Summer is coming, and it’s a tough time of year for piano teachers even when we are not going through a global health crisis. I (along with many others) am concerned about students dropping out of piano lessons for the summer and maybe leaving altogether. I did some research and put together a plan to try and retain students.
I want my students to know that I really care about them. Everyone is feeling isolated these days. So, making an extra effort for some social time seems to make sense.
1 – When I log on to teach a lesson, I give my students and their parents a little time to talk. I make it a point to ask them how their day is going, and how their week was.
2 – Host a group. Every other Saturday I have been hosting a piano party on zoom. It’s free and the kids and their parents love it. I do too!
3 – Send a postcard in the mail. One teacher I know is doing this and her students really appreciate it. I plan to give this a try.
Include Some Variety
Variety may be the spice of life but during online lessons it’s essential. Online lessons require students to be more independent which can be more mentally taxing. I want to make sure my students are feeling relaxed and having fun.
1 – Take a break mid-lesson. About 15 minutes into the lesson I have the kids play a game watch a short video, play a name that tune game or do some flashcards.
2 – Take a few minutes to learn some music history, tell an interesting story about a composer or the history of a piece of music.
3 – Do something surprising. Tell a joke, do a magic trick, sing or play a silly song. Change it up each week, your student will look forward to seeing what you have in store each week.
See the post Making Online Teaching Easier
Make Sure They are Making Progress
It’s really important that both students and their parents feel that piano lessons are worth their time, effort, and money. Things are uncertain right now. Young families, if they are fortunate enough to be working are working from home while trying to homeschool their children, or they are essential workers which is very stressful. As much as they want to keep things normal and do the best for their children the last thing they need is to have to worry about piano lessons. Therefore, I want to do whatever I can to have things go as pleasantly and as smoothly as possible.
1 – Err on the side of easy. I have a few students who love to be challenged, I can throw anything at they and they will prevail. But for most, I feel that now is the time to make sure the music I assign is something that they can learn without too much trouble. I am assigning shorter pieces that can be learned fairly quickly. This helps keep students motivated and feeling good about what they are doing. Parents appreciate hearing new music more frequently which they tell me is more pleasant than hearing the same piece week after week.
2 – Point out successes. Call attention to everything your students are learning and doing well.
- They are coming to the lesson on time and ready to go with their music and a pencil and notebook.
- Good posture/hand position.
- Attention to phrasing and dynamics.
- Correct notes and rhythm.
- Improving focus and attention at the lesson.
- Learning about music history or music theory.
- Improving ear training and playing by ear.
You get the picture. Take a moment to speak with parents or caregivers if possible. Send a text or an email highlighting their child’s success.
Here are a few additional ideas that will help students stay connected and highlights their success.
1 – Host an online recital. This is a great way to show parents and students that piano lessons are a valuable part of their lives.
2 – Have your student record a piece he knows and send it to a friend or relative.
3 – Work on some music composition with your student give her parents a beautifully engraved copy of the sheet music. If you aren’t familiar with music notation software, you can find people who will engrave music for you very inexpensively.
1- Have plenty of music and resources in Pdf format ready to send to your students. I recommend sending plenty of extra music. I know this is a challenge. It is even for me, and I run a music publishing website!
Note: Be sure that you are sending music legally. You must own a studio license to copy and send music that is not in the public domain. This includes arrangements and engraving. For example, Bach’s Two-Part Inventions are in the public domain however, you can not scan Alfred, Schirmer, or any other editions and email them to your students.
You may share the music at Paloma Piano with your own students for as long as you remain a member. Gold members can share Gold level music. Platinum Members can share everything. Your music comes stamped with your licensing agreement so your students will know you are legally sharing.
2 – I have to take notes while I am teaching so I remember who needs what. On Sunday night before I send an email to Paloma Piano teachers. I send out all of the music I think my students may need for the coming week. (No small task.)
3- If your students are buying books, be sure to order in advance. (I am sure you all know this.)
Consider changing the way you charge for lessons.
I know some studios that usually charge for the semester are switching to collecting payments monthly or even weekly. This may be a good idea because nervous families won’t feel as though they have to make a long-term commitment.
If you do have students who say they want to “take a break” ask them why. It may be a problem you are able to solve. If it’s a financial decide that is another matter. Now is the time to decide what you will do in these cases. Unfortunate as it may be the fact is that no matter where you live the economy is probably going to take a hit. Think about what you might do in these cases should they arise.
I will be posting about the topic of students leaving for financial reasons next week.
Keep going teachers, you are doing a noble job. I pray you and your family and friends are safe and well. I know all of you join me in thanking all of those on the front lines bringing us medical care, and essential services.
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