Wednesday, January 3, 2018

9 Ways to Increase Your Studio Retention

I'm thrilled to be a part of the Inspiration for the 12 Days of Christmas series, along with other piano teacher bloggers from around the world! Make sure to check out the other posts in this series!

Studio retention is a topic often discussed and written about (check out this great post from Piano Pantry) in piano teacher forums and Facebook groups. Why? Because teachers know that it can take years to achieve proficiency on any instrument and in order to reach that point of reward, a student must be engaged and prepared to study for years. Here are 9 ways to increase your studio retention:

#1 - Choose motivating and inspiring music.

About a year ago, I wrote a post about music from composers such as Elena Cobb, James L. King, III, and Jennifer Eklund that has consistently inspired and motivated my beginning students. Another piece I highly recommend--especially since my studio's upcoming spring recital is "Fiesta" themed--is Latin Lingo by the talented Heather Nanney of Fun Key Music Piano Academy.

#2 - Parent Education

Books and Articles

Keep some books on hand in your studio's waiting area or lend/gift them to new piano parents. Here's some recommended reading to help get you started:


Some parents simply do not have time to sit and read a book, even in small increments; I know I don't as a busy teacher and mom of two young boys! Podcasts are more accessible for busy parents since they are able to listen on the go. These two podcasts are an excellent place to start:


Host a Piano Parent Workshop! A teacher named Nicole Casey recently shared that she hosts Piano Parent Workshops to equip parents with the knowledge and skills that they need to help their children practice at home. I'm hoping to incorporate similar workshops into my own studio this year!

Alternatively, set aside a specific amount of time to talk to new piano parents. Piano teacher Anita Elise Kohli shares her strategy for a 15 minute talk with new piano parents on her blog and writes:
The simple truth is this-- Student who last out in piano are invariably the ones whose parents get involved.

Taking steps to involve and nurture relationships with piano parents is vital to studio retention. 

#3 - Professional Development 

Include some professional development and self-care in your schedule this year. A burnt-out, grumpy piano teacher will most likely not help boost studio retention. Invest in yourself! Give yourself the opportunity to grow as a teacher. Go to your local piano teacher association meetings, attend workshops, listen to podcasts, join The Upbeat Book Club, enroll in online courses

#4 - Games and Off-the-Bench Activities 

Young children retain more information through play. Games are perfect for piano lessons because they can motivate students, help teachers introduce new concepts in a low-stress way, and lead to overall increased student retention! Including one short, fun activity makes all the difference in how a student may feel about their weekly piano lessons. 

There are many, many games and resources available for piano teachers. Here are some resources and ideas to get you started this winter!

Playful Practice Cards from Colourful Keys

5 Fun Winter Activities for Your Piano Studio

Piano Game Resource List from Heidi's Piano Studio

Winter Composing Printable from Teach Piano Today

If your studio includes preschoolers, check out this course from Pianissimo: A Very Piano Blog.

#5 - Progress Reports, Evaluations, and Newsletters

Send out progress reports and newsletters once or twice a year to keep parents up to date with what their child/children are achieving in their lessons. Enroll your students in evaluations or achievement in music programs, if they are offered in your area. Clear communication and updates help students and their families see the "big picture" and recognize just how far they've come!

#6 - Practice Challenges or Incentives

Like games and off-the-bench activities, practice challenges/incentives can be very motivating to students. It can be very time consuming and stressful to plan out a practice challenge and hope it will motivate students! Here are some programs that have already been put together and tested by piano students:

Tracy Selle of Upbeat Piano Teachers also has a list of simple practice incentives on her blog

#7 - Offer Recitals

In this post on why recitals are important, I wrote:
Private music teachers that offer recitals build their studio community; students are given the opportunity to support and motivate one another. This facet of cooperative learning leads to increased studio retention, motivation, and growth...when recitals become a regular part of a studio's curriculum, it becomes a place where music happens, and students and their families will be so excited to spread the word about it.

For this reason, I offer two recital opportunities per year. Each recital can cost anywhere from $600-$800 (the cost of offering recitals vary depending on studio size, location, etc.), but it is well worth the cost to keep students motivated and excited about their accomplishments!

#8 - Build a Community

Take the time to build a strong studio community. Piano lessons are often a solitary activity, although children typically learn in social/group settings, such as school, sports teams, dance class, and martial arts. Here are a few ways to incorporate several social events into your studio throughout the year:

I had my students fill out these "About Me" cards from Color in My Piano and my students and their families enjoy learning about one another.

Offer group lessons. During our final week of lessons before winter break, I offered group lessons to give students a chance to perform their Christmas/winter pieces, review some theory concepts while we played games, and learn more about Tchaikovsky and The Nutcracker. It took a little extra work and effort, but it was definitely beneficial for each student that participated. 

Consider hosting piano camps to focus on musical subjects that may have been rushed through or pushed aside during the year due to time constraints. This post from Tim Topham is full of helpful advice and resources to plan a piano camp. For even more guidance in hosting the perfect piano camp, check out this course from Jennifer Foxx or this Group Lessons 101 Webinar from Upbeat Piano Teachers

#9 - Create a concise policy and follow it!

A concise policy can clear up expectations on both sides and lead to overall better retention. If you have a policy, ask a friend to look it over for you to help you clarify it, as needed. If you don't have a policy yet, grab a copy of this book to help you get started!

More in the 12 Days of Inspiration Series

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