eachers sometimes write us asking what they might do to
preserve their studio numbers and income, as well as their students' skills, when students want to "take the summer off" from
lessons. Teachers are facing at least two problems here. The first is that
students often want a break from lessons and practice so they can have "fun"
during the summer. The second is that parents sometimes want a hiatus from
paying for lessons and encouraging kids to practice and attend lessons
regularly, so that they can vacation with the kids. Some teachers
also intentionally cease giving lessons during the summer, thereby providing implicit,
and, perhaps, unintended,
support for the idea that it's might be desirable to take the summers off from
piano lessons. Setting aside the issue of the teacher's income, summer
vacations from practice and lessons can result in serious losses in skills
and memory for many students. In this article, I'll provide a long list of
suggestions for how the piano teacher who wants to teach during the summer might encourage existing students to
continue lessons and even give some impetus for new students to
teacher must impart the idea that the studio remains a dynamic place during the
summer, with activities and events that clients will want to be a part of.
Use the summer well!
Following are a number of studio-tested ideas that may help the piano
teacher to encourage people to continue or take lessons during the summer,
rather than having lessons drop to the end of a long list of priorities.
These are listed with similar subjects together, but not prioritized.
- Make your students and parents aware that stopping lessons during the
summer is undesirable from a pedagogical and a skills maintenance
standpoint. You can do this briefly in your policy and at greater length in
your studio newsletter or other studio communications. Explain all the
consequences of stopping lessons and the ground that has to be recovered
when lessons are resumed. Make it clear that, if parents' money is not to be
wasted, students must continue, at the least, to practice during summers off from lessons.
This removes one of the prime motivators for parents in having kids take
summers off. Make sure that you make (or renew) these arguments enough in
advance of summer (say, 2 months) that parents and students can have this in
mind when they plan the summer.
- For students who have special issues or problems, suggest that
summer is the best time to address these problems, since both the
teacher and the student have more and larger blocks of available time.
- Alter slightly the content of summer lessons to bring in some fun aspects
(music history, etc.) that most teachers regret not having the time to do
during the school year. Invite the parents to attend lessons so they can get
a taste of this, too. I'm not suggesting that you make your lessons less
valuable or devoid of real content, just make them a little more fun with
real material the students need to know.
- Consider some changes in your
lesson pricing structure for the summer to
encourage people to come in at times other than evenings and similar "prime
times". This has the positive effect of freeing up your summer evenings to
some degree, while still having students take lessons. I'm not suggesting that
you lower overall lesson rates, per se, but that you offer discounts for those
willing to continue lessons in the summer at times that you would rather
- Give, and publicize, an across-the-board discount for summer lessons.
Although I'm not a supporter of universal discounts, some teachers
have reported that they have done this successfully in their studios in
various places. This can be a helpful motivator for those parents who are unsure about
whether their children will follow through with lessons.
- Make sure that your fee structure encourages people to attend lessons.
If you charge by the lesson, at any time of the year, whenever money gets
tight or students have something else to do, they'll miss the lesson. Charge
by the "quarter" or "semester", in advance. Give a small discount, if you like, to those
who pay in advance, if you also continue to accept payment by the lesson.
- If you have students in competitions or other events like studio
concerts, put the students into preparation for such events during the
summer. This gives the student some motivation to come to lessons, beyond
doing Hanon and Czerny exercises, and allows you to concentrate more on preparation.
- Give some thought to arranging
group lessons during the summer. These are
easier to schedule during the summer and are often more fun for students,
who begin to miss socializing during the summer. You can charge less for
these, since you are teaching a group, thus giving parents a financial
incentive. If you would like to try group lessons in your studio, the summer
may be the best time to do so.
- Make sure that you offer free
"make-up" lessons for those who miss lessons
during summer vacations. Just be certain to say that such make-ups must occur
during the the summer "quarter" itself, not strung out over the rest of the
year. This will allow parents to keep their kids in lessons and not "lose"
lessons they have paid for when they go on vacation.
- Suggest to students and parents that they "double-up" summer lessons (for
example, a 1 hour lesson instead of 2 half-hour lessons). Most teachers enjoy
teaching longer lessons, because they can accomplish more. This also allows
the student to "cover" vacations without using makeup lessons. It also
works well for those kids caught up in joint custody situations, who
alternate between Mom and Pop in different towns during the summer.
- Encourage your "better" students to take longer
lessons. These are the ones you probably want to spend the most time with
anyway. Longer lessons allow the student to focus more and also free up
larger time blocks for
other summer activities.
- If you have a significant number of students with day camp conflicts on
consider trying to schedule all of them on a Saturday during the summer.
This way, there is no conflict with the day camp.
- Make sure you inquire of parents well before the summer whether their
children will be involved in summer sports, and, if so, what the schedule
will be. Then, you can arrange lesson times that don't conflict. If you wait until the
summer to do this, the kids will already "scheduled-up" and piano lessons
will be dropped.
- Indicate to students that they can
for a part of their practice during the summer.
This will help motivate them both to practice and stay in lessons. Provide
some instructions on how they might do this. Since socialization
opportunities are so important to kids, you are giving them the chance to
make practice more fun.
- Schedule at least one studio concert during the summer and make sure you
invite all the studio's clients to attend (but not to play), not just those
who are taking summer lessons. This can provide some additional motivation
if you put it on the studio schedule well before the start of summer. This
should probably be done as a "pitch-in" barbeque or tied to some similar
- Consider doing a summer "clinic" of a half day or a day focused on a
particular issue (e.g. practicing well) or age group (e.g. adult students). This might be a good way to recruit new
students, as well as augmenting your income. Students who have stopped
taking lessons for the summer will often give up a day to come in for such a
- I have suggested in another
article on marketing a teaching studio that conducting free music
appreciation lessons is a good way to bring students into your studio.
Summer is the perfect time to do these, since people often look for
something relaxing to do in the long summer evenings. This might also be
the subject of a clinic of the sort I mentioned above.
- Whatever you do, if it involves policy changes, make sure it's in your
studio policy. My extensive Teaching Studio article
on that subject covers at length the writing and use of a studio policy.
Will it work for you?
It's virtually certain that
some of these ideas will not be appropriate for all teachers' situations.
Some address similar issues and probably should not be used together.
However, many should be helpful for a large number of teachers, since they are based on
positive studio experience here or that of
other teachers all over the world. Whatever you do as a teacher, the goal is to impart the idea that your
studio remains dynamic and interesting during the summer, with activities
and events that clients will want to be a part of. Summers can be a great time to build the
skills and knowledge of your students; you must simply make sure that they
and their parents understand this important fact.