Thoughts on launching a successful private lesson studio.

Here’s a question I received last week:

Hi Nate, I’m moving to a new city and I’d like to quickly recruit 5-10 students into my private clarinet studio.  What suggestions do you have for getting started?

Here is my process for launching a private studio in a new town:

  1. Be committed to teaching—The most important part of building a successful studio is that you must be dedicated to teaching. I have seen far too many artists form a studio, only to work half-heartedly with their students because they’re only teaching for the money. Tip, if you’re only building a studio for the money, don’t do it.  There are far better ways to spend your time. If you are committed to building a studio and becoming the best teacher in the city, go all in and commit to improving yourself for every lesson. 
  2. Build a website—Your website is your business card and setting up a site is very easy. I like Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace. If you have a good photo, your bio, and teaching philosophy statement, you can be up and running within a matter of hours. Tip: This site is a free WordPress site. In addition, if you have taught in a different city, ask your former students and their parents to give you a recommendation so you can place the quotes on your website. 
  3. Contact local directors—When ever I move into a new city, I contact all the local band and orchestra directors to let them know that I’m new to the area and interested in working with their students.  Tip: Let the director know that you’re particularly interested in teaching new students as more established private teachers may not have time to work with all of the students in the program. The key is to get your foot in the door. 
  4. Run an instrument intensive for beginners— Conducting a week-long intensive in a small group setting is a great way to recruit students. I usually limit the number of students to between 5-10 beginners (you could run a few sessions over each summer) over the course of 5 days. At the end of the experience, students come away with a solid foundation on their instrument. Then, a few days after the intensive, I follow up with parents to let them know that I’m available for private teaching if they’re interested. I have always come away with at least one student from each instrument intensive. Tip: Make sure you have a registration form that captures the name, email address, and cell phone number of the parents so you can easily reach out. 
  5. Set clear objectives with students and parents—I have found it incredibly helpful to set clear objectives with students and their parents from the start. This means having a print out of your calendar, your lesson rates, and an easy to understand teaching philosophy for both students and their parents. Tip: Parents often don’t really know what is expected for their students in private lessons, make sure you take time to speak with them as well after every lesson so you are on the same page in regards to student progress. 

What advice do you have for starting a private studio? Please share your comments below.

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on launching a successful private lesson studio.

  1. Nate, these are really great pointers. Additionally, regarding #5, I have been wondering about whether it is advantageous to develop one’s own curriculum (based on the teaching philosophy you mention) that may include required activities other than weekly lessons and the requisite end-of-semester student recitals.

    Of course, more work is involved, but since we know that studying music isn’t only about what happens when one is holding an instrument, I’d love to see more private teachers augmenting their requirements with a) concert trips–with the teacher, b) social events–with the teacher, c) assigned listening/viewing, d) parental involvement in music making. What about a summer intensive, and not only for beginners?

    From my viewpoint, a teacher could quickly create a competitive advantage by offering something more holistic to a community. And I suspect there are payoffs beyond the financial in terms of meaningful relationships with students and their families.

    Would parents pay additional tuition for a private music teacher who goes above and beyond in this way?

    Maybe someone who is already doing this can share their experience?

    Thanks for the venue to share what’s been rattling around in my brain.

    1. Heath! I LOVE this concept!! It only takes about 30 seconds to imagine the world of possibility we could provide for our private students in this context, especially as we all contemplate the idea of broadening the definition of success for our students. What if part of our work is to inspire the next generation of great concert goers through our work as a private teacher? The possibilities are endless. Thanks so much for the thoughts!

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