A screenshot of the top of my Thumbtack profile page.
One day I saw an ad on my Facebook page from Thumbtack. Have you seen it? It said something to the effect, “Thumbtack needs guitar teachers!” Curiosity got the best of me one day so I clicked on it.
Turns out they do! Thumbtack connects people that have project goals with professionals that can help them accomplish those goals. As a private guitar teacher, I can post a profile on Thumbtack that allows people searching for a guitar teacher to send me a request for a lesson quote. If they like the quote, Thumbtack puts us in touch and voilá, I’ve got a new student!
Thumbtack made it pretty easy to get started. The sign-up process was guided and surprisingly easy. When finished, your profile will have a clean and professional look. Here’s a link to my profile. (I’ve included some screenshots of the edit view of my profile page in this post.) You can include a bio, studio logo, details about the kinds of services you offer as well as professional credentials and that’s just for starters. You can included links to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, too, not to mention your Music Teacher’s Helper Website! When you’re ready to reply to customer requests you purchase credits, which are currency on Thumbtack, you use to pay when you send a quote to a customer. (Quotes cost between 2 and 9 credits depending on the type of project.) For guitar lessons it costs 2 credits or about $3 to send a prospective customer a quote. Would you be willing to pay someone $3 to find you a new student? That should be a no-brainer! Read more…
With this post, I’m going to start a short series of blogs on the theme ‘An Invitation to Performance’. I will be exploring performance as an action, a skill, and as something that every teacher should consider offering as an integral part of his or her teaching studio. As my students and colleagues well know, I can get quite evangelical about the importance of providing access to performance – in particular experimental performance (about which more later) — to all students, whether aspiring professionals or dedicated amateurs.
Performance offers us commentary on and access to a part of our musical self that no other medium can: it is the window into our true, communicative, musical responses, while at the same time being in the only venue in which we can observe or consider those truths. Performance is a lot of other things as well, things that my friends well know that I take great pleasure in discussing far into the wee hours. It’s a space; it’s a shared arena for action; it’s the special place where only musical things happen; it’s our only access to the creativity of our audiences.
I’ll be saying more about these and other ideas surrounding performance in future blogs, but for now, let me me start the series by banging a favourite drum regarding an effective practical option available to all music teachers who wish to give their students more access to the joys and intrigue of performance: the institution of the studio masterclass.
Making masterclasses work
There can be few experiences more stimulating for both music teacher and student than witnessing an expert performer working with a student in a masterclass setting. Once the hard graft of technique, musicianship, and style have been addressed, and once the many long hours of practice have been clocked, the opportunity for students to step out into the light of the concert hall and begin to experiment with performance under the expert guidance of a professional is an invaluable one. It is the crucial step between practice and performance, in particular, professional performance – in my opinion, the crucial step.
And yet, not all teachers make the space for masterclasses as part of the regular studio activities. Read more…
I heard from the music school that a new student had signed up, so as usual, I called him to find out what level he was at, what he wanted, what his email was so I could send him a link to register with Music Teachers Helper.
It became clear soon into my phone call that this new student was hesitating at the music school’s requirement that he sign up for 4 lessons to get started.
“I think I only want one or two to get started,” he said.
I told him that it was a good idea to give it a few lessons to get started and see how it worked, though of course if it didn’t seem a good fit, it was fine to drop out.
“I think really I only want one lesson,” he said.
I said, well, we can get started with some basics in the first lesson, but the second lesson is where I see what he took in, how he did, and where to take it from there.
I admit it. I want everyone to be happy; even me! This fall I took a few surveys to help me better understand what behaviors and circumstances promote happy students, happy parents and happy teachers.
It is much easier for me to know which behaviors in my clients make me happy as a teacher. Some of these things are important enough to be included in a policy statement—a place where clear communication can set healthy boundaries and solve problems before they happen.
Here is what I included in my registration packets this fall: Keep Happy Teacher
be willing to try new things, and new ways of doing old things
listen to directions and follow them at home
read your assignment notes over at home each week
enjoy the songs you are learning
have a respectful attitude
practice faithfully, and record it in your assignment book
smile a lot
tell the teacher frequently that you love piano lessons
always bring all your books to your lesson
participate in studio activities
take good care of borrowed books and return them on time
offer your child support, incentives and encouragement at home
set aside practice space and time in your child’s schedule
say uplifting things about piano lessons in front of your child
provide an adequate instrument on which to practice
keep your expectations high, but fairly close to reality
help your child participate in studio activities and recitals
respond to studio emails in a timely manner
rarely cancel lessons, and call ahead on those rare occasions
drop off and pick children up on time
pay your tuition on time each month, without a reminder
call me when you have a concern or problem so we can resolve it
remember that I thrive on appreciation, and your kids thrive on praise
That covers my side of things, but what about the students’ or parents’ perspectives? For the last few weeks I have been surveying students and parents from my studio, as well as parents with other teachers in my local association, about what makes them happy with a piano teacher. Below is my compilation of the student and parent responses.
I expected certain things to be high on the parents’ list: keep tuition rates low, limit the number of outside activities, high tech studio, make sure we get our perfect time slot, be flexible with sport schedules, vacations and illnesses, have a location close to school or home, have lots of degrees, certifications and professional performance experience.
I was wrong. Not one of these items was mentioned. Read on to find out what wasRead more…
Student workbook and assignment book to coordinate with game board.
It is so exciting to start a new school year. I usually take August off to give myself time to get ready for a new direction in the fall. In my never-ending attempt to keep kids engaged in the study of piano and music, I create a different theme and activity set each year. This year my theme is World Music, and I’d like to share with you how I have put this to work.
Game pieces to move around the board; little superheros.
Game board. Students move a space for each day of practice.
As the basis for my activities I chose to use an assignment book and game board from Keys to Imagination, created by Michelle Sisler. (http://www.keystoimagination.com/) There are several themes available, and I am using “Where in the World is Mr. Arpeggio” to coordinate with my world music theme. Each student gets a
workbook that includes assignment pages, along with activity pages at the beginning of the book which correlate with the game board. I purchase these books for the students out of their fall deposit money. A vinyl game board is pinned to my bulletin board and games pieces depicting superheros are added. The game board depicts a map of the world with a trail for students to follow as they track down clue cards to find Mr. Arpeggio, who has been stealing musical symbols. The clue cards also include interesting history and composer facts. Students progress on the board according to the number of days they have practiced the previous week.
In order to add a competitive element to the game, I also hung an even larger world map (under $15 at Hobby Lobby) on another wall and marked out a route for the students to race around the world. Students will choose a cute paper luggage tag on which to put their name, and then move the tag along the route as they accumulate points. In order to get on the map they need 15 points to get to Denver International Airport. From there they work their way to New York City, on to Paris, then Shanghai, and eventually end up in Los Angeles. Their prize reward increases at each destination. They will earn points by collecting the previously-mentioned clue cards, bringing their books, playing their scales cleanly, writing compositions, completing theory pages, playing at recitals, and other activities and goals.
Large map I added to have a race around the world.
During weekly media lab time I will add in world music activities on the computer. I may also use some of Keys to Imagination’s “Are We There Yet” studio series. This curriculum provides many activities related to studying world music. I will incorporate the world music theme into my group lesson activities and any special concerts or field trips we attend this year.
Multicultural activities for group lessons and media lab time.
Media room decorations.
Students will also be choosing a piano piece to study from a foreign country. I usually have a theme-specific recital sometime during the winter so the students can share these pieces with family and friends. I’ll encourage them to write a report about the country and/or the composer and maybe share some of those facts before they play.
This long banner ties it all together.
To set the mood, I ordered very inexpensive decorations from www.PartyCheap.com in the world theme—lots of flags! I may leave these up all year, or move some of them around from time to time. I have little cards to send out before lessons begin letting students know about the “world wide search” and how I need their help to find the thieving Mr. Arpeggio!
I’d love to hear from other teachers who use a theme each year for motivation!
Inland Valley Symphony outdoor concert in Temecula
Today was the last day of my “summer vacation.” Starting from tomorrow, I will be back to my regular teaching schedule. I took a three week studio break from June to July, some students had lessons after that, some have been away, and I will see almost all of them back for lessons this coming week. I spent most of today organizing my teaching supplies and sorting new books for students, and wondering where did the summer go! Well, I have had a productive summer, and a recent blog by Leila Viss – Why Don’t We Collaborate? made me reflect on the various collaborative projects I have been involved with this summer.
With Dan Callaway at Temecula Pop Under the Stars
First, some of you may remember the name Dan Callaway. Dan was a blog author on Music Teachers Helper, I read many of his wonderful posts before I joined the blog team. Well, as it turned out, I met him in person this summer in an outdoor “Pop Under the Stars” concert in my town! He was one of the featured solo vocalists and I played the keyboard in the symphony orchestra. The concert was a huge success, drawing more than 2000 people. Dan was awesome and the audience loved him! As a pianist, we don’t get a lot of collaborative opportunities to perform with a large number of musicians. Unlike band instruments, we are not used to producing a “collective sound.” The experience is invaluable, and I can not recommend it highly enough!
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!
*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…
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!
*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.
I’ve been using The Round Book: Rounds Kids Love to Sing, by Margaret Read MacDonald and Winifred Jaeger (80 songs).
*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!
I’ll share about the mixed-gender-mixed-age group guitar class on July 27th.