What makes your studio special?
So unique, so inspiring that you have a mile-long wait list.
How can you teach all of the musical skills your students need for excellent technical execution and enjoy teaching lessons that highlight your unique teaching philosophy?
These 17 ideas scratch the surface of what’s possible in an extraordinary music studio. Add one or a few of these to your lessons in the coming weeks and watch your studio thrive.
Develop Student Leaders
You know your students learn more in their lessons than just how to play music.
They learn discipline, self-motivation, goal setting, attention to detail, and other crucial life skills.
Leadership skills enable your students to create with confidence, positively influence their peers, and succeed in their non-musical pursuits.
Empower your students by guiding them to be great leaders. Use any of these six ideas to set your studio apart and prepare your students for success.
1. Students Teach Students
The most powerful way to cement knowledge in a topic is to teach it.
For one week each semester, pair your students and ask them to teach each other mini-lessons that you observe.
Assign younger students to teach topics they learned recently. Allow your more advanced students to decide what to teach on their own.
Hold a “masterclass” in which a few of your students gain valuable professional experience by teaching on-the-spot in front of an audience. They will develop public speaking skills, confidence in their ability to react quickly, and the unforgettable memory of being in charge of the studio (even if just for a fifteen minutes).
2. Students Plan and Manage an Event
Once each year, appoint a group of your students to serve on an event-organizing committee. Ask them to organize a small studio performance, a studio party, a field trip, or another event.
It doesn’t need to be a huge production. Encourage your students to think through all of the details of planning an event, executing on a plan, and managing the inevitable problems that arise.
Your students will gain organizational skills and experience and the enormous pride that goes along with successful execution of an event.
3. Students Produce a CD or Music Video
Discover which of your students has an interest in recording or videography. Assign a team to take on the following roles: audio engineer, videographer, and stage/set manager. Some or all of the other members of your studio then serve as the featured artists on the CD or in the music video.
You may be surprised at the level of creativity in your studio. Parents will love the keepsake and the final product may prove to be a powerful marketing tool for your studio.
4. Students Set Their Own Goals
Let your students take control of their lessons goals for a month.
Instead of assigning goals, ask them to decide what they think are reasonable expectations for the next week and for the next month. Use this opportunity to talk about how to map out long-term goals.
This serves as necessary training for periods of time when your students don’t have lessons (summer, winter break). They will discover how week-to-week progress leads to long-term success.
5. Students Produce New Etudes
Offer your students the chance to write exercises based on skills they recently learned.
Take a half-hour to show each student how to notate music on staff paper or on notation software. Your students will quickly gain a deep appreciation for the process of musical composition.
Depending on the compositional experience of your students, they may choose to write a just few measures or a massive 2-page etude.
If there is interest, allow some students to collaborate to develop a short book of exercises. This creates an entrepreneurial opportunity for your students and it grows your teaching library.
6. Students Compose Arrangements
Your students probably love pop music.
They also love music for instruments other than the one they play.
Once a year, host an arrangement competition for your students. At the beginning of the semester, ask who would like to try arranging a short piece based on a pre-existing song or piece.
Encourage creativity! Allow your students to arrange pieces for solo instruments or unique chamber ensembles.
Build a Community
Developing strong relationships with your students and their parents is crucial for building trust in your studio.
But there are plenty of additional opportunities for community-building that will make your studio extraordinary.
Build a community that every musician in your area will want to join. These five ideas will not just make your studio stand out – they are fun for you and your students!
7. Play in the Community
Reach out to community members who may not even know what your instrument is – “A viola? Is that a big fiddle?”
Once a month, take a group of your students to the local farmer’s market, street festival, or seasonal event.
Just have fun playing. This is a chance for your students to see that performances don’t have to be limited to specially-designed halls. Play duets together, works-in-progress, or show pieces.
Not only will you gain visibility in the community, but you will gain trust. And you will probably pick up a few very excited new students.
8. Host Non-Musical Events for Your Extended Studio Family
Build a large studio family by inviting your current and former students, their family, friends, and special guests to your next studio party.
Go for a hike, have a barbeque in your backyard, go bowling, start a soccer club.
As your community grows it start feeling very supportive of its members. Your students will benefit from this safe environment by feeling comfortable being creative and taking musical risks.
9. Invite Local Celebrities to your Events
You may not realize it, but you are probably already a local celebrity. As a celebrity, feel free to reach out to other stars in your community.
Know anybody who might be interested in supporting your awesome students?
Invite the concertmaster of your local orchestra, a local news anchor, a chef at the best restaurant in town, or the owner of the yoga studio downtown to your next studio event. Everyone benefits from strong community relationships and local celebrities may even have an interest in taking a few lessons themselves.
10. Collaborate with Other Music Teachers
Host combined studio meetings once a month for chamber music reading parties. Your students will learn how to collaborate with others and they will get practice sight-reading.
Some of the groups your students form at these parties may even stick together and turn into serious chamber ensembles.
11. Offer Masterclasses and Group Classes for Everyone
Invite other teachers who teach your instrument to get together for a combined masterclass or group class.
Your students will love the shared-instrument camaraderie and hanging out with their peers. And they will benefit from discovering other teachers’ approaches.
Teach Unique Skills
You spent most of your educational career working hard to become an expert on your instrument(s).
But there’s an excellent chance you learned other skills along the way that your students would love to learn.
Stand out from every other teacher in your area by incorporating your unique skills into lessons. Which of the following six could you incorporate into your teaching?
12. Physical Activities
Healthy students are more likely to have long musical careers.
As a mentor to your students you have a huge opportunity to help them develop healthy habits in addition to excellent musical skills.
What do you like to do? Incorporate the skills you’ve learned in your favorite hobby, whether it’s yoga, weightlifting, running, hiking, swimming, or even disc golf.
Foster your students’ unique interests and help them draw connections between their favorite physical practice and their music practice. The more your students know about how the body moves, the better prepared they will be to grow and succeed and musicians.
13. Mental Techniques
How do you cope with performance anxiety? What do you do when you can’t focus in the practice room?
Students are often afraid to ask these questions.
In lessons, explore mental techniques for maximizing musical performance. Even the youngest students may learn how to silence their inner-critic, focus in the practice room, and learn to love performing.
14. Teach a Non-Classical Style
What kind of music do you play for fun? Chances are your students would relish the chance to learn a little about it.
Take a few minutes in each lesson to teach a jazz skill, or a new music extended technique, or a folk tune.
Or spend a semester going in-depth in another style. Your students will enjoy the change of pace and they may discover connections between their classical technique and other approaches to performing.
15. Teach Music Theory or History
You don’t have to be a musicologist to help your students gain a deeper understanding of the historical context of the pieces they are playing.
You also don’t have to be able to give a lecture about the Tristan chord to teach your students the basics of key relationships and musical form.
Spend 5-10 minutes of each lesson discussing an aspect of one piece that will help your student achieve deeper understanding of what they’re playing. As they develop knowledge, your student will gain confidence in their personal musical interpretation and voice.
16. Recording Technology
Do you remember the first time you recorded yourself?
It probably wasn’t very fun. Wouldn’t you have loved having someone to guide you?
If you’ve picked up some recording chops along the way, why not share those with your students? You may even find that one of your students has a passion for recording and would jump at the chance to record all of your studio events.
17. Course Development and Syllabus Creation
Whether you have a degree in music education or not, you might have some expertise in organizing a syllabus or developing a course of study.
Give your future music educators a step up by teaching them the basics. Encourage one of your students to develop a syllabus for the studio. Or work with your student to develop a fun course that the studio will use in the future.
Teach What You Love
What else do you know that you could share with your students? Have you studied web development or online marketing? Know anything about building instruments or acoustics? Teach what you love and your students will love what you teach.
What’s your favorite thing to teach that makes your studio extraordinary? Tell me about it in the comments.
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