Author: cconrad

teacher_at_computerWhen I wrap up another year of lessons, I always like to send out a studio report to my current students, and post a link to it on my website and studio Facebook page for prospective students to see. I do this for many reasons. At the end of the year, some students are feeling burned out with school, end of the year recitals and activities, and feel a bit down on themselves. I find that reminding them of all their accomplishments from the past year can help them feel proud and encouraged rather than stressed out and anxious. As current and prospective parents consider lessons for the following year, I also like to remind them about what my studio has to offer, and what sorts of things they have to look forward to in the year ahead.

category119One of my goals as a piano teacher–and probably one of the goals of many teachers and studio owners out there–is to avoid student turnover.  I understand that many students who quit piano at a young age will go on to have regrets as adults for not sticking with music lessons longer, which I find heartbreaking.  I enjoy transitioning students from elementary level music to intermediate and advanced repertoire, and if a student quits music lessons too soon, I don’t get to experience this with them.   I also truly believe having happy students (and experiencing little student turnover as a result) is the best marketing strategy out there.  If students are happy, they are less likely to quit and leave me to quickly find a replacement before it causes too much of a financial strain.  And, if students are happy, they will provide excellent word-of-mouth references in my community–free advertising!

So far, I have managed to avoid much student turnover and my returning student rate each fall has been between 90 and 95%.  I have found the following strategies to be successful in helping me to achieve this rate:

At this time of yetaxesar, I have taxes heavily on my mind. Perhaps you, too, are busy preparing your 2011 returns before that dreaded April date, or maybe you’re way ahead of me and have already taken care of everything. While being a self-employed studio owner can be a bit of a pain come tax time, there are also many deductions you should be taking advantage of:
Business Expenses

There are a number of tax deductible business expenses allowed by the IRS. These include money spent on advertising, travel, memberships, licenses, and maintenance. If you put an ad in the paper, purchased a business license or membership for your local teaching organization, attended a conference, provided incentive prizes, had your piano tuned or bought coffee during a business meeting, then you should be reporting these on your tax forms. Studio Helper and Music Teacher’s Helper make recording these things very simple. You simply enter the expense in the Studio Expense portion of the dashboard and toss the receipt into a folder in your filing cabinet so that you have supporting documentation in case you are audited. Be sure to provide specific details when recording the expense so that you know what category it fits into when you are doing your taxes the following year.

blogOwning your own studio can be a bit lonely.  Especially if your studio is small, and you don’t have other employees and aides with whom you interact regularly.  But being a studio owner doesn’t need to be isolating.  There are many professional organizations out there that can provide opportunities for comraderie and collaboration and the reasons to join them are many.


When I first knew our family would be moving, I contacted the president of the local music teachers organization from the area where we were relocating.  When I got to town, I had coffee with her and discussed ways to get started with students.  She was incredibly helpful in helping me understand the market in my new town, and since her studio was full, she referred three students my way.  Through word of mouth, these three students grew to twelve students in a few short months.  Another teacher in our organization gave my name out to a local school, where I also picked up several students.  I have done my best to pay it forward; now that I have a waiting list, I have sent students to new teachers in our group and I know that they, too, have been grateful for the referrals.  It is my experience that teachers in these groups want to support one another and help each other grow their studios whenever possible.

Two common struggles of teachers/studio owners are motivating students and keeping students long-term.   These are, of course, related to each other.  A student who isn’t motivated to practice his instrument probably isn’t enjoying the experience and isn’t progrPejman-Recital-Hollandessing, and it’s likely that it won’t be long before his family feels the investment is a waste of money and decides to pull their child out of lessons. 

That said, I’ve never been one to implement reward programs to try to motivate a student.  I’ve known teachers who provide prizes or even monetary rewards for students who practice a certain number of times per week, but in my experience these can be ineffective and expensive.  Instead, I have found that providing students with performance opportunities motivates students to practice and in doing so, helps encourage a long-term relationship with the student and his family.