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Are Group Piano Lessons Good for Your Child?

Are Group Piano Lessons Good for Your Child?

Piano Power doesn’t offer group piano lessons, but that doesn’t mean we don’t endorse them! Parents and students should definitely weigh all of their options before starting lessons, and sometimes group is the way to go. This article by Jennifer Hughes of Know Your Instrument will help you decide the ideal learning setup for your budding pianist.

by Jennifer Hughes

When you think of piano lessons, the one-on-one setup– teacher sitting with a learner at the piano, guiding their little fingers on to the keys– might be the first thing that comes to mind. But don’t forget about group piano lessons!

While both scenarios have their pros and cons, in this article we’re looking at how group lessons can benefit a young piano player. Some questions you might have are:

Will my child be able to focus in a group social setting?

In most cases, there are at least four students and one teacher in a group piano class. For younger students, activities might include group games that develop rhythm, movement, pitch matching, listening, and music appreciation- all of which are necessary before learning the more technical aspects of piano playing.

A good teacher, supportive peer environment, and well-structured program will help your kid stayed focused. Be picky about the class you sign up for. Don’t hesitate to talk to teachers in advance of signing up for their class, and parents of students who took the class previously.

With that support in place, a group class will cultivate social skills like:

  • Making friends
  • Taking turns
  • Practicing patience with other kids
  • Offering encouragement and support to others

Will being in a group class help my kid develop the confidence they need, or will they get lost in the group?

In a group class, your student has a built-in audience. It’s likely they’ll have to play in front of their classmates as well as the teacher, and possibly in front of an audience at a recital. Playing in front of their peers may help them break out of their comfort zone, and motivate them to keep on practicing.

A shy student may feel more comfortable playing with others at first rather than solo– especially if they get to play duets, or an ensemble with the whole class. Some children build confidence when they know there are others doing the same thing.

All in all, group piano lessons enable children to experience the joy of learning and making music together. This not only does a lot in building confidence and social skills, but also in increasing motivation to make progress. For a more intensive and specific piano training for your child, you can always supplement group lessons with private instruction.

Still have questions? You might also be interested in: How to Decide Between Group and Private Lessons.

Music Education: Celebrating the Science-Tested Benefits

Music Education: Celebrating the Science-Tested Benefits

Music offers children important opportunities for self-expression, and can be an empowering force in their lives. They’re often some of the most eager participants in World Music Day. This annual celebration of musical creativity invites musicians of all stripes to take to share their talents.

The event, celebrating its 38th anniversary this year, originated in the streets of Paris, France. Since then it has become an internationally-recognized testament to the unifying power of music.

World Music Day is on June 21, and taking note of the significant developmental role played by music education seems a worthy celebration!

Here are three key ways that learning about, playing, and even listening to music can benefit kids:

1. It helps them handle difficult emotions more easily.

Fear, sadness, anger, and disappointment are tough emotions to handle, especially for kids. Their brains are still developing, and they don’t have the same resilience as a healthy adult.

Instrument training is linked to more rapid maturation of areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation, including the ability to manage anxiety.

2. It helps them feel good about themselves and others.

Low self-esteem can make it hard for kids to feel confident when interacting with their peers. This can limit their social lives. Musical training is linked to boosts in both self-esteem and empathy, making it easier for kids to make and keep new friends.

3. It boosts test scores across the board.

Turns out hitting the books isn’t the only way to make report cards shine! Music education is correlated with improved scores in school subjects and on standardized tests.

The list of things to love about music education certainly doesn’t end there. We The Parents have created an easy-to-read infographic detailing the way music benefits kids and the studies that prove it, so take a peek!

Learn more about the science behind music education at We The Parents.

Music Education: 17 Science-Backed Benefits
Adult Student Profile: Alysia Stiles Kinsella

Adult Student Profile: Alysia Stiles Kinsella

“I allow myself room to take things at a pace I can handle so lessons don’t become stressful.”

After her kids started piano and voice lessons, Alysia Stiles Kinsella got a hankering for lessons of her own. She’d taken piano once in her twenties, but it was time for a fresh (re)start.

After her teenage daughter decided to take a break from lessons, Alysia slid into her spot with piano and voice teacher Audie Lomboy. Her daughter’s break didn’t last long, but Alysia enjoyed her lessons so much that she kept on, too.

Read on to learn more about Alysia’s experience, and her advice for other parents suffering from music-lesson-envy!

What’s your favorite thing about piano lessons?

First, I just really like to be able to play songs on the piano and have them sound like actual music. I enjoy that I am able to play something that sounds pretty.

Second, I enjoy working with Audie because he lets me determine what I want to accomplish without undue pressure. He makes the whole process enjoyable.

What’s your favorite thing to play so far?

I am only in my second book, so I don’t have too many favorites. I enjoy when I first start a song and it doesn’t sound like much, but as I continue to practice, it turns into a song I actually recognize.

Audie is going to arrange Fix You by Coldplay for me, which is one of my favorite songs so I am looking forward to learning that. (My daughter played and sang that a year or so ago.) Hopefully I can get it down well enough that I can play and she or my son can sing.

What’s a challenge about taking music lessons as an adult?

Time! I am a full-time working mom plus have a dog who seems to be mostly my responsibility. 🙂

I travel sometimes and have a lot going on. Plus we have to fit three people practicing on the piano, and no one wants to hear piano all night (as much as we might enjoy it)!

Do you think there are any special advantages to taking lessons at this stage in your life?

I allow myself room to take things at a pace I can handle so lessons don’t become stressful. The point is to enjoy them. If that means one week– because I was travelling or had something else going on– my first practice is my next lesson, it is what it is. The next week I try to do better.

Any advice for other adults thinking about taking lessons?

Just try it for a month or two. The worst that can happen is that you decide it isn’t for you, or it isn’t for you right now. As we get older, it’s important to continue to try new things and learn new skills. It keeps us sharp!

Check out another great adult student profile with Keith Weinberg.

How to Inspire a Bored Music Student

How to Inspire a Bored Music Student

Photo by Ana Carolina from Pexels

by Abraham Levitan

No one is good at something all of the time.

Writers, artists, athletes, business owners and employees all go through dry spells– we’re uninspired, our work stinks, our performance suffers, we dread practicing. In short, we’re just not feeling it.

This is “The Dip” as characterized by Seth Godin in his popular 2007 book “The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)”, and anyone who pursues an art, hobby, even a job, goes through it.

Including music students. Including your music student.

The dip may manifest in any or all of the following ways. Your student may:

  • put up a fight about practice or refuse to practice
  • stop looking forward to showing teacher their progress
  • stop looking forward to lessons – period
  • become less interested in music overall
  • complain that playing the instrument “isn’t fun anymore” or lessons “are too hard”
  • claim they don’t have time for lessons or practice

Music lessons are well worth the challenge of slumps like these, because the impact playing music has on our brains, bodies, and souls is tremendous – whether we intend to become professional musicians or not.

So how do we help our students rise above The Dip?

1. Help your student recognize The Dip.

Even young kids can understand this. Normalize what they’re going through, because it is normal. Tell them about your own dips and how you got through them. Reassure them they’re not alone.

When you’re an adult in a dip, you can get through it by sheer endurance. You recognize that it’s okay not to be gushing with enthusiasm over your activity all the time. But kids might not have that kind of perspective, and they’re probably going to need some help.

In that case…

2. Find a reward system that works for your child.

Take martial arts as an example. I guarantee you not every karate student is passionate about kicking and sparring, but every karate kid can tell you what color belt they are, and when they get to move to the next color or level.

The system is brilliant, because even if a kid feels a dip, there is something cool, colorful, and public to mark their progress.

Same goes for musicals. I’ve seen many students get really jazzed about moving from the chorus to a supporting role to (maybe!) a lead role.

In these examples, the process, structure, or levels behind the activity become more important or exciting than the activity itself. What a way to pull through a dip!

With private music lessons, sometimes it seems to a kid like they’re looking at a vast terrain of
“I’m going to do this once a week forever. When am I gonna be able to do ____?”

In that case, it’s time to create some levels or goals. Brainstorm what kind of reward system would work best for your child. However you want to frame it is fine, as long as you think, plan, enact, and track.

Here are some ideas to consider:

Personality type

A type-A kid get might get really into keeping a practice chart, and beating his average practice time each week. (Think about the motivational power of wearing a steps-tracking device like the Fitbit.)

Hobbies or interests

You could customize an approach to your student’s own passions. A visual artist or learner may enjoy earning points toward decorating a practice notebook each week. A poetry writer could set poems to music, and work toward creating an album.


Sports present a really obvious way of keeping a sometimes boring event engaging. We’ve all sat through uneventful or low-scoring games because the culture, competition, players, and strategy keep us watching. How can this idea be applied to music lessons? Could each song represent a different level of the playoffs? Can you work toward making a song ready for the World Series?

For one soccer-loving student, former Piano Power teacher Jackie Arrigo drew a soccer field on a piece of paper. The rule was, for every flashcard the student got right, he earned a pass toward the goal, with five passes equaling one goal. Every flashcard he got wrong, Jackie got the pass.

(A game like this could be used for any kid, even if they’re not particularly interested in soccer!)


Speaking of games, phone apps are brilliant at taking “veggies” activities– good for you but not always thrilling– and game-ifiying. Here are some teacher-recommended apps to help spice up practice time.


Piano Power teacher Andrew Doney once had five students (who didn’t know each other) poised to graduate from the same book at the same time. He told the students about each other and made an informal, friendly competition of it– a race to the end of the book. His students got really into it!

Recitals or open mics

Instant goal! For many kids, knowing they’re going to play a song in front of actual live human beings is enough to get them trotting through a dip.

Parents have an advantage.

Unlike teachers, parents have the advantage seeing their kid in a multitude of learning environments. They witness firsthand which activities connect and which don’t. So much of whether an activity connects has to do with the way the kid perceives the “rules”, format, and presentation.

Does the experience makes the kid feel like a superstar, or does it cause them to bang their head against the wall? Can you determine why?

Parental input is priceless if it extrapolates beyond “my kid likes soccer” to “my kid likes soccer because…” Give that information to a teacher and they will thank you for it.

As a teacher or parent, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • After coming up with goals or systems, are you revisiting them to evaluate how your student is doing, and whether those goals are still exciting?
  • Are you actively encouraging them to explore music on their own — by asking them to write down songs they’ve been excited by recently, etc.?
  • Are you providing visual reminders of how much (or how little) they’ve improved over a period of time?
    Does the fun part relate to the progress/motivation part? i.e., when they achieve a goal (or make lots of progress towards it), do you do something extra-fun in the lesson to celebrate? Or do they feel like working on goals is taking away from their “fun time”?

Ideally, “the dip” is nothing but a natural reminder that it’s time to reconnect a student to their material in a more compelling way. Aim for robust teacher-parent communication, and a deep understanding of what motivates each individual student.

Is your child still feeling The Dip? Check out 6 Strategies For Convincing Your Kid Not To Quit Music Lessons.

Adult Student Profile: Julie Bromley

Adult Student Profile: Julie Bromley

“It’s great to be able to do something just because you love it.”

After student Julie Bromley and her husband inherited a beautiful piano from a relative, she knew the moment had come. It was time for music again.

Julie took lessons from childhood throughout college. Later she worked at a church where she accompanied soloists, and took voice lessons for a dozen years.

But eventually her life and career took her in another direction; for a long while there were no lessons or practice.

Now retired- and with a Steinway studio piano in her living room- Julie has no excuses, and a lot of excitement about bringing music back into her life. She’s been taking lessons with Andrew Doney for the past year.

“I always thought that when I retired it would be fun [to take piano lessons], Julie says. “It’s just for me– I have no performance goals or anything. I just wanted to get back what I had lost from not playing for a while.”

Julie was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experience below.

Why choose in-home lessons over studio?

Primarily it was a convenience issue, and wanting to use the piano I have. I didn’t want to be running around to do it. I knew I would be more likely to stick to it if it was of ultimate convenience to me. Everything else I’m doing I have to go somewhere to do! (laughs)

What’s your favorite thing about lessons?

My early training lacked a number of things, so I’m working more on technique than I ever did before. [Andrew and I] have talked about getting into different kinds of music, some improvisation eventually, which is something I never learned how to do.

Thus far, I don’t feel like I’ve had to really start over, and yet I feel like I’m gaining skills that were not emphasized to me previously.

I’m working on music I’ve worked on before, yet it’s a completely different focus on how to excel.

What are you learning now?

All classical things. I’m classically trained and that’s still what my focus is and probably will remain.

It’s interesting because classical isn’t Andrew’s primary focus in his personal playing, but what he has to offer me still makes sense. He’s more jazz/improv. Since I told Abraham I would like to expand into more improvisation, Andrew is a good fit for me.

What’s your favorite thing to play so far?

I’m working on a Debussy Suite, and I’m working on some Bach just for the technique portion. I really like those two things. Debussy I’ve worked on before but never completed, so I’m enjoying digging into that further.

What’s challenging about taking music lessons as an adult?

We’re working on some rhythm patterns that I’ve never seen before in my life– polyrhythms. It’s a huge challenge right now, more technical. You don’t see it a lot in classical music.

It’s a real challenge, but I like that. I wanted to be challenged or I wouldn’t be getting anything out of lessons.

Do you think there are any special advantages to taking lessons at this stage in your life?

Oh, yeah! I wanted to get back to some kind of creative outlet in my retirement. I’m kind of going back to my roots, and I think that’s a good thing to do now that I have the time.

It’s great to be able to do something just because you love it.

My husband’s a potter, and he’s not focused on selling his work. He does some commission, but he does it because he loves it. I’ve always admired his ability to do that.

Before with music, I thought it was kind of a means to an end. I couldn’t just do it because I liked it. Now it’s just a wonderful thing to do; it fulfills a part of me that needs fulfilling.

Have your expectations for yourself or about lessons changed at all?

No. I knew what holes I needed to fill in my ability and I think they’re being filled.

Any advice for other adults considering lessons?

It’s kind of a personal thing. I think you have to be honest with yourself about your motivations and expectations. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re not going to have to work at it. Maybe that’s more cautionary than encouraging (laughs)! But too often people think, I’ll do this and I’ll be great in a month.

I don’t practice as much as I should! The ideal of course is daily, but that’s the other difference when you’re an adult– there are a lot of other draws on your time. We travel often, so if I can get 3-4 days in the week when I can get an hour or two in, that’s a fabulous week!

Want to learn about more of our amazing adult students? Read Stories of Piano Power Parents Who Play in Recitals.

Teachers now paid for all in-between-lessons time, effective September 1!

Teachers now paid for all in-between-lessons time, effective September 1!

Abraham announces new teacher payment policy!

We are thrilled to announce that, beginning September 1, 2019, Piano Power is compensating our teachers for all in-between-lesson time at City of Chicago minimum wage: $13/hr as of this summer. This will be a huge change in our current teachers’ day-to-day work experience. It will also cement Piano Power’s status as Chicago’s best workplace for great music teachers.

Previously we supplied a flat $5/day gas subsidy. Now our teachers’ downtime will be worth three to five times that amount, based on their routes. Teachers can rest easy knowing that when, for example, they have a last-minute cancellation or a regular gap in their schedule, they will always be paid for that time. (Hanging out in a suburban Starbucks just got a little sweeter!)

We were inspired by the recent news that Logan Square restaurant Fat Rice was adding “a 4 percent surcharge to all customer checks to help pay for employee health insurance and boost the wages of kitchen staff.” Like the owners of Fat Rice, we think it makes a lot of sense to take care of the folks who are out in the field, doing the important work.

“I always think back to where I was in my twenties,” says Piano Power founder and director Abraham Levitan. “How can we make Piano Power into the work environment I would have been thrilled to find when I first moved to Chicago? Paid downtime makes that vision a reality.”

Teachers are the heart, soul, and engine of our company (and, we just really love our teachers!), so we strive to do everything we can to support them. We’re heartened to see other restaurants across the nation adopting the healthcare surcharge. With our move toward paid between-lessons-time, we hope to inspire other small businesses to look for ways to make their teams’ lives a little bit easier.

Interesting in applying? Check out our hiring page for more!

How to Create a Peaceful Home through Soundproofing

How to Create a Peaceful Home through Soundproofing

posted by Lara Levitan; original article from Redfin

Music students are a noisy bunch, and as a parent, you want to provide a safe space for your kid to make practice as fun and effective as possible. If you live in a small apartment, condo, or townhouse–or even a house with several other family members– you might want to consider soundproofing a room or two for peace and quiet, and peace of mind!

Before you start, consider the layout of your home.

Don’t choose a space that shares a wall with or is directly beneath a neighbor’s bedroom. If you’re in a house, avoid choosing rooms very close to a neighbor’s exterior wall, or near bedrooms.

Select a space that is big enough for your child’s practice needs – if you or a teacher plan to sit beside your kid as they play, make sure there is enough room to fit your child, his instructor and his instrument, comfortably.

Once you’ve decided on the best practice room, you can focus on the actual soundproofing.

A lot of sound can escape through door and window gaps.

  • Add a door sweep on the inside and the outside of the door to help reduce sound travel.
  • Hang thick curtains over windows, or seal leaks with a budget-friendly foam weather-stripping or professional-grade acoustic sealant.
  • Further reduce noise by lining your heating and cooling ducts with soundproofing duct liner.

If the room you’ve chosen has any hard surfaces, such as granite countertops or hardwood floors, sound will reflect and bounce around the room.

  • Soundproof against reflection by covering the floor with carpeting or thick rugs (that can be done with the team from carpet cleaning grand junction), and consider hanging some material from the walls.
  • Install soundproof curtains around the perimeter of the room, tack up vinyl or install acoustic insulation.

Click on Spray Foam Insulation: Everything You Need to Know if you need more information on insulation.

  • Skip the egg crates and mattresses – these are ugly and ineffective.

If you’d like to go a bit further, or if your student is a bit more advanced, why not transform your room into an at-home recording studio?

Here are a few additional tips to consider, along with our other soundproofing tips.

• Eliminate feedback from electrical equipment by putting items like amps as far away from microphones as possible.

• Allow some sound reflection and install diffusers. This will preserve the natural frequency of your music.

• Think about high and low-end sound absorption. Install a few bass traps to help dampen the sound for lower frequencies.

• Make sure you have plenty of outlets with proper wattage available.

• Maximize your space and your equipment. Once achieved, this means fewer things for sound to bounce off of. Use digital instruments to keep the clutter to a minimum and, if affordable, use compact equipment.

Additionally, decide on a specific time each day for your child to play. Some children are at their best in the morning, before school. Think of small ways you can help make the space special, such as including a goal chart or photos of past recitals, performances or achievements.

Want more advice on creating the ideal environment for practicing? Check out 12 Tips for Creating Ideal Music Practice.

How to Decide Between Private and Group Music Lessons

How to Decide Between Private and Group Music Lessons

by Lara Levitan

You might assume, since we at Piano Power offer private music lessons exclusively, that we’re all about the the glorious benefits of one-on-one instruction.

Well, you’re right.

But regardless, even we must admit that sometimes, group music lessons are more appropriate for certain students or circumstances.

Two major variables to consider if you’re deciding between private and group lessons:

  • Age of student
  • Goals of student

How old is your student?

One- to four-year-olds showing an interest in music should probably stick to group lessons. Typically at this age, the characteristics that prepare a student for the intensity of private instruction aren’t developed yet.

Those characteristics are:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Reading ability
  • The ability to sit still and pay attention for more than just a few minutes

Watch Is My Kid Old Enough for Piano Lessons?

That being said, there are always exceptions. Some of our very young students thrive under the instruction of a great teacher. But in most cases, fun group lessons that incorporate singing, clapping, and rhythm games — and where young students can indulge their instinct to learn by observing others — are probably the best venue for these kiddos.

A note for young singers (roughly 5 to 13 years old): We advise young singers to wait for private voice lessons until after they’ve begun puberty. Undeveloped vocal cords can be damaged by singing lessons, so if you have a young singer, nudge them toward a tangible instrument and/or group lessons for ear-training and fundamentals.

If your young student is passionate about singing, there are definitely ways to incorporate fun sing-along elements into an instrumental lesson. The main point is not to place undue stress on an instrument (their voice) that’s still in development.

A note for teenagers: Group lessons can be a route to community and socialization. Tim Topham writes in his excellent blog on piano teaching:

“Kids these days, accustomed as they are to being able to ‘share’ just about anything with their friends, either online or in person, won’t find this in the traditional piano studio…

Similarly, as we become ever-more screen-obsessed and siloed by headphones in our own little worlds, the idea of community has, ironically, become all the more important.”

Private lessons, too, can offer community if regular recitals are offered, but some teenagers may need the extra peer support of group lessons.

Now, the other major consideration.

What are you/your student’s goals?

If you can relate to any of the below circumstances, then group lessons are probably for you.

1. You’re not sure about how much you’ll like the instrument, and you want to do a “test drive” before investing in private lessons. The short-term nature of group lessons make them seem like less of a commitment.

2. You’re looking for more of a social or communal aspect in your musical training. Group lessons can appeal to more than one personality type. Extroverts may thrive in group lessons, while some introverts may find comfort in being part of a group rather than the center of attention.

3. You’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to be in a band. Ensemble classes offer the opportunity to experience the synergy of creating music with others.

4. You want to learn the basics of music without being singled out. In a group setting, a teacher’s attention is divided among many students, and the goal is usually to focus on the basics.

That’s also not to say that private lessons will load your plate with unwanted demands. A responsive private music teacher will help you achieve whatever goal you want — even if it’s just to unwind. (And if they don’t, find a new teacher!)

If you can relate to any of the following circumstances, then private lessons are for you.

1. You want focused attention. Think of a private music teacher as a kind of coach: they’ll understand your goals, assess your skills, offer customized lesson plans, and motivate you.

Additionally, private lessons allow students to work at their own pace. In group lessons, the teacher’s attention is spread thin in order to accommodate different learning speeds and styles. In the one-on-one setting, your own learning style is the only one that matters.

2. You’re already a part of a band or ensemble (a school marching band, a choir, or your own band), and you want to improve and refine your skills.

3. You have a very specific goal in mind, such as:

  • Developing your own songwriting.
  • Preparing for an audition.
  • Correcting bad habits.

4. You value the convenience of private music lessons, with a schedule and location that works for you.

Chances are, you have a feeling about which type of lessons your student needs. Go with your gut. If you start out group and realize you need private, or vice versa, you can switch. If you’re still not sure, talk to a professional at a studio that offers both, such as Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, or Meter Music School in Seattle.

And of course, we’re always open to speaking with Chicagoland families about private music lessons. (Contact Abraham at abraham@pianopowerstg.wpenginepowered.com or 773.547.2426.)

No matter which path you choose, remember that lessons should always be enjoyable. Check back with our blog for advice as your musical journey continues!

Once you’ve signed your kid up for lessons, get ahead of the curve by reading the 10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make About Music Lessons.

How (and why) I Run a Teacher-Focused Company

How (and why) I Run a Teacher-Focused Company

by Abraham Levitan

In my former life, I was an aspiring rock star who taught piano on the side. Driving house to house on Chicago’s North Shore, I happily delivered lessons until my client waiting list grew so long I considered hiring another teacher.

In 2007 I did just that, and Piano Power was born. Now some ten years later, we are 25 teachers, four admins (including me), and 400 students strong.

As I hired teachers over the years, I assumed all music studios used my strategy: carefully match student and teacher, and focus intently on streamlining the teacher’s schedule. We provide in-home lessons to mostly children–a great way to appeal to parents seeking convenience– so I’m careful to minimize driving time while maximizing teaching time.

But the more I interviewed candidates, the more I realized they were also interviewing at places that held a very different philosophy: what I call the “client-focused approach.”

Beware the Client Approach, Even if You’re the Client

Take this scenario. A client calls a music education provider and requests guitar lessons on Tuesdays at 4pm. The client-focused business may respond with, “No problem! Read the bios of the plentiful teachers we have available at that exact time, decide who you want, and they’ll show up at your door.”

To have teachers “at the ready” like this, the business must overhire– or as I like to put it, they must grow a teacher farm. The abundance of the farm allows them to serve new clients immediately, which might seem great for the client…

But it’s not so great for teachers. As one of dozens or even hundreds of contractors, a teacher in this situation is typically sitting on their talented hands, waiting for their schedule to fill.

It’s easy to to see where this leads: low job satisfaction for teachers and high turnover.

Music students want to work with happy, motivated teachers who will be there for them– not jaded “jobbers”. Which is why a client-focused approach is ultimately bad for the client. The relationship between teacher and student is so symbiotic that if a teacher is unhappy, chances are the student is, too.

Focus on Teachers to Keep Everyone Happy

Conversely, a teacher-focused business prioritizes overall job satisfaction and happiness for the teacher. This is the only way I know how to take care of not only teachers, but clients.

How do I do this?

As I said earlier, accommodating my teachers’ desired schedules is top priority. Melding those schedules with clients’ desired lesson time is no easy feat. If you’re interested in starting a small, in-home lessons studio, a passion for logistics and spreadsheets certainly helps–it may even be a requirement. I happen to be just that kind of nerd, so mapping efficient driving routes and matching schedules was always fun for me.

However, the volume of teachers and students eventually grew too high for me to do it on my own. A few years ago I hired a logistics manager who carefully matches times and locations. She sends a list of proposed schedules to me, and ultimately I decide what works.

This way, rather than worrying about logistics, a teacher is handed a well-planned schedule, a roster of eager students, and a minimized amount of driving in their future.

Many of our teachers are young, working musicians who string together teaching, gigging, and other side jobs, so working with a company that grabs the scheduling reins is a huge relief.

Creating a Positive, Connected Culture

Since our teachers work remotely, we have no centralized location for them to meet between lessons, share experiences and advice, and build rapport.

Consequently, I strive to create an espirit de corps among the teachers. Face time has always been important; I observe and give feedback on lessons regularly. But my wife and I also throw parties for the gang. Twice a year we eat pizza, drink beer, listen to records, and nerd out on music talk.

Teachers Emily Volz, Matt Gold, and Peter Groch at our backyard BBQ
Teachers Emily Volz, Matt Gold, and Peter Groch at our backyard BBQ

We recently started performing for each other at “Piano Power Hour”, a live, monthly showcase that is open to the public at a local venue. It’s one thing to witness your teacher nailing it during a lesson, and a whole other to applaud them performing beautifully on stage.

I really do see the teachers as our team. I’m a big baseball fan, so I really like that we have roughly as many instructors as players on a major league baseball roster. I enjoy the feeling that this is my crew and i’m looking out for them, deploying their talents as skillfully as I can.

Be a Musical Matchmaker

On the client side, I get to know the student before they begin lessons. Most of our students are children, so I speak to their parents on the phone about experience levels, how they engage with music, personality characteristics, and learning styles.

From there, I hand-pick each student-teacher pair. If I can’t come back to the family and specifically explain why I think a teacher is a good fit based on our conversation, then I don’t do it.

When matching, I’m also considering the teacher’s preferences, like instrument, age range, and student experience level.

Granted, there are limits to how much you can learn about a student by simply taking with their parents. I do my best based on the initial consultation, but sometimes after a few lessons the parents decide it’s not a good fit. I always defer to parental instinct in cases like that, never trying to “hard sell” a teacher.

If the parents think it doesn’t work, we make another match.

The Pros Outweighs the Cons

If you’re interested in running a small, boutique operation, I see only one drawback to the teacher-focused approach.

Namely, when a new client calls to request those guitar lessons on Tuesdays at 4pm, I’m much less likely to have an immediate solution for them. Typically, they spend a small amount of time on a waiting list before we find a match, and that can be initially frustrating.

But I’ve always felt it was an indicator of health that our teachers are working full schedules, our families are happy and sticking around, and our teachers are doing the same. It makes us feel confident that because our reputation is strong, a new client is willing to wait a bit up-front to get matched with a great teacher.

At 400 students, Piano Power is bigger than I ever thought it would be, but that’s happened over ten years. Our growth does not mimic the “hockey stick model”, shooting up from the base at a steep incline.

Rather, our emphasis on quality over quantity has helped us achieve a slow, steady growth. And at the heart of that growth is a happy, satisfied group of teachers who know they’re my top priority.

This article originally appeared on Tim Topham’s piano teaching blog.

Read more about Abraham’s hiring process in The Priceless Quality I Look For in a Music Teacher.

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