Scripted Communication for Sticky Situations

It’s easy for me to know when boundaries are being crossed. I can feel it. It feels…well, bad. My blood pressure goes up, I lose sleep I feel angry. Maybe, my student is always being picked up late, or tuition isn’t being paid on time. It could be that my time and space is not being respected. Maybe it’s something blatantly disrespectful or maybe it’s a situation that has become more and more upsetting over time. This is why I am presenting “Scripted Communication for Sticky Situations”.

read the post “Piano Studio Etiquette 101”

I have been teaching for over 35 years. In my home studio, at commercial studios, online and as a teacher who travels to student’s homes. It’s been a great career! I have met so many amazing families. Occasionally I have run into some sticky situations. Over the years I have learned to be a better communicator. I have gained some insight into how to set boundaries and, make my expectations known. This has made me a much happier teacher and a happier person in general. In this post, I will present some situations that come up, from time to time and how I handle them. Feel free to take what you think will work for you and leave the rest.

Continue reading “Scripted Communication for Sticky Situations”

Ten Ways to Make Your Piano Studio More Profitable

I don’t know about you, but I feel like things are getting more and more expensive and money is getting harder and harder to come by. As piano teachers, we don’t get raises every year, (neither do most workers these days). Many teachers are nervous about raising rates, in fact, many teachers I know have not raised lesson prices in years. This post will focus on Ten ways to make your piano studio more profitable without raising lesson rates. I’m not talking about a few dollars here and there. These relatively painless tips can increase the profitability of your piano studio by thousands of dollars per year.

Continue reading “Ten Ways to Make Your Piano Studio More Profitable”

Still trying to Please Everyone? Stop it You Can’t

I had almost forgotten.

It’s been a little while since I’ve been hit with a dose of negativity. Things have been going pretty well lately. I got a job at a studio I love and I’ve picked up quite a few students in my home studio too. All of them happy. Parents, students, everyone’s been really great! Full of compliments and tidings of goodwill. Still trying to please everyone? stop it you can’t.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday…I got the worst email I have ever received from a parent, ever! (and for me ever is over 30 years).

Here’s what happened.

Continue reading “Still trying to Please Everyone? Stop it You Can’t”

10 Ways to Make your Piano Studio More Profitable


I don’t know about you, but I feel like things are getting more and more expensive and money is getting harder and harder to come by. As piano teachers, we do not get raises every year (neither do most workers these days). Most teachers I know are nervous about raising rates, in fact, many teachers I know have not raised lesson prices in years. This post will focus on 10 ways to make your piano studio more profitable without raising lesson rates. I’m not talking about a few dollars here and there. These relatively painless tips can make your piano studio more profitable and increase your income by thousands of dollars per year.

Educate Parents.

The number one way to have a vibrant profitable studio is to make sure that your adult students and your student’s parents understand what is involved in learning to play the piano. When people understand the benefits of playing the piano and what it takes to learn to play well they will become students who will attend lessons regularly, purchase the necessary materials, and stick with the piano. These things are ways to make your piano studio more profitable.

Have a Studio Policy.

Have a studio policy that excludes or limits make-up lessons. Stick to your studio policy this will ensure that your studio will run smoothly and you will get paid for all of the lessons you are supposed to be teaching.

Read about “Piano Studio Policies”

Bill monthly  Semester or yearly tuition.

Don’t allow your students to pay weekly. Charging periodically will decrease missed lessons and make your piano studio more profitable.

Use the internet.

Using Skype or FaceTime for times when students can’t make it to a lesson because of inclement weather, sudden illness of a sibling or car trouble will keep your studio attendance up and therefore increase your studios’ profitability.

Charge a Recital Fee.

It’s your valuable time that makes it all happen. You should be compensated. Make sure you charge over and above what you will be paying if you are renting a venue. Charge a per-student fee or sell tickets to the event.Have a yearly activity fee. If you would rather not charge extra for things like recitals and supplemental materials consider having students pay a yearly activity fee to cover the cost of these things. A modest recital fee of just $10 per student will earn your studio an extra $600 per year.

Teach at Home.

Teaching at home is the most profitable way to run a one person, private piano studio. Not only does this eliminate the overhead of renting a space, and the time and expense of traveling to student’s homes, in the U.S. you can actually use your home studio space as an income tax write off, making your piano studio more profitable.Use Technology and Double-Up. Consider having 2 students share an hour lesson (semi-private). One student works on things like music theory, music history, and note reading while the other receives his/her lesson. There are many ways to do this easily with both students in the same room. Charge less than you would for an hour-long lesson and a little more than you would for 30 minutes. Everyone wins

Read the post “The Best Piano Teacher in Town”

Make Use of Summer and School Breaks.

For most piano teachers lesson attendance takes a nosedive during summer time school breaks. Encourage students to continue lessons over the summer. Offer to teach students of colleagues who usually take the summer off. Consider offering intensive lessons where a student comes every day for individualized instruction for a week or two. Small group classes in things like improvisation or music history are also a great way to make your piano studio more profitable.

Sell piano books and materials to your students.

Teachers can earn up to 10% of the price of most piano books by selling them to their students. Or…you can download and print Paloma Piano’s method books and materials put them into a binder and sell them to your students. Either way, if you have been giving books and materials to your students charging for these things will make your piano studio more profitable without raising lesson rates.

Just how much more profitable can you make your studio? I did a rough estimate and here is what I came up with:

Of course, lesson rates and studio size vary. I am basing this estimate on a studio of 30 students at a rate of $25 per 30-minute lesson during the 10 month school year.


Limit or eliminate make-up lessons.

If you usually have 10% of you students canceling or skipping lessons in a given month this tip will increase your studio’s profits by $300 per month or $3,000 per year.


A modest recital fee of just $10 per student will earn your studio an extra $600 per year.

A $50 per year activity fee will increase your studio’s income by$1,500

Offering semi-private lessons at $120 per month per student will increase your studio’s profits by a whopping $6,000 per year! (This will save parents $4,000 over the cost of a one hour lesson).

Taking advantage of summer and schools breaks can really increase your studio’s profitability by $3,000-$5,000.

If the average student spends about $50.00 yearly on books and supplemental music you can increase your studio’s income by $300 if you are using traditional piano method books and $1,500 using Paloma Piano’s piano method books and materials.

Teaching at home can really boost your income if you are not already doing this. I know this is impossible for some teachers because of where they live or other considerations. I also know that some teachers are studio owners who are running very successful studios from commercial spaces. However, if you are a traveling teacher or you work for a studio consider teaching from home if possible. The tax deduction alone could increase your piano studio’s profits by about $1,000 per year.

If you travel consider the time you spend getting from student to student and the gas and wear and tear on your car. Teaching from 3pm-7pm at home you would be finished by 7 pm and earn $200. If you travel leaving just 15 minutes to get from house to house you would earn just $125 minus the gas and wear and tear on your car. This would reduce your hourly rate from $50 to approximately $30 per hour.

The factors of time and 30-minute lesson rate being equal moving your studio to your home would increase your profitability by $1,200 per month or $12,000 per year!

To equal what you would earn teaching at home traveling you would have to charge $45 per 30-minute lesson.

If you work at a studio that takes half of the lesson rate teaching at your home could increase your piano studio’s profits by $15,000 per year!

As you can see all of these ideas can potentially add up to some serious money for your studio. I sincerely believe earning a good living as a piano teacher begins with educating students and parents about what it is that we do. If people can see how much work and expertise is involved in they will value piano education and be willing to pay for it. When it comes right down to it to quote a famous commercial “An educated consumer is your best costumer”.

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Discovering Peace and Prosperity

I am so honored and excited to present this guest post from my friend and colleague Sarah Buckley, owner of Keys to Success. In addition to being a piano teacher, Sarah uses her business and organizational know how to help musician entrepreneurs to who are discovering  peace and prosperity.

Discovering Peace and Prosperity

By Sarah Buckley

As musician entrepreneurs, we are specially equipped. We have been trained to practice long hours, always look for improvement, and appreciate the sweet joy of music every day. On the flip side, we are often also trained to be accustomed to long, crazy busy days, last minute changes, and sacrificing for our art. Some of this training is amazing for running a business. Some, not so much.

Last year, I applied my hunger for constant improvement to big life changes. You might be able to relate to feeling like you have to choose between a balanced family life with a ‘9-5 job’ or following the call of music and resorting to a less balanced family life. With the help of a mentor, I set out to follow my call AND create balance.

“Tiny hinges swing huge doors.” – Ray Edwards

Continue reading “Discovering Peace and Prosperity”

Understanding Parents and Caregivers

Chapter 14 – Understanding Parents and Caregivers

“Expect the best and people will rise to the occasion.”

~ James Kerr

Dealing with parents and caregivers is a big part of our job as teachers. First and foremost, let me say that I love my piano parents. The fact is they pay me and are the ones responsible for bringing their kids to lessons and supporting them as they learn to play the piano. I try to always view them in the best light. Parents look up to me as a teacher. They rely upon me to help them make their kids successful at the piano.

I have found that if I can try to understand where parents are coming from it helps me navigate those sticky situations without becoming upset or distraught.

I am a parent myself, so I have compassion for how hard it is to juggle everything. I raised five boys. All of them took music lessons and participated in sports, scouting, and other extracurricular activities. I know that I was, at times, the cause of exasperation for my boy’s teachers, coaches, and leaders. I always went out of my way to be super nice, respectful, and pay on time.  Still, my Achilles’ Heel has always been household organization and scheduling. On more than one occasion, one or the other of my two older sons showed up to an orchestra concert in a wrinkled tuxedo or with two left shoes. Between trying to run a studio of 45 students, holding down a playing career, and raising a large family, I found it nearly impossible to stay on top of everything. Every time we got to the right place with the right stuff on the right day, I considered it a small victory! So trust me, I have sympathy with parents and caregivers.

Looking at things from the teacher’s side is a little different, though. I have a job to do—teach my students to play the piano. This is a monumental and complicated task. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I have no issues with parents. Everything is as they say “copacetic”. No serious problems. However, now and again, some things arise with a parent or caregiver that impacts the quality of piano the education I am able to provide.

Here are some of the challenging parent-types I occasionally encounter and how I work to resolve them.

The Overwhelmed Parent

This is the parent whose child is rarely brought to lessons on time, often unprepared, and sometimes shows up without his music.  This parent or child frequent loses the directions to the recital. Obviously, I can relate to these parents.

My biggest advice here is not to sweat the small stuff. If they are late, I teach them for the time remaining. I never expected teachers to give my sons extra time if I was late, but I have had some parents in my studio who have. To solve this problem, I stick firmly to the schedule. I make sure that when the lesson time is over, I show my students out. To solve the problem of forgetting music and materials I make extra copies of handouts.  Since my piano method is online and printable, we never have to worry about losing or forgetting the music. My experience with these parents is that they mean well but, like me, they are probably in over their heads. The best approach is to do your best and take everything in stride.

Only Child Syndrome-Parent

This parent thinks his or her child is your only student. Not only that, they assume you have nothing else to do besides wait for them to show up. Have you ever gotten texts like this five minutes before a lesson

“Sorry, we can’t make it at 4:00.  We’ll be there at 5:30.”

Huh? What are these people thinking? Even if I don’t have a 5:30 student, this is just kind of… well… rude.  In the parents’ defense, maybe they just don’t understand how a studio works. That is why you must make sure to explain everything in your Studio Policy from the very beginning. After that, if this kind of thing still happens, nip it in the bud—immediately. Text back and say no to the time change, and be sure to charge for the missed lesson. I’ll say that again, be sure to charge for the missed lesson!

The Know-it-all Parent

I find this one funny because in my experience these parents are rarely professional musicians. They may play a little; usually, they don’t play at all.  The child usually doesn’t practice much, and therefore doesn’t play well. According to this type of parent, the reason her child isn’t doing well is either because she doesn’t like the music the teacher selected, or the teacher isn’t using the right technique. These parents bring in music, make suggestions, and tell you how to do your job.  Can you say INFURIATING?  I know these parents mean well and want the best for the child, but it’s hard not to get your back up when someone is questioning your competence.

I think the best thing to do in this situation is to stay calm and listen to what the parent has to say. After all, they are paying you and have a right to be involved. Take the time to explain your teaching methods to them. You may even want to share your Teaching Roadmap so that parents can see that you have a well thought-out plan. I have found that—most of the time—these parents are just trying to be helpful.  Once they understand a little more about what’s happening, the problem resolves itself.

The Hover-Round/Helicopter Parent

These moms and dads are very contentious but caring. They want to be involved in everything their children are doing, and they want to help them succeed. These are great qualities, but sometimes they can go too far. This usually happens when a parent is overly involved in practicing, and it becomes a battle of wills. Sometimes the kids just refuse to cooperate, other times the little whippersnappers will convince mom or dad that the assignments are too difficult.

With these parents, I tend to be very gentle. I tell them that I know that they care… a lot! I urge them to take a break, relax and let me take care of things. In my experience, once these parents understand that their children are in good hands, they become very supportive parents and their children do very well.

The Overstepper

These are the parents who don’t respect boundaries.  They come early, pick-up their children late, drop-off unattended siblings, and let their kids run through your house. They don’t pay on time or try not to pay for missed lessons. Arrrgh!  

Most of these problems can be avoided if addressed in the Studio Policy and the policy is enforced.  Sometimes, however, it becomes an ongoing battle forcing you to stand your ground. It’s important that you keep control of your time and your studio. Do not let people step over the boundaries you have set or break the rules you have delineated in your Studio Policy. Be sure to address these issues as soon as they come up. This is your right as the teacher and business owner.

So there you have it—my advice on dealing with challenging piano parents. I have found that most people are very nice and well-meaning. One of the reasons I am really big into educating families about what is involved in learning to play the piano and what we as piano teachers do is that I believe when parents know what to expect and what is expected, things run fairly smoothly. I am also big into educating myself. I have taught lessons in several cities and small towns in the U.S. I have had students from all over the world. Some misunderstandings are simply cultural differences. I try to be sensitive to these.

I feel it is important that families see teachers as the wise, honorable, dedicated, and caring people they are. I realize this is easier for more experienced teachers.

When I was a young teacher (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I can remember not feeling very confident. I have had to cultivate confidence over the years. I had to learn to see myself in a positive light so that I could come across as a professional and earn the respect of my students and their parents.  You can too!

Positive Perspective

When dealing with people always expect the best. Expect people to be happy. Expect them to cooperate with you. Appreciate every person, and expect them to respect you as well. You may come across a few difficult cases from time to time, but most people are really quite nice.

This is Chapter 14 of the book. If you like this post why not read the book?

“The Happiest Piano Teacher in Town” celebrates the work we do every day.

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