2010 ASMTA Conference – Staying Relevant in Changing Times – Chase Coleman

Guest post by Jennifer Foxx

Chase started out by asking the following questions:

  • Who are your students?
  • Where do they come from?
  • What are their parent’s expectations?
  • What are their expectations?
  • What are your expectations?

Chase had a few teachers, including me, answer some of these questions. For myself, my students are quite the mix. I have students as young as 4 years old up to several adult students. Typically my students are in the early elementary level to intermediate level. Some of my students have special needs; some are in accelerated programs at school; most are average and lead very busy lives. Their parents are doctors, lawyers, teachers, psychologists, chiropractors, surgeons, computer programmers, engineers – all sorts of career backgrounds.

Where do they come from? My students come from all over the valley where I live, from at least 6-7 different cities.

I would say the overall expectations from my parents and students are typically that they want to learn how to play the piano and to enjoy it, not necessarily to become a concert pianist. My expectations are the same, but further I expect that we apply the learning triangle where the teacher, student, and parent are all part of the piano lesson experience. Those who do apply this in their lessons are the most successful in their progression.

Chase then shared that the teacher who knows their students and can meet all these expectations most of the time should consider themselves successful indeed.

He went on to share some piano statistics. Piano Sales in 1997 were 94,709. In 2007 it was 62,536.

The statistics are not encouraging but…

The Negative Side

  • People are less interested in the piano.
  • The industry may be at peril in the USA.

The Positive Side

  • Sales of grand pianos are not down as sharply (he shared more statistics with the type of pianos that were sold).
  • Sales of electronic pianos are rising.
  • Perhaps all those older pianos are being resold, or passed on to family members.

Chase ran out of time in his presentation, but the topic is one that teachers should think about, especially if their studio is struggling. Ask yourself the questions above and see if the answers might be the problem.

Some of my personal thoughts on this subject…

I moved back to Arizona 4 years ago this month. (We were away for 9 years but wanted to come back home. All our family is in AZ.) When we moved back we were worried that it would take me a while to build my studio and that was a little scary because in order to afford to move back to Arizona we needed my income. Within a month I had a full roster, which was a huge blessing. I didn’t do anything extraordinary in my advertising. I advertised in the local paper which got me a couple students. I advertised in one of the community newsletters near me which got me quite a bit of students that first month. And then I had my website which got me quite a bit of students and continues to do so. I haven’t paid for printed advertising since that first year I moved here. All my students now come from two sources: referrals and my website (or online sources). If I could give one tip for teachers it is make sure you are on the web! We live in a time where people no longer use the yellow pages. If I need to find something, the first thing I do is get online. If you want people to find you, you must be online. I have been full since the first month I moved here and most of the time I have a waiting list. Many teachers around me have struggled with filling their roster especially during the hard hits these last couple years with the economy. Most of them are not online.

The other thing that I feel that has helped me keep a full roster is to know who you want to cater to and then set yourself apart and really cater to who you want to teach. I typically cater to average students who simply want to learn to play the piano and have fun doing it. I have a piano lab, quarterly group lessons, Christmas camp in December, camp workshops in the summer, and yearly incentive programs. I change things up each year and try to keep things active and fun throughout the year. (This is really important for boys especially – half my studio is boys!) I hold many piano events that students can play in during the year and I really think that is a key to motivation. When students are actively participating in events and they are fun events to participate in, they don’t want to miss out. Events such as: Halloween Festival, Music at the Mall (this one is through our MTA chapter), and Keyboard Festival are just some of the favorites I offer to students.

Lastly, make sure you know what your expectations are. Be sure to share those expectations with both parents and students at the interview and in your policy and other printed material you give them. This will make for not only a successful studio, but a happy one.

Share and enjoy!

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