise, we have to figure out what feels right and fair, and it’s not always easy!

    1. Hi Natalie!

      My camps are open to 6 to 13-year-olds (and sometimes 5-year-olds if they have taken at least 6 months of lessons). I try to recruit my 13+ students to volunteer as my “camp helpers.”

      I like having a variety of ages and levels at camps (and at my monthly group classes, too, actually). I try to choose topics that work well despite level differences, such as music history, improvisation, and composition. When we hit on topics such as note identification, intervals, or rhythm, I try to choose/create team-based games that allow students to work together towards a goal. The more advanced students can coach and help the less advanced students.

      Offering the camps to a wide range of ages also makes it easier to get enough registrants to run each camp.

  3. I began this class during a fall break with five 7-8 year olds. We only had one day of camp because a family emergency arose, and I couldn’t continue. The children LOVED the camp and were very sad that we had to stop. These children included some who had attended piano lessons and some who had not. One thing I added to the curriculum was a story about the life of a child who lived in each country.

  4. Have you ever offered it to children outside of your piano studio? Would any of these camps work for those that have not had piano lessons?

    1. Yes, I have allowed new students to attend camp along with my current students. The “Music of the World” camp works particularly well for children both with and without a music background.

  5. Hi Joy! I’m a piano teacher in Nebraska and I take the summers off because I like the break, but miss the money! I decided to do 2 mini-camps this summer. One for preschool (3-5 year olds) and one for elementary (6-10 yr olds) hoping that some of my students would sign up for them but they didn’t! So I’ve filled my preschool camp already with friends from facebook and I have 2 interested (plus my son) for the elementary. Each camp is 2 days for 2.5 hours each day. Do you have any recommendations for me? Unsure of how to mix students with no music background with those that have some. I’m not at the point to purchase a curriculum, but would love some wisdom! Thank you!

  6. Hi Joy!

    Thanks so much!

    I teach piano part time and I am always looking for creative ideas….like camps or workshops during school breaks. Any ideas on how to run a 5 week private class for a piano student?


  7. My regular students attend class throughout-the year – I teach solo piano at a music school which is a 2 hour commute from my residence, and i also have a few students who come home for lessons. I would like to stimulate more musical interest in the area in which i live. Having summer camps seem like a good idea. I think i’ll have to figure out how to handle a class like that, cos some of the students i get will be of different levels in piano playing – they don’t have regular piano teachers. Also, while i’m very comfortable teaching piano solo, group piano teaching stresses me out. Will have to work on this and figure out what i can do. Your blog started me thinking about having holiday camps. Thanks!

  8. Thank you for your great ideas! Your blog is great!
    This is a semi-related question, but what do you do regarding a release to use students’ photos on the internet? Thanks!

  9. Hi Joy,

    Question about the business end of camp: do you have specific liability insurance to cover summer camp in your home? Or would this be under the umbrella of the homeowner’s insurance that already covers us in most lesson-related events? I’m really hoping I don’t have to try for specific summer camp insurance to cover eight kids for one week of day camp. Guessing it would really eat into any profits. Any advice?

    Thank you!

  10. I’m planning on running summer camps this year, week long half days that run from 8am-noon and 1-5pm. For 3 weeks in July and August. July and August having different themes. The 6 camps in July will be nearmy identical and the same with August. I am however looking at structuring it for ages mature 4 yr old to 10 yrs with no music background necessary and capping at 8 kids per camp. From reading what other people have done, it looks like I might be crazy to do something of this magnitude. Thoughts? Also wondering why no seems to be opening up their camps to friends of their students.

    1. I’ve heard of teachers who run all-day or part-day camps — you won’t be the first! 🙂 Your camp idea sounds great. I just might suggest lining up a high school volunteer as a helper throughout the day. But perhaps your classroom management skills are stronger than mine! 😉

      Generally, each summer I offer at least one camp where I specify that student’s friends with no or little musical background are welcome. I haven’t had many take me up on this, but I think it could be a great way to gain new students if you can get the word out!

  11. I would be very interested in what anyone does in regard to their liability insurance?
    I have regular home owners but do you need to have anything more than that?

    1. Hi, Dan! When I first started teaching here in Ohio, I did decide to purchase an additional insurance rider (added to our homeowners insurance policy) that provides business liability coverage. I also decided to insure my piano and my music library. My local insurance agent was very helpful with this, and I found that it was quite affordable and provides great peace of mind.

  12. Hi Joy,
    I was also comforted to see you addressing finance in your registration policy- always hard to be tactful and realistic. But most of all I love the idea of using the camp to do music history or more “peripherally” musical topics that are difficult to cover during the year but are also accessible to all levels. With how often I hear myself repeating the same context notes on Bach’s life, etc. it makes so much sense to do this with students in a camp setting.

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