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: http://www.musicteachershelper.com/blog/group-lessons/).

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? There is much to be said for both group and private lessons. But in a group, students encourage each other with how their practice paid off, or even that they haven’t quite got it yet. They spur one another on. A little friendly competition helps, too.

*What if they don’t know the songs? I plan for a lot of review and a lot of repetition. Some songs have so many verses, by the time we’ve sung half of them, they have learned it. Also, I have a portable digital music recorder (this one: http://tascam.com/product/dr-05/), and I record and email students the songs in an MP-3 file. Sometimes I provide youtube links.

I can reach more students with group guitar classes than I can in private lessons alone. I can charge a lower tuition fee per student. My prep time is once for all the students in the class. When the class is over, I can re-use the materials for another beginner class. I have prospective students for further classes or for private lessons, and it’s good promo for my studio, especially if we hold a final mini-recital.

*How Music Teachers Helper helps: MTH keeps track of payments, expenses, it emails reminders to students, birthday greetings, and after the final recital, they can view photos on the web site provided. Such a deal!

What do you think? Is teaching a group guitar class for you? Visit my post on August 27th for more specifics of what I include each week and how I use parodies to personalize the groups.

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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: http://fun-books.com/books/lester_family_music.htm

Here’s another source for rounds: http://roundz.tripod.com/

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

Anna at CSU Outdoor PianoHere are some ideas to move your studio forward this summer:

Hold a sight-reading challenge. Set out good sight-reading books from your library for students to choose from each week. Give out prizes at the end of summer for reading a certain number of pages.

Host a summer camp. You could hold your camp one day a week for a month, or four to five days in one week. It could be to attract new students, or a fun intensive for current students. I like “Way Cool Keyboarding” books by Musical Moments for great ensemble playing with beginners.

Attend a concert and invite your students. Give your students “points” in the fall for each concert they attend over the summer. Email notices of upcoming events in your area, especially free events for kids. There will be a free “Peter and the Wolf” performance in my local park in a few weeks, so I sent a flier out to all my families.

Get out all the fun music. Take a break from your regular repertoire and find something different and exciting to learn this summer.

Prepare for fall competitions. This is the time to polish up pieces that need to be ready to go in October or November. For ideas, see my blog on “Preparing for an Event or Competition.”

Organize your music and files. Check for overdue borrowed books. Label and file new music. Enter new music into your Music Teacher’s Helper library. I use cardboard magazine boxes on my bookshelves to organize my music into labeled categories, so that I can find books quickly.

Order a new computer or iPad game.  Learn to use it yourself this summer so you can use it in your media lab this fall. Check out “The iPad Piano Studio” by Leila Viss.

Attend a workshop or seminar. Local colleges or music stores often host guest artists or speakers. Consider traveling a little to immerse yourself in a blues workshop, or an improvisation seminar.

Recruit new students. This is the time of year parents are looking for a music teacher to begin lessons in the fall. Make sure you are on top of your marketing strategies. For marketing ideas check out my blog on “How Do You Attract New Students?”

Try out Music Teacher’s Helper. If you don’t already use this fabulous tool, summer would be a great time to learn all it can do for your studio and your sanity!

Plan your studio budget. I swear I only make $.03 per hour after you take into consideration all the time I spend outside of lessons, and the number of “toys” it takes to keep me having fun teaching. But seriously, summer is a great time to plan for the money aspect of the next school year. List your projected expenses, and then calculate how many students you need, and what you need to charge for lessons this coming year.

Think through individual student needs. Summer is a great time to ponder each student, make a list of their personal strengths and weaknesses, and how you can best move them forward.

Decide on your “theme” for the coming year. My students are on a mission to find out what our theme will be for next year! Read my blog on “Themes Add Focus to Your Teaching” for more about how this can enhance your school year.

Look into Michelle Sisler’s games and motivational tools. Michelle is so creative! Every year she comes out with more and better ideas. Check them out at http://keystoimagination.com.

Get your instrument tuned and repaired. If you have been putting off this task, now is the time to get everything in tip top condition.

Learn new music. You could read through new music for ideas for your students, or brush up on some higher level pieces you will be assigning. You could also spend more time on your own musical repertoire.

Read a book. I am enjoying the book “Make it Stick” by Peter C. Brown, recommended on this blog site. If you can’t attend a seminar, a book is an inexpensive way to update and expand your thinking on a particular subject.

Get healthy. I’m serious. It is the only way you are going to live through next winter and withstand all the germs that are going to be traveling through your studio. Summer is a great time to make changes in your health habits.

Rest and refresh your spirit. Summer is a great time to take time for you! Do something you love but never get time for. Get outdoors, take a mini vacation, enjoy your kids and family, or just sit and enjoy the beautiful sunshine and be grateful for all you have been given.

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Posted in Music & Technology, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips, Using Music Teacher's Helper

For many private lesson music teachers, summer is a slower time of year. That’s why it’s a perfect time to be productive about managing your studio for the upcoming busy season. If you aren’t a current user of Music Teacher’s Helper (or haven’t heard of us!), let’s examine why right now is a perfect time to take advantage of our free trial.shutterstock_92215372

Gradual adoption

It’s easy to add a student, schedule a lesson, then automatically invoice using our software. But that’s just the “tip of the iceberg” with what you can do. You may want to learn about the lending library, repriotore tracker, mileage input, and any number of other features that enhance the studio experience for you and your students. And there’s lots of great training support to do just that. With written articles, video tutorials, live webinars, and even personal setup support, you can go at your own pace to familiarize yourself with the features that you will be using for your studio. If summer is indeed a slower time, now is your chance to set up your studio administration for a smooth busy season.

Add content to your free studio website

Music Teacher’s Helper provides professional website themes for you to choose from that you customize with a logo and content. Build exposure and credibility with a website just for your studio.

Doing this over the summer will give you time to focus on what content you’ll want to include.  You can add links, videos, and pictures easily. No website experience needed.

Every studio website also has a blog feature. Have you created a Facebook or Twitter account to promote your studio but struggle with what to post? Blogging helps market your studio because they show up in search engines like Google and can be spread across multiple social media networks. Good content gets shared and drives visitors to your studio website, where they’ll learn more about your services.

No long-term commitments

Our monthly pricing plans allow you to move up or down based on how many students you currently have in your studio. There is even a forever free plan available for up to five students. And waiting list or former students do not count towards that total.

Do you know which students are coming back at the end of the summer? Add them into the software now as a former student and convert them to active with a click of a button. Since you already added their information, lesson rate, etc., just schedule them on the calendar. They can then receive email lesson reminders (we have different profiles for child and adult students), a custom invoice with option to pay with a credit card, and after the lesson, you can type notes about how they did for yourself, or allow the student/parent to see the notes as well.

Summer vacation is a time for you to recharge and refocus as you prepare for another group of students. If you set up Music Teacher’s Helper now, you will be able to concentrate more on teaching your students in the fall.

Click Here For Main Website & Signup.

 

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Using Music Teacher's Helper

The Great Cupcake Practice Goals Challenge…

By Robin Steinweg        0309084435

It’s big. It’s breakable. It’s bodacious. It’s pink and white with a cherry on top, and has a slot like a piggy bank…  It’s a cupcake bank given to me by a choir member. And what might a grown woman do with a giant hot pink cupcake bank?

Just not right for a centerpiece...

Just not right for a   centerpiece…

Use it as inspiration for my students to set practice goals, and meet those goals each week. Two months of walking past that cupcake, wondering what to do with it, did the trick.

Students (with my input) set three practice goals each week (along with their regular assignments). Goals could be as simple as mastering a measure, finding hand position or doing their theory. They could be as involved as analyzing/labeling harmonic progressions or memorizing a recital piece. But they are all possible in one week.

Example of 3 goals

Example of 3 goals

Practice goals were emailed to parents via Music Teachers Helper. The following lesson we evaluated whether the student passed. If so, his/her name went on one piece of paper per practice goal, and into the cupcake.

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At the end of the given time (2-3 months), my husband drew seven winners—first prize (worth $10), second ($5), and five third prizes ($1 each). Not extravagant. Everyone’s name went in a number of times, and some never missed a goal. All had a chance to win, though the ones who practiced most had the best chance.

a really big bowl with hundreds of names!

a really big bowl with hundreds of goals met!

I allowed winners to choose from a list:

 First Prize:

$10 card for iTunes, local music stores, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Hobby Lobby or Michaels crafts.

Second Prize:

$5 card for iTunes, local music stores, Half-Price Books, Culvers custard, ColdStone icecream or Michaels crafts.

Third Prize (five winners):

Choose from a number of dollar items in a basket (book cover, nail clipper, gel pens, treble-clef-glittery-glasses, journal, craft items, notebook) or from my list: candy bar or something from the dollar menu at McDonalds.

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(Kennedy tries on glittery glasses, and Ava knows just what she will choose)

Take-away for Students: quicker progress due to focused practice (and more of it); sense of excitement seeing the cupcake fill and get emptied a few times; learning how to set practice goals (reachable, with a finish date); sense of accomplishment for goals met; a possible prize.

Priceless: at the lesson after the challenge ended—student places hands in lap and says, “Miss Robin, you didn’t write down any practice goals for me this week.”

Says I, “You’re right. The cupcake challenge is over. But you still have practice notes.” My student, with a wise look, says, “It would be a good idea to keep the goals.”      wink

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Posted in Practicing, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Does your studio have more students than you can handle, or do you wonder if anyone even takes music lessons any more? Why do some people seem to attract more students than they need and others struggle to fill their time blocks?

This is a complicated question, with many variables.

First and foremost people are attracted to what is attractive, valuable, and somewhat hard to get. Even when you need students, you can’t appear needy. So the first thing you must consider when attracting new students is what you have to offer. What makes you unique and valuable? Get busy being the kind of teacher, with the kind of studio, that people would stand in line to get in to.

With that in mind, there is one source of new students that will out perform every other source. However, before I discuss that source, here are some general advertising ideas to get your studio on the radar. Remember to project a confident, positive attitude as you introduce yourself. Stay a little bit hard to get.

  • Leave business cards on local bulletin boards, with your hair dresser, the mail carrier, and anyone you do business with in your community.
  • Drop off business cards and fliers with local real estate agents.
  • Put fliers out in local neighborhoods, door to door when allowed. Go on a Saturday morning so you have a chance to actually meet some people.
  • Call the music teachers at your local schools and introduce yourself. Ask how you can be of help to them. Offer to accompany for some of their programs.
  • Join one of the online teacher referral websites, such as LessonRating.com.
  • Put up a flier at your church or community center.
  • Order a magnetic sign for the side or back of your car, giving your studio name and contact information.
  • If allowed, put up a sign in front of your home studio. I know a teacher who puts up a sandwich-board type sign on a busy corner near his home every Sunday afternoon for a few hours.
  • Join a local music teachers’ association and ask to be put on the list for referrals and to be listed on their website.
  • Pass out fliers or business cards at local children’s sporting events, or when parents are picking their children up from school.
  • Create a website and make sure your name comes up when people search for a teacher in your area. (This could be a whole separate article!)
  • Hold a summer camp for students who want to explore the piano.
  • Write a guest editorial on a musical topic for your local newspaper.
  • Set up a booth at a local fair or community-day activity.
  • Have an entry in the town parade and/or pass out fliers along the route.
  • Advertise in the program for a local school play.
  • Offer a free introductory workshop.
  • Give a local recital of your own music.
  • Offer preschool music or Kindermusic classes to get students ready for instrumental lessons.
  • Offer group classes for teens or adults.
  • Teach retired adults during school hours.

Finally, what is the far and away best source for students? Your current students, of course! Your students will naturally recommend you to their friends, but there are things you can do to encourage this. At the end of each school year I give out coupons for students to give to their friends for a free trial piano lesson. If they recommend a student who signs up full time, the current student also gets a free lesson. I also ask current parents to write a short paragraph of recommendation that I can post on my website. Basically, you want to make sure your current students and parents have referrals on their mind.

It can take months for momentum to build from your efforts, so don’t be discouraged and don’t quit advertising. Your efforts now are filling your studio six to twelve months from now. Even if you are currently full, you cannot stop promoting your studio.

Please comment on this article with ways you have found to attract students. I would love to hear your ideas!

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Posted in Press, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

Yiyi Ku

Recital Gift Ideas

April 22nd, 2014 by

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Personalized Graduation Bears I gave to my students last year

It is upon us once again! I am talking about studio recitals to celebrate the end of the school year. I normally do this in June. My fellow bloggers on Music Teachers Helper and I have talked about recital planing many times in the past.

 

There are many benefits for holding studio recitals – motivation for polishing repertoire, opportunity to gain performance experience, recognition of student achievements, studio promotion, and social gathering of friends and families of the students. It is a lot of work to organize a recital, but as many of you will agree, the end result is well worth the effort.

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In this post, I would like to talk about recital gifts. I give students a little something at the end of every recital. In the past I have given trophies, medals, pins, certificates, personalized Christmas ornaments, hand-embellished soft toys, and treat bags containing all sorts of goodies. I try not to repeat myself, so it is getting harder to come up with ideas! Read more…

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Posted in Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

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.

MTHLogo_400x100

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

 

Read more…

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

Yiyi Ku

New Studio Website

February 22nd, 2014 by

photoMy first studio website was launched in 2006. I had just moved to Long Island, New York from New Zealand, and was in the process of applying to become a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music from MTNA. One of the many suggested projects for Standard III – Professional Business Management, was to build and launch a studio website. Lucky for me, my brother is an amazing website and graphic designer, so I was able to complete the project with minimal cost.

Over the years, I have learned a few website design tips and HTML codes myself, and my studio website has undergone a few major facelifts. Not only does it have my studio information and policy, I have added numerous student photos and videos, studio newsletters and announcements, as well as a blog where I post articles and reviews.

I have so much information stored on my last website, that it was beginning to look cluttered, and the layout was starting to look tired and dated. I decided to search for a new theme on WordPress! Moreover, I decided to make use of the free website offered by Music Teachers Helper. Since I already had my own studio website before joining Music Teachers Helper in 2010, I never thought about taking advantage of its website function. That is, until about a month ago, when Music Teachers Helper announced the introduction of a blog page! That made it very tempting, especially after reading about how to customize the templates. I have been having so much fun building a studio website using Music Teachers Helper, that I have decided to keep it and incorporate it into my new personal website on WordPress. Since doing so, I have discovered a few advantages:

1. On the odd (but seemingly increasing) occasion that my WordPress site is down due to server overload, I still have a “backup” website available to direct potential new students to.

2. I can separate information. “Static” information related to my studio, such as teacher bio, studio policy, and programs that I offer my students, can go on the Music Teachers Helper website. On my WordPress site, I will concentrate on articles, reviews, and my own upcoming performances and recitals.

3. I no longer need to deal with spams. I no longer disclose personal email or phone number on either site. I will use the Music Teachers Helper Contact Form and Registration Form exclusively. My personal contact information will only be given to students that are already in the studio.

Read more…

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Posted in Promoting Your Studio, Using Music Teacher's Helper

This is part three of my series about interesting ways I use Music Teacher Helper in my studio not always per the software itself.

Keeping track of miscellaneous fees = Headaches

If your studio is like mine, you offer to purchase books and materials for your students. Not only is this a nice service to the customer but it assures that students will have the correct supplies when needed.

My October 2013 blog post discussed ways to earn extra income by offering supplies for the students.

Headachesheadache image

Keeping track of all theses book and miscellaneous charges is, quite frankly, a pain. First you have to remember to get payment from the student. That job is made easier by adding the fees on MTH, however it is up to you to remember to actually add the fee. How many times do you go through your bookkeeping and realize a charge you paid was not transferred to the student for which the purchase was made? Read more…

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Posted in Customer Support, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Uncategorized, Using Music Teacher's Helper