Studio Operations

For Summer Sign-Up: I love using large poster-size dry-erase, calendar sheets (one for each month). These sheets, plus dry-erase pens can be purchased at an office supply store. Parents or students can sign up for preferred time slots within the time frame I provide. Changes can easily be made anytime with the dry-erase system. I love the flexibility, and so do my families.
—Veronica Lim, Fort Collins, Colorado

Have a tip sheet for "beating the blues"-most students go through peaks and valleys during their study of a musical instrument. Have something to hand parents the minute they say: "My child just isn't having fun anymore." This tip sheet should include things to re-engage the student, such as buying music and playing for others, articulating to the student why the parent thinks music study is important.
—Music Learning Center, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio

At the beginning of each studio year, students receive handbooks for their parents, with an explanation of every activity available for the student. Included is a reminder of the studio policies and a detailed calendar for the year. The handbook includes a table of contents and each activity is on a different colored page.
—Debra Hadfield, NCTM, Plano, Texas

In March, I send enrollment forms to each student/parent saying that a place is reserved for the fall term until April 15, provided that the form signed by the student and parent and along with a nonrefundable payment is received. The nonrefundable fee covers two optional festivals and music professional fees for those who participate. After April 15, I open enrollment to my waiting list and new students.

Be a professional in your thoughts, words and actions. Have a business and policy statement-and stick to it. The more professionalism you present to your parents, students and community, the more respect you will gain. This in turn will continue to raise the standards of our profession for all teachers.
—Laura Swenson, NCTM, Wales, Wisconsin

Overlap lessons to encourage "performance practice." The waiting student will be the "audience" for the student who is "performing."

Combine sets of books used for teaching and have them spiral bound. This makes the "studio" copies unwieldy for students to accidentally take home.
—Ken Newsome, Duncanville, Texas

Utilize each student's entire time in the studio-if a student is waiting for a sibling to finish a lesson, have the other sibling practicing sight reading pieces, working on computer music programs, writing a composition, reading a book about a composer and so forth.

Utilize a parent/teacher/student conference to discuss problem areas and for feedback time.

Give parents the option of paying for an entire year of lessons at once.

Send your monthly newsletters to students and parents via e-mail (snail mail if necessary) so you know parents receive the information.

At the close of the spring semester of teaching, we are often not motivated, too tired or already involved in summer projects to begin thinking about next year's studio. To avoid last-minute revisions of my studio policies/procedures, I have opted for the following: I keep a note pad handy at all times during the teaching year to make notes on what has and has not worked in my studio. Once the spring semester is finished, I review my notes for the next year and make necessary revisions on my policies, calendar, contracts and so forth. These are then printed and ready to go!
—Adrienne Wiley, NCTM, Midland, Michigan

Divide your annual fee into 12 monthly payments, although you may only teach 10 months. For example, my annual fee is $850--$85/44 lessons a year over 10 months. Does this make sense? I tell my parents they may pay $85/month for 10 months with no June/July lessons, or they can pay $70/month over 12 months with four free lessons in June, which they may or may not use. This allows me a monthly paycheck year-round, and saves them $10/year. By taking the 12-month plan, their children may also participate in the June recital. I have very few parents who do not opt for this plan.
—DL Murphy, Pensacola, Florida