Practicing is a lonely activity. Think for a moment: How many countless hours have you spent alone in a tiny practice room?
The peaceful solitude of the practice room can inspire incredible progress and self-discovery. But feeling isolated and lonely can destroy the motivation of even the most committed musicians.
What do the best teachers do to keep their students excited, committed, and happy (even during lonely, brutal practice sessions)?
They build studio communities that are so close-knit, so supportive, that students never feel alone.
And the great news is that no matter how long you’ve been teaching and no matter how large or small your studio is, you can start building your studio community right away. You don’t have to teach at a world-famous conservatory to lead a successful studio full of students who encourage each other, love playing together, and strive toward unique, exciting goals.
Cultivate a Team Mentality
Your students have a lot in common. They are approximately the same age and they live in roughly the same area and they all play the same instrument. They practice the same repertoire, study the same composers (when they choose to study…), and they play together in ensembles. There’s a lot of common ground for your students to build strong relationships on.
As a result, you have a great opportunity to cultivate a team mentality, especially when you highlight what makes your studio unique and hold your students to high standards. As a team, your students will naturally develop a supportive network that will prevent burnout and foster musical growth.
4 Ways to Create a Winning Team
The best teams do a few things really well. As the leader of your studio-team, you have the unique power to learn from the best and guide the culture of your studio. Consider how each of these 4 approaches could fit into your unique teaching method.
1. Inspire a Culture of Excellence
Every teacher (at least every teacher I know) wants to teach students who strive for excellence, but some teachers just seem better at recruiting musicians who are more committed and goal-oriented than their peers.
But recruiting isn’t the whole picture.
Great teachers inspire their students to set exciting goals and maintain rigorous practice schedules. They communicate regularly to review the students’ progress and discuss difficulties as they arise.
Discover what inspires your students by talking about their goals. What are their musical dreams? Do they want to become professional someday or do they simply love playing for their friends and family? What are their favorite pieces? What other styles of music do they like? Instead of guessing, just ask them! You might be surprised by their answers.
Exciting goals fuel the fire that your students need to stay motivated and practice every day. Read more about goal setting in this post.
Some of your students will share the same goals. Give your students the opportunity to bond over their shared goals by hosting a group discussion once each year at a studio meeting. Some students will be closer to their goals – encourage them to discuss any obstacles they’ve encountered so far and how they navigated them.
Without practice, progress on any instrument is very difficult.
And if any of your students have a negative attitude about practicing, that attitude can be contagious. Stop the negative-practice-attitude contagion from spreading by encouraging a positive, excited approach to practice. Introduce some fun into your studio’s collective practice habit with a practice challenge.
Start small and give your students a chance to succeed with their first practice challenge. On the next one you can increase the difficulty. Every studio is different, but here are a few challenge ideas that you may customize for your students:
- Practice every day for 10 days
- Practice 2 hours (or 3, or 4…) every day for 1 week
- Practice scales with a drone for 15 minutes every day for 2 weeks
- … (anything can be a challenge – experiment and see what motivates works!)
Your students who complete the challenge successfully will feel a sense of pride and discover how much they can accomplish when they actually practice regularly.
With students who are unable to complete the challenge, take the opportunity to discuss privately what obstacles prevented them from succeeding. Encourage them to try again on the next practice challenge.
If you give your students a particularly difficult practice challenge, consider throwing a small studio party when the challenge ends. Encourage your students to unwind after facing a new challenge and get them excited for the next one!
2. Empower Poised Performance
Performance anxiety is a major barrier for many musicians.
During a studio meeting, open a group discussion about how to manage performance anxiety symptoms. By discussing this personal (and often scary!) topic, your students will gain trust for each other. They may even start working together to discover ways to feel calm and focused on stage.
Show them how to breathe and focus and how to visualize successful performances to feel confident on stage. As your studio-team becomes well-known in your community for poised, powerful performances, your students will gain confidence and start seeking out additional performance opportunities.
3. Encourage Diversity
What makes each of your students unique? Does one of them play another style like Irish folk, Appalachian, or Mariachi? Do any of them love music theory or history?
Give your students a chance to show off what makes them unique. Each member of your studio will gain a broader view of how they can use their musical skills, which will encourage greater involvement in the local music community and a stronger bond to your studio.
When your studio gets together, create opportunities for your music history buff to give a short lecture on Brahms or Beethoven. Or have one of your students lead a mini workshop on improvisation, folk music, or extended techniques. Or host a secondary-instrument concert for students who play another instrument.
Your vibrant studio will love this celebration of diverse skills and you will learn a ton about what motivates your students.
4. Develop Student Leaders
Teaching leadership skills enables your students to create with confidence, positively influence their peers, and succeed in their non-musical pursuits.
Each of your students will feel a strong connection to your studio when they discover their leadership potential and how they can play a crucial role on your studio-team.
During studio meetings and events, empower your students by offering them leadership roles. For example, highly organized students may take charge of the studio library, schedule a studio event, or give a lecture during your next studio meeting. Students interested in recording and videography may document studio recitals and events or produce a studio promotional video. Be creative — once you know what your students are interested in, you’ll discover just how many possibilities there are.
What do you do?
How do you inspire your studio? Have you used any of these techniques to build a winning studio-team?
I’d love to hear about. Send me a quick email or leave a comment below!
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