If you’re reading this blogpost, chances are you are a piano teacher looking to start up a piano studio or a current teacher looking for new ideas or just checking out what someone else is doing. Well, you’ve come to the right place. My name is Monica Rudy. I have been teaching piano for over 15 years and will be sharing some of the most important things I have learned so far, including tips on how to set up your studio space, finding students, setting rates and much more. Here we go…
How do I set up my studio space?
Everyone will have a different space available for teaching, but there are certain important things to consider.
Is it private?
What I really mean is, is it quiet. If you’re like me, you have a husband and children that also occupy the house. You will need to find a teaching space in your home that will be quiet during lesson times with minimal interruptions. Over the years I have tried out several teaching locations throughout the house, but here is a picture of my current space.
You will also need to let your children (and husband, just kidding) know that when you are teaching you are not to be interrupted unless there’s an emergency. In our home an emergency includes blood, fire and nuclear war :). For the most part, this is not an issue for me anymore. When my children were infants I hired a sitter for a few hours each week. This gave me peace of mind that I wouldn’t have to excuse myself from the lesson and the babies were OK.
Is there a waiting area?
Some parents like to sit and listen in on lessons. I find this particularly helpful with younger students. This way the parents hear what I am teaching their child and will be able to help out at home. Whether or not to have parents (and siblings) sitting in on lessons is completely up to you. You can relate expectations for the waiting area in your studio policy.
Here’s where my parents wait.
Where is the bathroom?
Make sure your students and their families have easy access to a restroom. Other than the obvious reason this is also useful for hand washing before lessons.
Are you using technology?
You might want to consider using technology in your teaching studio. There are some great materials available these days.
Here’s a list of materials I currently use:
Auralia – Complete ear training software for all musicians
Harmonic Vision Music Ace Maestro – Music Ace Deluxe is a comprehensive series of music lessons and games that teach beginning music students of all ages the basics of music theory, rhythm, pitch, note reading, listening, and the keyboard.
It would be ideal to have a small desk area set up as a permanent technology lab station. If that is not possible, as is the case for me, here’s a solution. Just set up a folding table and chair near by. Easy!
Do you have a good instrument?
It is important to set a good example for your students. Make sure your instrument is in excellent working order and keep it tuned.
Keep things clean!
A professional looking and clean studio space will make students and families feel comfortable and welcome. Make sure that you straighten up your studio space and clean the bathroom regularly. Although cleanliness (or lack thereof) says nothing about your qualifications as a teacher, it does make an impression. After all, the best way to fill your studio roster is word of mouth!
What teaching method should I use?
There are many, many great options and I recommend going to a sheet music store and browsing their inventory. You can also check out theses piano method reviews or this piano methods information chart to aid you in making this decision. In the end, you want to go with something your comfortable teaching. Remember – the teacher is much more important than the teaching method.
I have been using the Alfred’s Premier Piano Course and have had great success. What I appreciate most about this method is that children learn to rely on actual note reading early on instead of a particular hand position. The song selections are fun and the kids enjoy the CDs that come with the book. Another bonus, this method offers the lesson, performance and theory book as a packet at a discounted rate.
In recent months I have started to include the Celebration Series Perspectives books into my teaching. These are used for the Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program. The Celebration Series Handbook for Teachers is most valuable and I highly recommend its purchase. Each piece included in the series is outlined in detail and the important musical and technical skills required by the student are highlighted.
For more information read Tips on Teaching with Piano Methods by Brent Hugh.
Another resource you might consider for your students is a Piano Explorer magazine subscription. I just include the cost in the tuition.
How do I get students?
In order to start teaching and making money you need to fill your student roster. In order to do that people need to know you exist. I started to build up my home studio after I was married (14 years ago) and we moved to a new town.
Here is a list of things I’ve done to recruit students:
:: Advertise on craigslist
:: Send an introduction letter to the school music teachers in your neighborhood. Make sure to include several business cards. It’s a good idea to send the letter annually, in case there’s a new music teacher or the teacher has misplaced your information. This has been my best recruiting method!
:: Make a flier and canvas your neighborhood.
:: Hang up fliers on public bulletin boards – grocery store, rec center, church, etc.
:: Introduce yourself to local music store staff. Ask if you can leave your business card.
:: If I were starting out today, I would definitely start a facebook page.
Get creative! The goal is for students to find you.
The calls are coming in. What do I do now?
1. Make sure you have a very cheerful and professional voice message greeting recorded on your phone. Mine sounds something like this:
Hello, you’ve reached the Rudy residence and Monica Rudy’s Piano Studio. We are unable to answer the phone at this time. Please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks and have a great day.
2. Set up an interview. This will allow you to meet the student and parents, assess and listen to the student play, review the studio policy with your parents and decide if the student will be a good fit for your studio. This is a very important step and will save you a lot of trouble and aggravation down the road. So do it!
Check out Natalie’s Student Interview and Evaluation Forms. These should be a great help.
How much should I charge?
This is a good question to which there are several possible answers, but here’s what I think.
Don’t sell yourself short!
Many teachers starting out feel that they can’t charge what they are worth. Their student roster is empty and they are eager to fill it. But, if you are a well prepared, hard-working teacher who offers excellent service, then charge what a teacher with those qualifications deserves to be paid. The exact amount will change depending on where you are located. Research the going rate in your area and then charge the medium to higher amount. If you charge too little perspective students might wonder why (Is this teacher qualified?) and you will soon get frustrated that you aren’t being properly compensated for your efforts.
For more information on this subject check out the following article by Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D. Setting your Fee.
Consider charging a tuition instead of by the hour or half hour. Your monthly tuition should include lesson fees, teacher preparation time, a materials fee, etc. I have found charging a monthly tuition to be much easier to keep track of. It also makes budgeting for lessons much easier for parents.
Keep Careful Records
Don’t forget to keep a careful record of all business income and expenses. I highly recommend that you obtain the services of a certified public accountant to help you with your taxes.
Do I need a studio policy?
Yes, you absolutely need a studio policy. A studio policy will help all parties involved know exactly what the expectations are. Your policy should include the following:
- tuition cost
- payment plan
- how cancellations are handled
- practice expectations
- expectations for parent involvement
- studio opportunities (recitals, …)
It is important that parents read and sign the studio policy once a year.
For more information, read Preparing an Effective Studio Policy by John M. Zeigler, Ph.D.
Joining professional organizations is a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the piano world. It also provides a fantastic opportunity to connect with fellow teachers and to receive further training. Another great reason to join are the student contests and performance and adjudicated events sponsored by local music associations.
Here are several organizations you might consider joining:
More great reading material
Here is a list of books I have found helpful in running my studio:
The Music Teacher’s Manual: Making Money Teaching Music
by Steve Stockmal
The Independent Piano Teacher’s Studio Handbook
by Beth Gigante Klingenstein
I hope you have found this information helpful. If so, please share. Thanks!
It is by no means meant to be a complete guide on how to start a home piano studio, but mainly a collection of the most important things I’ve learned throughout my teaching career thus far. Please contact me with any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you.
(Note- Some of the links in this post are my referral links.)