"selling" quality - Does it matter?

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Feb 15, 2007 8:35 am

Since I grew up in the Midwest in a typical conservative environment there, I have a natural tendency toward frugality myself. Even though I certainly know the values of quality piano lessons vs. slipshod ones, I can understand how a typical parent, allocating limited resources among lots of activities and needs, might simply want to choose the "cheapest" piano lessons they can find, not realizing the difference that quality lessons can make.

While we have had a very good (and long) discussion of some of the components of quality lessons in another thread, we have not discussed how you as a teacher "sell" quality lessons over somebody who provides lessons of some sort at significantly lower price. Do your students and parents appreciate the differences? Do you try to sell quality or focus on other aspects of lessons?
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Thu Feb 15, 2007 10:40 am

I am probably not the best person to reply to this, as I am charging less than other teachers. Over the years I have learned that what teachers charge and their degrees may not give a true picture of whether they are a 'good' teacher or not.

I tell prospective students and parents exactly how I teach and how I feel about music...basically enjoy and learn, learn and enjoy and one has a life-long treasure. I give two handouts about the way I begin - with rote teaching - and answer any questions. I also always meet and give a student an introdutory lesson first.

As I live in a Condo and the noise upstairs is occassionally disturbing, I would not want to charge more. But I have always kept my price lower, so piano is available to everyone. I also have given lessons at no cost.

I have taught over 40 years and hope that I have passed on my love of music to many. None are concert pianists, some have entered contests, some have made some money performing, but most important for me, is that they appreciate music for all it brings to them.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Feb 15, 2007 9:11 pm

loveapiano wrote:I am probably not the best person to reply to this, as I am charging less than other teachers. Over the years I have learned that what teachers charge and their degrees may not give a true picture of whether they are a 'good' teacher or not.

This thread really isn't about how much one charges for lessons, but how one gets across the need for quality and how one provides it as a teacher. If the teacher provides quality lessons and also charges less than others, she is providing exceptional value to her students. The question is how does one get potential clients to appreciate that quality matters, no matter how much you charge, what degrees you have, or what extra services you may provide.

You have probably noticed that I've avoided defining what "quality" means in this context. I've done that on purpose, since it has many aspects. The length of the earlier thread on quality lessons attests to the multi-sided, multi-valued nature of quality, as applied to piano lessons. It may be easiest to define it operationally in "know when I see it" terms. Whatever a given person's definition happens to be, how can one best get other people to understand its importance?
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:47 am

I think you said it when you said 'you would know it if you saw it' - but instead, 'you will know it when you hear it.' When you hear a child play, when you see his joy, when he plays more challenging music and impresses you with the sound, you will know "quality".

Some parents have a greater appreciation and understanding of music than others. All I can do at first meeting, is tell them how I teach and share my love and the value of music with them. I do have articles about music available all during the year, and I send out letters often, updating my thoughts on various musical areas as practicing, listening, and more.

The best way is to have parents listen to their children play and share their enthusiasm and talent. I encourage parents (push them?) to take part in their children's music - in March, through a "duet month" when I am hoping each parent will play a duet with their child. The children are working on this eagerly. Some parents are panicing as don't read music. I have tried to calm their fears by reminding them that their piano student child can teach them by rote, or by writing in notes in the music for them, and by helping them. Nothing like a child teaching a parent.
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Postby Stretto » Mon Feb 19, 2007 1:49 pm

I had to really think on this because I would tend to want to list or discuss WHAT quality lessons might be rather than how to "sell" the idea to others of the need for quality lessons or "sell" your studio as providing quality lessons. What I understand the subject of this thread to be about is if someone calls inquiring about lessons, in an interview, or even with current students/parents, how would a teacher convince them that the lessons you provide are quality lessons.

If someone asks about taking lessons from me my tendency in "selling" quality lessons would be to list the things the lessons includes and briefly explain why I feel those things are important. I would be thinking along the lines of "here's what you get if you take lessons from me" and also "here's what you get for the money".

One big factor would be confidence. If you are confident that the lessons you give are quality, you won't have any trouble conveying it to others. There's been times that I questioned whether the lessons I gave were as quality as they could be and I didn't feel they were. I made the necessary changes and continually try to fine tune and make changes to get the lesson to what I think is a quality lesson. When people call to inquire about lessons or parents/students that take lessons from me ask questions about the lessons, I want to be able to state with confidence without a doubt in my mind that I am providing quality lessons and a quality lesson experience.

Another big factor is "education". Teachers should be educating people on what quality lessons are so that they can make an informed decision and not selecting a teacher without an idea of what to look for. An article such as PEP's article on what quality lessons are is so valuable because it arms people with information.




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Postby Beckywy » Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:41 pm

My last studio recital - which was a couple weeks ago, I had only 14 of my students performing. I rented out the auditorium at the central library which has a beautiful grand piano on the stage with about 220 seats in a theatre style. Of the 14, 3 were transfer students. In the audience, I had several families of my students who weren't performing, as well, I kept the auditorium door open so people in the library could come in and listen. More than half the seats were filled. The abilities and the talents of the students amazed the families of the transfer students, as well as the families who opted not to perform in the recitals. Listening to the quality of the playing of these students who prepared for weeks for the performance reinforced in the parent's minds that they've chosen a good teacher. This always leads to an easy referral. I usually get 2-3 calls after a good recital from families who got my number from someone in the audience who attended the recital.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Feb 20, 2007 8:22 am

Stretto wrote:Another big factor is "education". Teachers should be educating people on what quality lessons are so that they can make an informed decision and not selecting a teacher without an idea of what to look for. An article such as PEP's article on what quality lessons are is so valuable because it arms people with information.

This is really the crux of this thread. How can we expect people to know what quality lessons constitute, let alone be willing to pay for them, if they don't know and can't easily find out what "quality" means when it comes to lessons? There are undoubtedly a few people who don't care about quality, but most parents and adults want the best lessons they can get for their money. If teachers don't inform them of the elements of quality lessons and show why they are important (without denigrating other teachers), then who will?

Just in passing, I would note that I've pointed out, in several places here on the Board and in PEP's articles, that an emphasis on quality by the teacher, even at a higher lesson price, generally leads to a more dedicated and less problematic student group. Beckywy's comment is a piece of evidence in support of that conclusion.
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Postby Glissando88keys » Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:38 pm

Stretto wrote:I had to really think on this because I would tend to want to list or discuss WHAT quality lessons might be rather than how to "sell" the idea to others of the need for quality lessons or "sell" your studio as providing quality lessons.

Another big factor is "education". Teachers should be educating people on what quality lessons are so that they can make an informed decision and not selecting a teacher without an idea of what to look for. An article such as PEP's article on what quality lessons are is so valuable because it arms people with information.

Almost the first word I mention when either advertising my services, or responding to a parent's questions regarding lessons, is the word QUALITY. I would not consider myself a quality teacher if I did not actually believe that without reservation. So with the need for quality lessons, I can affirm that I will provide just that, and quality is exactly what the parents can expect.

Some parents do need to be sold on quality lessons, because while struggling to provide for their children in today's economy, the attraction of lessons offered at "bargain prices" can take precedence over an offer of "quality lessons. So not only it is important to sell the idea to others of the need for quality lessons, but it is also important to sell your studio as providing only quality lessons, otherwise they will think, "Why pay more?"

Teachers who get student referrals know only too well how hard it is to change bad habits not corrected by a previous teacher. That is where quality actually takes on a more practical as well as economical meaning. How many months or years of lessons will it take before those habits can be changed? How much valuable time and money were wasted?
How much time and money will be ultimately saved in the long run if one were to pay the higher price for quality lessons from the start? Questions like these, when discussed with parents help clarify the need for quality lessons, right from the start.

Now, the big question is not whether or why, but what, exactly, is considered essential for quality lessons? Or put another way, what components go into a quality lesson? This leads to another series of questions. " What requirements, knowledge, education or abilities must a teacher posess in order to be able to provide quality lessons?" The answers to this question can vary considerably, as evidenced by several teachers on this forum alone, as well as others, who would be considered eminently qualified to teach, but who have a variety of backgrounds, achievements, accomplishments and credentials in music. Another important consideration is, "What personal traits are required to teach piano successfully?" Each question leads to a separate topic that must be explored before the question, "What is necessary for quality lessons?" can be answered.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Mon Mar 12, 2007 7:36 am

Glissando88keys wrote:Some parents do need to be sold on quality lessons, because while struggling to provide for their children in today's economy, the attraction of lessons offered at "bargain prices" can take precedence over an offer of "quality lessons. So not only it is important to sell the idea to others of the need for quality lessons, but it is also important to sell your studio as providing only quality lessons, otherwise they will think, "Why pay more?"

There are many good and important points in your post, Glissando. In the quoted paragraph above you've summarized the real crux of this thread. Selling the idea of quality is further complicated because there are a few good teachers out there who give quality lessons at low prices. Perhaps they don't need to charge more or perhaps they don't realize how good they are!

FWIW, "many" (meaning more than ten) teachers have written me over the years to say they have sent parents of prospective students to our Learning to Play page to get information on various aspects of taking piano lessons, including the quality issue. I think this may have been the page that Stretto cited earlier in this thread. If it helps, teachers should feel free to cite it to their clients. I'd also be interested in any feedback readers of this thread may have regarding that page. :)
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Postby Stretto » Thu Mar 15, 2007 3:10 pm

I think teachers who provide quality lessons at lower prices usually say it's because they want to make lessons affordable for the ave. income. The average price of lessons seems to be getting pretty expensive that I couldn't afford it myself especially with more than one child in lessons and that's only one activity.

Of course, I've heard that one should set their rates high enough to attract business as people reason "at that price", they're going to get quality.

Another thing, I think those taking lessons should consider as giving them quality in lessons is consistency. By that I mean, if one finds a teacher they really like and they or their child are making good progress and are happy with the teacher, they should really consider staying with that teacher even if that teacher raises rates rather than move to another teacher just to get a better price. I feel a person taking lessons should carefully consider that it's worth it to pay a few extra dollars per lesson to stay with the same teacher if everything is going well.

When I started lessons, I had a teacher who I really liked and I was making good progress and liked the materials I was learning from. My parents switched me just because the teacher raised their rates. The next teacher was a good teacher, but some of the continuity in learning was lost in switching to different materials, etc. The last teacher I had while still living at home was a change for the better at a higher price as I guess my parents finally wised-up when I hit rock bottom with a teacher who I learned nothing from but practically was teaching myself during that time. I had 4 teachers in 5 year I feel now that there was little continuity in learning because of this. Outside of the one, the other teachers weren't really bad, they were pretty good but it was switching teachers just to save a little money that subtracted from the continuity and thus quality in learning. I would say the first teacher I started with was probably the best one out of those.

Basically, if you have a quality teacher you like, it's worth it to stick with them even if you have to pay a little more if they raise their rates.




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Postby Tranquillo » Tue Dec 18, 2007 5:17 am

Well on this topic I suppose there are two types of teachers. (actually its hard to categories teachers in two groups)

But my point its there are :
QUALITY TEACHERS and QUANTITY TEACHERS

Quality teachers - Most are on this board, you might sell your studio as: learn piano for life, enjoy music discover your talents, unleash the talent in you

Quantity teachers - Build a repertoire, enter competitions, estidfords, etc
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