Teaching

How to Find New Students for Your Violin Studio

When you’ve organised a good studio space and put together the scores and things needed to start teaching, it’s time to find new students. Actually, attracting them isn’t so difficult. As you and I know, learning to play violin is a very desirable activity, and as a school principal once told me, a rather prestigious one. Selecting the right students from those who apply is another matter, the subject of a later post. Today we outline some of the more successful ways to build up class numbers until the time when word of mouth becomes the trusted primary source.

Advertising

A short advert in a weekly local newspaper for a few months will usually produce a trickle of inquiries, which I’d have to rate a limited success in our case. It has the advantages of being inexpensive and likely to draw people from the surrounding areas. We specified beginners in an age range from 3 to a maximum of 6 years old.

What to put in the ad – and what not

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Setting up for a Successful Violin Teaching Practice

Two or three choices become clear when you decide to become a violin teacher: take a job, set up your own studio, or have a mix of both.

Photo courtesy of Reuben Hustler

Each choice has its own advantages, benefits and challenges. A teaching job in a school or institution has the security of a regular salary and usually a prescribed curriculum, although you may sometimes feel that you follow someone else’s agenda and conditions.

Setting up for yourself and becoming successfully self employed entails more work and has less financial certainty in the beginning, yet you gain complete control over your time and energy and have the opportunity to create a flourishing violin programme founded on your ideals and vision.

Founding your own studio practice is an attractive and exciting adventure that will take you on an enjoyable and fulfilling lifetime journey.

Take into account the time needed to assemble enough students to make it viable. During this period a part time teaching job can be a good option, allowing time to build up numbers for your own studio.

Whatever you decide, setting up for future success means putting in place the right structure and systems.

Gearing up for a Successful Teaching Practice 

(TSV Gold subscription required)

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How to Set Up and Run a Successful Violin Studio – Introduction

“I’m so lucky. I have a fantastic profession, which I love. My work life is fulfilling and rewarding, and I’m excited by the opportunities and creative challenges it brings me.”

How often do you hear expressions of happiness and contentment like these – about work?

They are the words of a successful violin teacher running a flourishing studio of enthusiastic students who are all making great progress.

That’s the golden goal. How do you make it become a reality?

How to Set Up and Run a Successful Violin Studio

In the new series on TSV Gold, How to Set Up and Run a Successful Violin Studio, we’ll show you how to do it. You’ll learn from our greatest successes – and from our worst mistakes.

You’ll find out the important things to set in place to make your teaching life happy and productive, providing you with a healthy income and proper holiday periods to sustain a balanced life – while your students enjoy exceptional progress.

Here’s a brief list of some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Gearing up for a successful studio teaching practice;
  • How to set your fee structure and get paid fairly and appropriately;
  • How to develop and organise the Teaching Schedule;
  • How to attract and select new students to make your programme accelerate;
  • The initial phone call and qualifying newcomers;
  • The interview, the offer and how the process of choosing of students is critical to the success of your programme;
  • Important issues about accepting students who have been studying elsewhere;
  • Where to find and how to use the right venues for group classes and concerts;
  • How to keep up with the boring stuff like accounting, taxation, insurance and record keeping;
  • Accreditation – for you and your students.

If there’s a topic or question on setting up and running a teaching studio you’d like to ask about, let us know! Go to TSV Gold Support on the Gold Dashboard.

Cheers,

John

 

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Group Class Success – Goal Setting

One of my biggest interests in the arts of teaching and learning is the power of the group to get things done and get skills learned. I would even go as far as saying that individual learning leaves most students in an unmotivated no man’s land where not enough learning happens. In Suzuki group classes, it’s great to see children (and parents) learning from each other. It looks like the child is thinking, You can do it, so I must be able to do it too. And bang! They work it out.

And one of the best things I have seen was a child at the end of Book 1 as she sat entranced, watching some Book 4 players. At the same time she had her violin half way up attempting to follow the fingering. I was very impressed by how close she came.

Another time I noticed a four year old student intensely watching some advanced students rehearsing a piece for concert. The group session for the younger students had finished and her mother desperately wanted to go home, but the little girl dug in her heels and absolutely refused to go. This little violin player turned herself into a very quick learner and was more in control of the learning process than her mother could fathom.

The group has what I call an enormous unseen learning effect on the individual.

Goal Setting

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Group Class Success – Building Memory for Successful Learning

A significant moment arrived in our violin school when we decided to create a fast incubator for violin progress and practice – without the pressure. Our students were doing quite well and some very well, however we believed everyone could go much quicker and learn new music easier. We wanted better results, greater success and faster progress for all students. Ultimately, it worked. How did we do it and what did we achieve?

Photo courtesy of David Becker

How to Build a Powerful Memory

One of our initial steps was to focus on how to build memory. To work successfully with their children, parents need to understand how memory works, how it is built. This topic formed the basis of several talks I gave at our group classes. The Talk came after a short break following the second session, where everyone – parents and children of all ages including the three year old students – came together to listen and participate in the discussion. I aimed to keep the talk short. To my amazement even the youngest students would listen and sometimes have great answers to my questions about how to study violin at home.

Previous teaching experience had taught me how to wait until everyone was quiet before starting. It is quite reassuring and fun in such a mixed group to watch the calm tide of quiet go through the room as people and children realise you are ready to start.

At group classes we illustrated clear learning pathways for parents to understand how their child could consistently master and retain new steps. This pattern meant that children could progress through the pieces in the Suzuki books much faster than usual. Once children had mastered Twinkles and all the early learning needed to get to Twinkles, we came to expect two books a year as normal progress. Beginners were able to learn Twinkles in about three months.

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Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Minor, K. 304 – W.A. Mozart

Mozart composed the Sonata for Violin and Piano in E minor, K.304 in 1778 while he was in Paris, during the same period when his mother, Anna Maria Mozart, died. The mood and intensity of this piece clearly reflects the emotions of this time of his life. The sonata is the only instrumental work he wrote whose home key is E minor.

Memorial plaque to Mozart's Mother

Sonata in E minor is a relatively easy recital piece for students at Suzuki Volume 7 level and beyond, and provides an especially good opportunity for advanced piano students to partner them in performance.

Both instruments play the opening theme in unison, to continue in a heartfelt expressive partnership of poignant beauty and drama, returning often to darker and softer emotional colours. The sonata is another of Mozart’s creative wonders, with his unique colours of light and dark, matchless melodic invention within a harmonic landscape that is somehow both seamless and unexpected.

TSV Gold members can now download and print the scores from the Gold Resources page.

The Main Study Points

Tempo

Due to the Allegro marking, we’re tempted to begin the first movement too quickly, which I think can lessen some of its dramatic power. In measure 8, for example, the strong contrast between the rather plaintive voice of the opening theme and the ascending staccato line following sounds better at a slightly slower tempo. Try it and see what you think.

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Group Class Success – Session 3 The Talk

From the activities and enjoyment of the Play Through and Teaching Session 2, the group class is now buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. Parents and students are chatting with each other, exchanging ideas and discussing points from the sessions. It’s a good time for the teachers to take advantage of the heightened concentration to share their knowledge and experience about important areas of learning to play the violin. It’s Session 3: Welcome to The Talk!

Allie presents the Talk

A relatively short session of about 5 to 15 minutes, The Talk is an opportunity to engage and educate parents and students about topics such as how to implement morning and afternoon practice in order to learn new pieces quickly, infallible techniques to securely memorise the music and how to create fluent musical ability.

In the video below in this post I present my talk on the keys to daily practice. It’s particularly interesting to see how the students themselves contribute to the discussion.

Within our violin school The Talk also grew into a kind of interactive forum about how to work together successfully.

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Group Class Success – What do parents do?

What do parents do at lessons? Everything! And how does that work?

Group class

We’ve all heard it before: Parents are the key to their children’s success. And it’s true. If a child has lost motivation or is not moving through the pieces, the missing link is parent involvement. But parents need to know what to do. I’ve experienced Suzuki Violin first hand as a parent and as an educator. My role as a parent was far more challenging, every day at home with my children grappling with ways to ‘get’ them to play their pieces.

At the heart of the problem is the western tuition model’s narrow focus on the child and the student in the lesson. I too sat silently, a parent at the back of the room while the teacher expertly taught my children one-to-one. Occasionally during the lesson, the teacher nodded over at me to make sure I had made a note for home practice. Despite my diligence, I felt disconnected and superfluous. Being the parent at your child’s lesson can be an excruciating experience and it is no surprise some mothers and fathers wonder why they have to be there.

Problems of the Parent Disconnect

I’ve watched classes where parents bring magazines to read during the lesson, or slip outside for long conversations on their mobiles, and see they were going to be quite unable to work with their child during the week. I imagined they’d go home, tell their child to practice and wonder why there is so much resistance. In the very early stages of violin playing, young children need an enormous amount of home teaching. Violin is a very challenging instrument to learn. We’ve all heard a parent say, “I don’t think my child is suited to violin, they have lost interest, we are thinking of giving up.” In other words the parent is giving up.

My own experiences and observations of the parent disconnect in the lesson made me think about how it could be different. I began with the lesson structure, what the ideal outcomes should be, and how parents could communicate and work in depth with their children about the study points in question.

What I saw at the Summer School

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Group Class Success – Teaching the Points

In this post on Group Class Success Series we look at the second teaching session, which focuses on violin pieces and points within the levels. For violin programs based on Suzuki’s principles, Session Two is the mainstay of group work, violin workshops and summer schools.

Photo courtesy of Michel Catalisano

In many areas of violin studies, especially for achieving big advances in playing style, tone control, performance presentation and musicality, these classes are more effective than one-to-one lessons. Students learn skills about the quality of their playing and sound from watching and studying with other players, and the persuasive social proof principle comes into effect, creating the sense and conviction, if the others can do it, I can too!

How to choose the main study point

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Group Class Success: Managing Behaviour

We are in a quandary about how to handle children. The words behaviour and discipline are charged with tension as arguments rage back and forth between traditional and alternative ideas – but as I explain later, I don’t like using the words. I believe we are looking for other, better ways in our dealings with children, and as a society, I think it is very important that we keep revisiting this topic.

The fact is that in many cases, especially in schools and for parents, behaviour and discipline are fraught simply because modern children see that they can refuse to comply with demands placed on them by adults – and really, at the end of the story, can’t be made to do something anymore. Quite often they don’t care about the punishments or embargoes devised to keep them in order. However, there is a way to bypass this deadlock. To have successful, productive and enjoyable group classes and violin lessons, we have to find it.

I’m not so keen on the word discipline for its old connotations – children to be seen and not heard, controlling children rather than inspiring them and so on, therefore I might just have to drop the word and look for other ways of explaining something that is, or should be, alive and inspiring. When it really boils down, what we want to do is to create and develop good relationships. but instead I think we have ended up in a muddle.

Disconnected incentives extinguish interest

For a long time now, focus on children’s behaviour has been driven by the psychological model of Behaviourism. From this doctrine, we alternate between reward and punishment as the way to cope with children – great for rats and pigeons perhaps, but not the best if we are to have healthy and successful teacher-student and parent-child relationships. Clearly, it is a toxic mix. To be honest, every society (and it doesn’t really matter which country) is floundering to cope with bringing up children. If we haven’t made a connected relationship with our children in the early years, we are headed for a bumpy ride and much difficulty managing them as teenagers.

Create genuine interest

I love watching John’s and Phianne’s classes as they are so adept at teaching. They rarely have a student who is not concentrating on what they are doing. Even the most disconnected children pay attention during their sessions, but it’s not so apparent how it’s being done.

At the end of one Group Class, I recall speaking with a group of parents who unwittingly made the comment, Oh, John and Phianne are so patient with the children. Shocked that they could miss seeing the point, I said in frustration, It has absolutely nothing to do with patience! It comes from creating interest and focusing the children on the teaching point.

When children become intensely engaged in doing, behaviour problems fade away. Parents and teachers alike are often so accustomed to disciplining children’s behaviour and becoming so stressed and frazzled in the process that they cannot see another totally different way when it is in front of them.

Even at university lectures for my education degree, we were instructed never to turn our backs on the class!

Don’t you just hate it when kids roll their eyes at you? When they start eye-rolling, communicating with others or mucking up in classes, lessons or home practice, it’s a sure sign that attention is on behaviour. (These days I think it is very funny when I see eye rolling.)

A lot of keeping students in the flow comes from being organised ourselves, especially in our head.

FOUR PRINCIPLES FOR GROUP CLASS BLISS

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