By Meridith Johnson The days becoming noticeably shorter seems to ring in a new season with yellow school busses packed with children in every seat, excited to head back to school.  Every fall seems to welcome new beginnings as students return to sports, school and activities with a blank page of possibilities ahead this year. Music lessons beginning again for our students this fall also carries with...

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By Meridith Johnson Recently a friend of mine who also teaches piano lessons shared a story with me about a new student she began teaching for the summer.  After her first lesson with the small wide-eyed five-year old boy, the parent immediately began to question her, “How is his musical talent?  Does he have good rhythm?  Can he understand how to read music?  I just don’t...

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This year I am celebrating 10 years of being a music studio business owner. In 2002, I opened my studio and had 17 students within the first year. I now carry a load of about 40 private students. My dilemma is that I am completely full, teaching six days per week, but just a little stressed! After some attrition and a drop in enrollment about two years ago, I am once again at full capacity, which means that any prospective students must go on my waiting list.

mqu9MRaDo you offer make-up lessons? Do you require 24-hour advanced notice? Are there make-up lessons built into your semester or yearly calendar? Do your make-up lessons ever bleed over into summer lessons eating away at your precious summer income? Do make-up lessons make you feel stressed, overworked or manipulated?

In teacher training classes, at conferences, and among music teacher friends, this is one of the most heated topics I hear about. Most people have a strong opinion one way or another. If you are an active performer and expect lots of flexibility from your students to accommodate your performing schedule, you may be one of the teachers IN FAVOR of make-up lessons. If you, on the other hand, are someone with a tight child-care schedule or teaching space limitations, you may be COMPLETELY AGAINST make-up lessons. For community music schools, preparatory divisions, or multi-teacher co-operatives, the topic of make-up lessons probably fuels many of your faculty meetings.

Summer IdeasWhat do you do in your studio for summer? Do you teach? Do you take the summer off? How do you support yourself during the lean summer months?

Perhaps a summer camp is an option to fill the void. If so, now is the time to start thinking about summer. In the past, I have not required that students take lessons during the summer. Typically, I teach six weeks during the summer and students who do take must have at least four lessons during that time. I do this primarily because I like my summer free time! However, I see how it negatively effects those who do not take lessons (not to mention how it negatively effects my pocketbook!) and I may decide to take the plunge this year and require that students either a) Sign up for at least four lessons, b) Sign up for a studio music camp or special class offering, c) Attend a summer music institute or camp of some kind outside my studio, or d) All of the above! Realizing the importance of continuing music study during the summer months, those students taking summer lessons, camps or classes would be guaranteed a reserved lesson time in the fall.

I researched several piano pedagogy textbooks on summer camps and found a plethora of ideas in Beth Gigante’s book, The Independent PIano Teacher’s Textbook. She gives the best advice I could find on researching, developing and organizing a summer a summer music camp. Here is a series of steps I developed for myself in creating a summer program for my studio: