The Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing Prospective Students.

With the start of the new year, now is a great time to fill open slots in your studio and student interviews are an excellent tool to use with prospective students. .

Once someone contacts you for lessons and you gather some initial information it’s now time to schedule a meet and greet or “interview”. I call these trial lessons.

Here are some tips I have found very helpful in holding trial lessons.

 

Don’t:

Don’t overwhelm prospective students with questions. Instead help the child feel comfortable and welcome. No one is themselves when being asked too many questions. For now keep your questions to a few basic introductions.

Don’t start with the importance or the demands of practice.

Instead Emphasize the fun and possibilities first. You can discuss practice at the end. Starting with the hard part can deter even the most serious students by making them feel overwhelmed and give you as the teacher the appearance of being overly harsh and strict. Practice standars are good and can easily be covered at the end of the trial lesson.

DO:

Have a mini lesson:

Have a mini lesson so you can get to know the potential student better and they can get to know you. During the lesson you can learn a simple song by rote, learn the layout of the keyboard, talk about the musical alphabet, do some simple ear-training, or do some interactive rhythm games. Don’t do too many activities. Try picking 3 of the above activities such as learning high and low, learning a simple song by rote, and introducing rhythm.

Note: I find having students learn a simple song by rote helps inspire them and show them all the possibilities of taking piano lessons. You want students to leave a trial lesson excited and this is a great way to do that.

At the end of a trial lesson answer any questions and then use this time to highlight your studio, cover your studio policy and show them any resources you give new students.

Highlight your studio:

Try to pick 3 things that makes your studio stand out from others to share with families. This could be your amazing recitals, exciting duet opportunities, or group classes. Or if you have a more serious and competitive minded studio, the performance opportunities, masterclasses, and exceptional opportunities to participate in high caliber competitions could be some of your unique attributes.

If you include any practice incentives or reward programs now is a great time to explain them and/or practice expectations.

If you give new students any resources such as flash cards, notebooks, and practice materials in addition to their music books now is a great time to go over these.

Your Studio Policy:

Lastly do make sure you cover the major points of your studio policy and give the full policy to the parent to read.

Before they go, DO make sure you know these things:

Do they have an instrument at home and any other necessary materials such as a foot rest for very small children, adjustable bench (or cushions), or any other materials that you may require.

Go over pertinent information in the studio policy and answer questions. Do make sure they understand the process you choose for payment etc.

And lastly before they leave ask for a commitment to lessons. I like to ask for a registration and materials fee so I can send them home with materials and hold a specific time slot they would like.

 

Studio Policy Guidance 101

Yesterday I had a discussion with a parent who was looking for a violin teacher.  She commented that one of the teachers she considered sent her a 10 page studio policy as soon as she contacted him about lessons. This parent felt overwhelmed, and her comment was, “I don’t care about a studio policy.  I already know there will be a studio policy I must comply with; I want to know what can he do for my child!”

Coming from a parent who is very serious about lessons and respectful of a teacher’s time,  got me thinking. I think the length and content of a studio policy is important to consider. Every teacher wants to acquire students, so how can we set boundaries, yet not overwhelm parents?

successful-studio-policy-imageI think we first need to consider what to include in a studio policy. Your studio policy shouldn’t address everything and the “kitchen sink!” So what should your studio policy include?

You only need three main parts to your studio policy.

  1. Tuition and Studio Activities

  • How tuition is charged: rate/hour, monthly, etc.

  • Acceptable methods of payment: check, cash, or credit card?

  • Due dates for payments and when late fees are assessed, if any

  • Special fees charged: recital fees, music books, etc.

  • General information about recitals and group lessons, as applicable

  1. Cancellations

  • Makeup policy if you or the student misses a lesson

    • 24 hour or more notification?

  • Policy for bad weather days

 

  1. Important Standing Rules

  • Such as washing hands before lessons etc

Your studio policy should be no more than 1 to 1 and a half pages in length and should be written so it is easy to read and understand.

What about addressing all the little things that bother you?

For those of us who teach from our homes, we may be tempted to use our studio policy to address various irritations such as:

  • students wandering to private areas of our home

  • students tracking mud on our floors or staining furniture with food, etc.

  • parents visiting long after a student’s lesson is complete

It’s always best to assume that most people are respectful of your home and time and to handle the exceptions on a case by case basis.  If several families are taking extra liberties, then send a polite email to specifically address an issue.  In general, sending respectful  emails or personally speaking with a parent are better methods than using your studio policy to address issues that have irritated you.  You want prospective parents to be motivated to join your studio, not overwhelmed by all your rules!

Five Things to do with Aqua Rocks in a Piano Lesson

Ever used aqua rocks or glass gems in your studio?  Ten years ago when I picked up a bag of aqua rocks, (the ones used in fish bowls and floral arrangements; you can find some here (link)) I had no idea how much my students would enjoy using them and how versatile they would be in lessons! Students of various ages enjoy using the gems. Maybe students like the gems because they are shiny and have a nice, smooth texture. If you are in need of a new resource to refresh your teaching, I highly recommend purchasing a bag of glass gems at your local craft store. These gems are an inexpensive resource and come in a variety of colors. Here are five ways you can use those new gems in your studio.

Aqua Rocks Post Image

Learning Key Names

When students are first learning the names of the piano keys, using gems and a set of letter cards is a great way to practice the key names. To play, shuffle a set of musical alphabet cards and place them on the piano bench next to a selection of glass gems. Have the student draw the top letter card and place a gem on the correct key. Play continues until all the letter cards are gone, or at least one key of each letter in the musical alphabet is covered.

The Ultimate Game Token or Bingo Chip

Gems are my students’ first choice when it comes to game tokens and bingo chips. Anytime you are playing a game that requires students to cover a space on a game board, gems can easily be used and add some extra fun to the game. If your selection of gems is different colors, you can also use them for game tokens.

Listening Activities

Aqua rocks can be used when implementing listening activities with students such as discerning major or minor intervals, high or low notes, or other listening skills. Provide a worksheet for students, and instead of writing their answer,  provide aqua rocks for them to place on the example you played. Since aqua rocks are round, they make great notes.

Melodic Dictation

This game goes well with the above listening activities. If your students need to practice melodic dictation by listening then writing the notes they hear played, this method is a great way to isolate identifying notes by ear.

  • Provide students a piece of staff paper with lines and spaces large enough for the aqua rocks to represent notes. As you play a melody for the students, ask them to place the gems on the correct places on the staff to represent the melody you played.

  • Remember you should tell students what note you started on to provide a reference point.

  • After students have placed the gems on which notes they think you played, instruct them to check their work while you play the melody again. By using gems to mark notes, students can easily change the notes without time consuming erasing.

  • Once students have determined the correct notes with gems,  instruct them to write the notes on their staff paper, notating proper rhythm.

 

Counting Aid

Working with your students on a particular section of their piece? Aqua rocks are a fun but simple way to keep track of repetition in practice. For each time a student plays a section correctly, have them place a gem on the music stand to keep track of their progress. (Remember studies show that keeping repetition to 4 or 5 times is more effective than excessive repetition.)

Teaching Form

Gather a selection of different colored aqua rocks,and use them to teach form or to identify and practice different sections of a piece. For example, if you have an ABA form, instead of giving each section a letter, give it a color. Put multiple gems of each chosen color in a cup, such as three blues for the A section and three greens for the B section. Have students close their eyes and select a gem. Whichever color they select is the section they will play. Continue instructing students to close their eye, select a gem, and play the section selected until all the gems are gone.   This method is very effective in helping students gain confidence in playing pieces from memory.

A Practice Incentive to Keep Your Students Excited To Learn

After the Christmas break students usually return to piano lessons refreshed and excited to learn, but what happens when that motivation wears off mid-January? Do you have a plan to keep students practicing all semester?

If you need a technique to keep your students excited and consistent in their practice, I have the perfect resource for you.

Blog image

This practice incentive is easy to implement and fun for students. It rewards overachieving students AND motivates students who need extra help remembering to practice.

All you need to do is download the materials and print. All the work is done for you!  (You will need to purchase a rubber stamp as indicated in the instructions.)

If you want to ensure the practice incentive is successful in your studio, here are some suggestions that promote excitement and anticipation in students regarding the incentive.

Talk about the incentive at lessons.

Share the incentive in your studio newsletter

And if you are feeling particularly motivated, decorate your studio in a safari theme!

Click here to download the materials now, and prepare your studio for a successful semester of practice.

 

Tips for Scheduling a Successful Group Class

Have you decided to hold group lessons but aren’t quite sure how often to schedule them or how to make sure as many of your students as possible can attend?

When I first started holding group lessons I was overwhelmed and unsure of how to effectively schedule group lessons. Everyone seemed to suggest a different way to host group lessons. I heard everything from once a week, once a month, once a quarter, once a semester, to not at all!

There are so many ways to integrate group lessons in one’s studio.  Due to my large studio, I found it works best for me to dedicate one week of each semester to group lessons. This ensures that everyone has an opportunity to attend group lessons while still allowing for adequate private lessons throughout the year. During the week of group class I only teach group lessons and do not schedule private lessons this week. In my studio, group class is required and part of tuition. Even if a student skips group class they still are required to pay the same tuition as those who attended.

Over time I have found a few tips that have helped keep my sanity when scheduling times for group classes. Whether you decide to hold group lessons once a week or less frequently as I do, hopefully you will find the following tips helpful.

Tips for scheduling studio wider group classes a large number of students can attend.

 

You Can’t Keep Everyone Happy

The first thing to remember is you cannot keep everyone happy. It will drive you crazy if you try! Though I do try to accommodate different schedules and stay aware of what works for the majority of my students it is important to remember you can’t please everyone. Despite your best efforts sometimes someone will not be able to attend class.

Create a signup sheet with class time options.

I begin by creating a signup sheet with various time options. I assign each class a level, for example beginner, preschool, intermediate, teen or advanced. I then look at my studio to see who needs evenings, afternoons, or weekends. I try to schedule at least three beginner classes one in the evening, afternoon, and on Sunday or Saturday. I also do the same for all other levels with the exception of the teen/advanced class for which I only need one class and usually choose evenings. Sometimes I know I need more than three beginner classes so I will schedule one in the early afternoon, late afternoon, evening and on Saturday or Sunday.

Getting Families to Choose their Times

As families sign up I will ask for their first and second choice should I find that one of the times I originally thought would work does not work for enough families and I need to adjust the time. Typically I like to keep group class between 5-8 students but I have held smaller and larger classes as needed. When a class fills up I mark it as full and do not allow other families to sign up for that class. I usually take time preference requests on a first come first serve basis.

Sample Schedule

To give you an example of a possible group class schedule I have listed the schedule I used this past spring below. For reference preschool and beginner classes are a 1hr, Intermediate classes are 1hr 15min, and Advance classes are an hour and 15min to an hour and a ½ depending on if it’s beginning teens or advanced students.

Sunday

1:00pm Beginner

2:00pm Preschool

3:00 Late Beginner

Monday:

3:15 Beginner

4:15 Intermediate

5:30 Beginner

Tuesday

10:00 Preschool

2:30 Preschool

4:30 Beginner/Late Beginner

5:30 Intermediate

Wednesday

3:30 Beginner

5:15 Preschool

6:15 Teen

 

If you are not sure where to start in scheduling ask a few of your students what times and days might work for them. Just remember not to guarantee a time since you are just starting the scheduling process.