Is Group Piano Teaching the Business for You?
How Do You Get Started?©
By Mayron Ellis Cole
(This article was published in Texas Music Teacher, February 1988.)
Although most piano teachers teach because they love it, many have the desire to earn a decent living for themselves and their family. Due to the limited after-school teaching hours the average teacher can teach only thirty or so students. In order to increase her income, the teacher has three options: (1) she can miraculously expand the after-school teaching hours; (2) she can increase her lesson fees; or (3) she can teach more than on student at a time.
Due to the availability of superb electronic digital keyboards with headphones, option number three should be considered. Before deciding pro or con about beginning a group piano teaching business, the teacher should ask herself the following questions:
- Do I have the high energy level needed to teach from two to six students?
- Do I have an "up" personality?
- Am I patient?
- Have I ever worked with groups of children before--such as scout troops, Sunday school, or choirs? Did I enjoy children?
- Do I communicate my enthusiasm for music and teaching to my students?
- Am I able to praise a student?
- Do I keep lesson appointments, or do I cancel lessons on a whim?
- Do I view group piano teaching as a business with records to keep, invoices to mail, and taxes to pay?
- Do I realize that I will probably earn more from group teaching while working harder for my money?
- Do I think of group piano teaching as a long-term career?
- Am I willing to work to build a reputation in my neighborhood as an established teacher?
- Would I be willing to spend time and money advertising my business?
- Am I willing to invest in two to six electronic keyboards with headphones?
- Do I have room in my home or studio to accommodate the keyboards? Is there an area for theory games and for working theory papers?
- If you answered "yes" to most of these questions you are in the market to begin your own group piano teaching business.
HOW DO YOU GET STARTED?
First, you need to fully investigate all the group piano teaching methods for children that are available before deciding on one. Curiously, although there are numerous college-level methods available for adult group piano classes, there are very few methods on the market that have been written for teaching children in group piano classes.
After you have selected your group piano teaching method, you need to develop your group piano classes. It is advisable to group students according to age. After the first year, students are regrouped as to age and ability. Keep in mind friendships that exist and try to put friends together. The success of any piano class depends on the cohesiveness of the students.
Most parents are supportive of their piano teacher. To insure your successful conversion to group piano teaching, you might discount your tuition fees for class instruction; or you may offer a longer class time for the same tuition you were charging for a shorter private lesson. Most parents are thrilled if their child looks forward to going to piano class and begins progressing more rapidly due to the friendly competition of the classmates.
If you want more students you must advertise. One effective method is to design a small leaflet or coupon that tells of your piano classes. Include your name, phone number, address and a small map to your studio. These leaflets can be placed inside your neighborhood newspaper for a fee. The neighborhood newspaper will go into the homes in your neighborhood that you wish to contact. You might want to have these leaflets sent several times during the summer months. Always required a non-refundable deposit from every student as they register. Otherwise, you will have some "no-shows" on your September schedule.
One innovative teacher included a 20% discount coupon on her leaflet which could be applied to the first month's tuition. She also offered a $25 credit to the account of any student who sent her a "new" student. On the leaflets she announced an open house at her studio where prospective students could meet her, see her teaching facilities, hear the four electronic keyboards she had purchased, peruse the group piano teaching method she had selected, and see all the theory games that were to be used in piano class. She had plenty of registration forms available. This teacher had made the transition from thinking of piano teaching as a hobby to thinking of it as a real business.
Call your neighborhood newspaper and tell the business writer of your new group piano teaching business. Small newspapers are often in need of business news stories. Editors often send a photographer to the studio to photograph neighborhood children taking piano classes. This is good for the newspaper's neighborhood appeal, and it is good for your business. And it is FREE! If you live in a small community that has a TV station you should inform them, also. These stories are often viewed as a community service. Of course, it would serve you best if the stories were run in the summer when many parents are looking for a piano teacher.
BUYING YOUR ELECTRONIC KEYBOARDS
You must decide how many electronic keyboards you need and the price range that your budget allows. Most group piano teachers use the non-refundable deposit that they have received from students to finance their electronic keyboards. Look at as many brands as you can find. There are many! And each has different features--many of which are not needed for group piano teaching. Shorter keyboards allow more room in your teaching area, but longer keyboards can be used to teach groups of advanced piano students. If you are specializing in elementary group piano teaching, you might opt for the shorter, less-expensive keyboards. Some keyboards detach from their stands for stackable storage when your teaching room is not in use. Weighted keys cost more. But above all else, shop and compare prices. Many hundreds of dollars can be saved bya minimum amount of "shopping around", and not all brands sell for the same amount from store to store!
With perseverance and a good group piano teaching method, your group piano teaching business should be successful!
Do You Know?.......
A 2006 Gallup Poll indicates that 31% of Americans take piano lessons at some point in their lives more than
any other instrument. The 2006 United States census was 301,000,000. That means that more than 93,000,000 US citizens take piano lessons in their lifetime!