Running a piano studio tends to be a lonely job.


Setting up an independent piano studio, I worked alone to make it a vibrant learning environment for budding musicians of all ages. Although I cherish my students and their families and never feel isolated while teaching, they do not provide a sounding board for the administrative side of the business.

My church position requires me to work alongside the choir director, the choir members, a few colleagues when we play duets, professional musicians for seasonal cantatas and the like but, I’m not required to attend staff meetings. I choose my own music and practice a number of times each week by myself.

Writing a blog post or article requires time and space alone with my thoughts AND my computer. Sadly, I look at my computer screen more frequently than anyone or anything else and it offers no human interaction beyond its service as an electronic communication conduit.

As timing would have it, over the past year, I’ve worked with more colleagues than ever before.

Co-publishing a book, planning a conference, and running a camp completely and dramatically changed my connectivity with fellow colleagues. Now, there’s not a day that goes by without a text, a call or email about an upcoming deadline or project that requires team work.

This led me to wonder why it is that so many of us set up our OWN studio, independent of others, in our OWN homes or rented space. We seem to dwell in our OWN silo with only limited social pipelines to the outside world like Facebook, blogs, etc. Why were most of us never encouraged to seek a mentor or partner who could offer advice, tips, an exchange of ideas, and even share a studio or business together upon earning a music degree? Or maybe I just speak for myself? Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Group Guitar Class

July 27th, 2014 by

Group Lessons, Part 2 of 3

By Robin Steinweg

Guitar-group of kids

My waiting list had grown, especially with prospective guitar students. What to do? I multiplied my time this summer teaching an 8-week group guitar class (read about my 8-week vocal group here:

Part 2: Group Guitar Class

I’ve seen great success with group guitar classes in the past—this was no exception. Here’s how I went about it. You may have excellent ideas, too. We’d love to read about them, if you’d share them below!

*How many in a group? Six students signed up. I’ve had as few as three and as many as thirteen. I’ve been in larger groups myself, so I’d go up as high as twenty. The toughest part of that is tuning. I have them come early for that.

*What ages? Ten to adult. This group had three children (10+) and three adults. Though I enjoy groups of similar ages, I think the ones with adults and kids together are the most fun. The generations encourage and enrich one another, and the adults tend to remove the need-to-be-cool factor. We can get silly or serious. It makes the youngsters more open to songs of a variety of genres and decades.

*How long are classes? I aimed for forty-five minutes, but we usually ended up going over.

*Materials used? This class was for absolute beginners. I came up with my own instructional materials and compiled appropriate songs, which has given me complete freedom to tweak as I go for the particular group. I also have future group guitar class materials for advanced beginners, intermediate, advanced intermediate, and advanced. I’ve often had students stay with me through all five groups, and then enroll in private lessons.

I present most songs as chord/lyric sheets. I decorate with copyright-free clipart.

Each student must have an acoustic guitar to play. No electrics—I don’t like to mess with cords and amps in a group. I’d get hoarse talking over them!

guitars on stands

*Where to hold the class? I’ve taught in my home studio, in my living room, and at two different churches in town, depending on the size of the classes. They all work well.

*Is a group an advantage or a hindrance? Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Group Lessons

June 28th, 2014 by

By Robin Steinweg

Singing group of girls   When that waiting list grows out of proportion, how do you multiply your time? With group lessons!

Part I: Vocal Group Lessons

To multiply my time this summer, I’m conducting two 8-week group classes. I’ll write about the other (a group guitar class) next month.

Normally I’d advertise. But due to circumstances, I emailed  my present students and posted a note on facebook. Word-of-mouth proved sufficient, and I have enough students for a pleasant group.

A great thing about group lessons is that I can charge a lower tuition fee per student, but still earn a good deal more money per hour. Also, my time of preparation is once for all the students in the class. This tends to create more of a buzz about my studio, too.

Here’s how I’ve gone about it—you may have wonderful ideas of your own—please share them in the comments below!

*This group is for 8-12-year-old girls. Classes are 45 minutes long. If they are successful, I will try to offer a follow-up 6-8 weeks this fall.

*To help them get to know each other, I had them share birthdates, family, nicknames, pets, hobbies, musical experiences—they had fun with it. I wrote a curriculum with lots of flexibility in it until I could get to know their strengths/areas of growth.

*I found and created warm-ups. Physical movement (asked them to reach up as if for something on a high shelf that they want badly (a sugar glider, an American doll…), easy descending patterns, pulses, vowel formation, diction, ear training… done with as much humor as I can. Tongue twisters come in handy. Whining like a puppy and meowing like a cat on different pitches turned out to be surprisingly effective warm-ups!

Girls sing 3 parts

*Familiar songs in appropriate keys followed. I played just the melody and listened for who can match pitches and how much confidence they might have, and I began to get clues as to their vocal ranges. From this I can plan the rest of the group lessons.

*Rounds—I had nearly forgotten the benefits of learning to sing rounds! For beginning singers, not an easy feat. Some benefits: Social—you know how kids often walk together or sit together, but are in their own worlds with their phones, texting or playing games? Rounds are a bit like that. The kids are standing in close proximity, but each concentrating on their own thing—separately but together! If you have enough students, they can divide into groups or even just two on a part. Singing rounds requires much concentration, and tuning out the other parts while focusing on their own. Ear training—singing a melody and singing harmony.

Maria von Trapp (Sound of Music—the real woman, not Julie Andrews) said that singing rounds teaches you “to mind your own business.”

Surplus benefit: since rounds are based on mathematical relationships, students are learning math concepts while singing.

You can find some CDs of rounds here:

Here’s another source for rounds:

I’ve been using The Round Book: Rounds Kids Love to Sing, by Margaret Read MacDonald and Winifred Jaeger (80 songs).

Round Book the

*In addition to rounds, I included a couple of very funny (and obscure) songs to keep them laughing. And I remind them that laughing is great for feeling where the support happens. Talk about pulses!

*Real energy occurred when I asked the girls which musicals they would love to sing something from. As each girl mentioned a musical, the others exclaimed how they love that one too. Contagious. I promised them at least one piece they all love. They can hardly wait for the next group lesson. Win!

Even though the group represents abilities from not being able to match pitches to start with, all the way to one girl who does so unconsciously and has sung in public for years, they are working together, being challenged to progress, learning note-reading, intervals, solfege, blending, listening, focusing, and cooperating. In just a few weeks their improvement has impressed me.

This is the first time I’ve taught more than one vocal student at once. I’m liking the way I can multiply my time with group lessons!

singing children

I’ll share about the mixed-gender-mixed-age group guitar class on July 27th.







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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

General bookkeeping tools that operate as one size fit all for any industry can sometimes fall short. Here are three reasons scheduling and billing softwares made specifically for private lesson music studios are advantageous over generic accounting tools and spreadsheets:

1) Specialization: 

The financial features within Music Teacher’s Helper have all the proper terminology for a music lesson studio. That decreases the learning curve. QuickBooks and FreshBooks can make you feel like you need an accountingshutterstock_63218473 degree in order use properly.

Music Teacher’s Helper also makes family-based billing and adding recital or book fees easy.

Student facing invoicing features provide a professional touch for your studio. Students or their parents can receive custom invoices, text message payment confirmations, all with your branding and music lesson terminology.

2) Simplified Reporting:

For a teaching studio with just one teacher, a full fledged suite of financial reporting is generally not necessary. For most, a music studio needs to track income and expenses, how much students owe, mileage, and student account summary.

3) Support From Knowledgable Peers:

With 24/7 email, chat and weekday phone support, Music Teacher’s Helper users have access to excellent support staff – many of them private music teachers and experienced users that understand a studio’s needs.

Industry specific softwares tend to understand the needs of their users better than generic financial tools. In addition, these softwares (like Music Teacher’s Helper) come with scheduling, website, and many others features.

Click Here For Main Website &  30-day Free Trial.

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Posted in Financial Business, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

If Music Teachers Helper (MTH) allows you to gain or retain just ONE student, the way I figure it, you will earn double the cost of the service.   In addition, if MTH helps you avoid losing money through better payments and accounting, you might actually be saving the equivalent of MTH‘s cost each month you use it.


But let’s take a look at the details.  Read on for 10 reasons why I think MTH pays for itself–


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Posted in Financial Business, MTH 101, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

There’s been a buzz in the press about research showing the benefits of music study. The gist: it’s been found that music is closely tied to gotmilk intelligence and other desirable traits. In other words, “it’s good for you.” There’s also been talk that there is lack of substantial evidence to back up these claims. And then there’s talk amongst musicians, many of whom are dismayed by the fact that these side benefits are being touted when really music stands alone as its own subject, one beyond compare and undeniably the highest art form.

Although I understand those idealistic arguments of fellow musicians, I pose these questions:

1) Why should we be ashamed of the scientific findings surrounding music study when they provide free advertising, maybe somewhat false advertising but still FREE and offer greater exposure in the press?

2) Why do we seem to hang out in our own little corner of the world, self-righteous, worn out, under paid and frustrated that the world seems to undervalue our profession?

3) How is it that even though we are experts in this universal language we still find it hard to communicate the importance of music study when music clearly permeates about every thing and every part of society on this planet?

All these questions got me thinking about milk. Mmmm…quite the strange segue, I know, but pause for a momentand think about milk. It stands alone as the one beverage that satisfied ALL of us when we first entered the world as babes. However, this life-giving liquid began to lose popularity as soda, tea, coffee and sport drinks became the drinks of choice. Did the dairy association hang out moping and wondering why they just couldn’t compete with their competitors? NO! They rejected their failing “good for you” marketing strategy and headed for a new campaign focusing on milk’s co-dependence upon other foods and the consequences of milk deprivation. Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

David Cutler wants to help musicians succeed in today’s world.  An accomplished musician and composer himself, he has written one book to help musicians build a career and expand opportunities for income and outreach; and is working on a new book focusing on music teachers in particular.

The first book is called The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living & Making a savvy2Difference, and addresses a broad range of ideas relevant to musicians, such as how to create opportunity, how to make your work stand out, how to create supporting products, marketing yourself in today’s internet world, how to deal with the new paradigm for recording and selling music, how to better work with people, ideas for managing finances, and last but not least, musical ideas for improving your performance skills.

The new book he’s working on is called The Savvy Music Teacher, and seeks to aim music teachers towards an income in the $50,000 to $100,000 range, with vignettes of over 150 teachers – not well-known stars, but hardworking, typical music teachers – who have found ways to put together a workable and enjoyable career.  Cutler hastens to point out that the specific income range is all relative – what may seem a lot of money in one place may not be much in another.  But the book seeks to offer blueprints for helping readers craft sensible solutions that can add up to a good income.

Let’s take a look at some of Cutler’s ideas for musicians and music teachers, but first, who is David Cutler and where did he pick up on all these ideas?
Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Music & Technology, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

How do you add extra profits to your Music teaching business?

I love to teach students to play the piano! There is no doubt I get much pleasure out of seeing the progress of each student as the years go by. However: bottom line is this is my business and I teach to provide an income.

There are likely many ways to add extra income and I would love to hear your ideas. I am writing today to share how I use Music Teacher’s Helper to assist in a very simple way to add extra income.$ image

As music students complete materials, new materials must be available. Some studios request that the student provide the new materials but I found several problems with this:

1. The parent/student forgets to purchase the materials in a timely fashion.
2. The parent/student forgets what is needed and orders the incorrect supplies.
3. Multiple emails about the needed materials to accomplish a simple task.

To rid my studio of these problems, I supply materials for students. I purchase the materials from supplier at a discount which allows me to make a profit on the materials. This helps to offset the time it takes to complete this task. Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Recently, the Kansas City Music Teachers Association began a forum for teachers. Jennifer Fink of is the how-i-made-100000-my-first-year-as-ms-kristin-k-yost-paperback-cover-artpresident and explains:

KCMTA has just launched an online “Tip of the Month” forum, designed to connect teachers and share the wonderful wealth of knowledge that exists among us in a centralized, public place.   Over the course of the year, we’ll be talking about all kinds of topics that affect independent teachers – studio business & marketing, student motivation, literature, pedagogy and more.    

 The best part?  Thanks to the web, you don’t have to be a member of our group to join in the discussion.   We’re excited to have the opportunity to share with and learn from colleagues all across the country (and even around the world).   

This September, we’re hosting a discussion on studio marketing.  Are you a business and marketing-savvy teacher who consistently has a full studio?  We’d love to hear your tried and true methods, or creative ideas for keeping your roster full.   Do you need some ideas to fill your last few slots for the year?  Come on over… you just might find something that will help!  

You’ll find us on the Tip of the Month page of the KCMTA website.  If you’d like to keep up with the conversation and be notified when comments and/or new posts are added, you can sign up to receive email notifications (on the left sidebar of the site), or RSS notification (on the top right menu bar). “


After hearing about this, it got me thinking about what tips I would share to those who are looking to fill a studio. In no time, I had a blog’s worth of ideas. I’ll limit them to 10 (that was hard to do!) in no particular order.

1) Focus on Your Current Families: Your best customers are the ones already on your bench so make sure to keep them happy. :-) Your present students may have siblings so consider offering a special tuition break to any family who enrolls a brother or sister.

2) Offer a Bonus for Referrals: Again your current families are perhaps THE best marketing tool. If they like you, they’ll spread the word so reward them with a tuition discount, a free book, etc.

3) Launch AND Maintain Your Online Presence: Thanks to, a studio website is possible for anyone who may be fearful of this 21st century studio essential.  If need be, pay someone to help you set up a simple site, you won’t regret it.  My favorite feature of the website is the Student Registration Page. I direct anyone who is interested in lessons to complete the form. Once registered, the student’s name appears on my wait list and when an opening occurs, there is a pool of students from which to contact.

b02665I’m guilty of not updating my studio site as often as I should and I know the content could use improvement. The innovative David Cutler, author of The Savvy Musician, provided friendly critiques of current websites here. I will be implementing a great deal of his enlightening suggestions, you might want to do the same.

4) Deliver the Goods: At your initial interview, it’s all about selling yourself to the potential student/family. What is promised at the interview (ex: concert pianist level playing in 2 years) better match what the student experiences. Determining, posting and sticking with a specific mission statement is crucial to customer satisfaction, student retention and referrals.

5) Stay Current with Technology: Even if you choose not to teach with the latest tech tools, an awareness of technological advances and the mobile generation will show your sensitivity to those warming the bench and quite honestly, the “real” world. Taking advantage of technology will only enhance your instruction. As many of my previous blogs suggest, I’m a tech fan and will be releasing a book this month, The iPad Piano Studio, highlighting my favorite device.

6) Plug into the Daytime Student Pool: Home schoolers, Pre-K peeps and Adults are available during those “off ” hours. Wendy Stevens of offers her advice for marketing to home schoolers Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper


Playing Interval Water Ballloon Catch

Over a year ago, I posted a blog about increasing summer fun and income here at This idea of holding a Piano Olympics camp to build summer income was spurred on by the countless games stored on my studio shelves waiting to be played. It dawned on me that using indoor and then outdoor games within a camp setting could be a great way to boost theory skills, continue contact with students over the summer and guarantee income.

Inspired by the idea of Piano Olympics, a reader named Gwen C. developed her own Piano Olympics  in her studio out in California.  Triggered by Gwen’s questions about details, I posted an article with more details  here.  I was pleasantly surprised when she emailed me to let me know of her experience with her camp. (By the way, feedback is always wonderful and especially so when a success story is shared!) As we exchanged emails, she invited me to submit a proposal to present at MTAC (Music Teachers Association of California) about this topic and I invited her to write about her first time out of the gate with her studio Piano Olympics.

Here it is a year later and I’ve just wrapped up my time at the MTAC in San Jose. I enjoyed attending part of the conference, presenting my session called Increasing Summer Fun and Income: Let the Games Begin! and of course meeting Gwen C in person. It was an honor to have her preside over my session. My one and only regret, why did I not pull out my camera and grab a snap shot of the two of us?–wish I was better at documenting events, I just get too distracted. So below is Gwen’s article she wrote after her first year of camp:

This summer I tried something new! I read a great article by Leila Viss about increasing your income during the summer months by offering “Piano Olympics”. Summer time can mean a drop in income when several students take the summer off. However, I was mainly motivated to create something fun, to get off the bench and to solidify some theory concepts in my students.

Playing rhythms on original instruments

Playing rhythms on original instruments

I started with a beginner session with 4 students that had between 6 and 8 months of study. We focused on note recognition, tempos and terms. Leila’s article provided many links to other sources that provided ideas of games to play and I enjoyed using my creativity to design games for what they needed to learn.


Presenting at MTAC

 My second session was with an older group, 9-11 year olds. This session was only 3 students and was a bit more challenging. Our focus was on primary and secondary chords, terminology and rhythm. For this group I purchased an “Eggspert” from and it was a big hit. They loved the game show feel to this activity. But, again, the biggest hit was the scavenger hunt. For this group, I created cards for primary and secondary chords in addition to relative major and minor scales. They enjoyed this game the most. I think they enjoyed the activity of it because it involved a lot of running to the piano and kept them active.

 I also created a relay race with pylons. Each student was given a group of notes and had to take them one at a time from one pylon to the next to create a major scale, then primary and secondary chords.

 This second group was a bit more challenging because their levels were more varied (from 2 – 5). I was a bit worried that the most experienced wasn’t challenged enough and conversely that the least experienced was a bit lost. But, we worked through it, I made modifications along the way. They all had fun and learned something in the long run.

 I am so grateful to Leila for writing about and sharing this great idea. I know that I will be offering it next year.”

-Gwen C

I too, am grateful to Gwen for inviting me to present at MTAC and also happy to learn that she is holding an Olympic camp again this summer! It was marvelous meeting Gwen in person as well as many other teachers looking for innovative ways to make summer fun AND profitable.

If you are interested in learning about my latest round of Piano Olympics (yes they are held every year and not every four!) I’ll be posting an article soon at 88pianokeysme. It was especially fun this year as the entire camp was designed around creativity…

Have you hosted an Olympic Camp at your studio? Would love to hear your success story!



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Posted in Financial Business, Music Theory, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips