teacher Tag

Art of PossibilityIn March, I traveled to New York City for the Music Teachers National Conference. Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, gave the keynote address on themes from the book that he and his wife wrote entitled, “The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life.” A colleague and I arrived early for the session and were greeted warmly with a friendly smile and handshake by Zander himself! He inquired where we were from and took a sincere interest in us. I knew at that moment that this would be a special session. And it was – it was truly transformational.

Zander began his talk unconventionally by walking from the front to the back of the room. He mentioned why people choose to sit in the back or the front row. Often, people won’t choose to be in the front row because they think it is saved for V.I.P. “Back rowers” like to be able to make a quick exit, sleep or text. Those who choose to be in the front row are open to receive (we had hesitantly chosen to sit in the front row!). Since the front row seats were not full, he invited folks to move up into them.

We all have the choice to be in the front row of our lives. According to Zander, our choices can be boiled down to either an upward or downward spiral (winning or losing, succes or failure), or the “radiating circle of possibility.” He said, “The world will show up entirely in the way you create it.” In other words, the secret of life is that, “It is all invented.”

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:

Integrity definition Spring has definitely sprung! Soon your phone will be ringing (or your inbox will by chiming!) with parents of prospective students. How do you handle a transfer from a different teacher? If handled poorly, you lose respect among your colleagues. I have experienced both sides of the transfer student dilemma. When faced with this circumstance, one must practice integrity. Webster’s defines integrity as “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.”

The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) provides a Code ot Ethics that addresses this issue in its Commitment to Colleagues section:

    The teacher shall maintain a professional attitude and shall act with integrity in regard to colleagues in the profession.

Furthermore, the last two bullets in the Commitment to Colleagues section speak to the ethics involved in transfer situations among students, parents and teachers:

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.