New town, New Students : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I'm moving to a new town in a different State by the beginning of summer. I received an email from the Chamber of Commerce President a few days ago informing me that they are in need of my services. The town of approximtely 11,000 people has no piano teacher. I prefer teaching the brand new beginner or intermediate student. My lessons are one hour in length. I teach theory, technical skills, note reading, rhythm training,ear training and performance. I introduce scales as soon as I feel the student is ready. A few of my students prefer Thompson, but I do have a good selection of other material on hand at all times. My lessons are all one hour in length and my fee for the most part is very low. ($15.00) I am trying to give the students who cannot afford music lessons a chance. I have approximately 32 students who are so dedicated and blessed with talent. I have given two recitals a year and what these students have accomplished is unbelievable. Since I am going to be starting over in a brand new town, and have been invited there, what would be a reasonable fee for an hour lesson. Keep in mind the town is small, 11,000 but I am sure there are a lot of students who would be interested in piano. I was told recently by my peers that "I do not teach music to people" I was told " I teach People Music. There is a difference. Any information will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Trish

-- Patricia Hickok (, March 13, 2005


How do you know people can't afford a higher fee for lessons? What is the median income of the town and the surrounding areas? I've never heard of a a Chamber of Commerce doing that sort of thing. How many other people have they sent this email to?

Something doesn't sound right. Are they paying your moving expenses and all?

-- GT (, March 13, 2005.

Patricia First of all good job! 32 students and 2 recitals is a decent chunk of work. It sounds like you are inspiring and teaching your students well. As for your business practices, a bit of constructive feedback. For kids age 6 - 12 a hour lesson is too long. If you keep things moving you should be able to cover a week's worth of information in a half-hour. As for $15.00 an hour, that's too little to be charging. I mean WAY to little. With vacations and school holidays, most teachers cannot teach 52 weeks a year...more like say 35 weeks. You do the math, taking into account 15% self-employment tax. Raise your rates. Depending on your area's cost of living and the "going rate" you will be somewhere between $20 - $30 for 1/2 hour lessons and $45 - $65 for an hour. Charge for lessons in advance and be clear about your cancellation policy. That way you can create more predictability in your income stream. If parents say they can't afford the lessons, then work with them on a case by case basis, make sure they understand that they are exceptions and won't quote your "special" price to anyone. Allow certain parents to pay weekly or to flip flop students one week to the next with siblings. Keep track of how much you would have made vs. your discount lessons and deduct it as charitable contributions from your taxes. Just like other professionals, piano teachers deserve to have decent homes, cars, health insurance, and retirement plans. Don't sell yourself short. KJ

-- Kyle Johnson (, March 13, 2005.

Part of your rate needs to include an amount for your "admin time"--time you spend perusing music stores and catalogues for new music, and/or ordering books for your students, etc. Admin time also includes your prep time for each student over and above lessons.

Look at how some professionals like lawyers bill--they bill for travel time, copy machine fees, etc. Not saying that music teachers need to be that bad, but they are things to consider.

-- GT (, March 14, 2005.

I appreciate all the feedback I have received. I realize the fee I am charging at present is very low, but right now I'm concentrating on the student who cannot afford music lessons because of the costly fees. I'm teaching from the heart for the most part, and sometimes those lessons go overtime. Still, I know I have given these students a chance when no one else would. Because I am contemplating a move south within a few months, I do thank you all for the information you are giving me. It helps a great deal and once settled I'll be able to start teaching in a town that for a long time has had no piano teacher. At that time I will use your advice and start fresh. Whoever "NoSpam" is, I thank you for your email mentioning Admin. fees, travel time for books, etc. etc. That all adds up, because I do a lot of extra work above and beyond the lessons. The subject of lesson time was brought up, I think by Kyle. I'm so in the habit of teaching hourly lessons, so if you can, help me out with a program for a half hour I would welcome that. It seems a half hour isn't enough time to cover everything. Thanks again, to all of you. Warmest regards, Trish

-- Patricia Hickok (, March 15, 2005.

Another idea to consider is to set yourself up as a nonprofit, or get hired by a nonprofit. Look into grant-writing classes. Or, try to pitch the idea to the school board that twice- weekly group piano lessons in school is beneficial to the students in their studies and let them pay you (along with some health benefits and a retirement plan. In other words, try to get others to help you with your charity efforts. You should not be a starving artist, really!

Is some outside agency (like the schools) vetting the students/families for you as to their low-income status? I don't ask to be mean, but sometimes people are not really poor. They will say that to get something, but the reality is that they want something for nothing, or they would rather pay for cable TV, cigarrettes and alcohol. Music teachers are an easy target because of big hearts. And again, do look into the Census reports for median income levels, to make sure that what the Chamber is telling you is accurate.

-- GT (, March 15, 2005.

Dear No Spam: I'm still not sure who I'm talking to, but your advice is more than appreciated. Once I make the move by early summer, I won't have the problem of lower fees. I plan on opening a small studio in one room in my home for at least a while. My fees will then be up-to-date as the Chamber has already told me, my business is well needed there. I'm in a small town in New Jersey right now and its a bit tough for these kids. Without me they wouldn't be taking piano lessons, so I feel I have done more than my share here. I've given them two recitals a year and a good solid hourly lesson weekly, so they have learned a lot. In many ways I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to work with them. Some are very talented. Thanks again, and you have given me many good ideas.

Kyle, I sent you an email regarding your last message on the half- hour lessons. For anyone who is reading this, I'm not sure I could cover the Dozen a Day, plus theory, note reading and rhythm training, with their music all in a half hour. Do you do theory, ear training, rhythm training, and pitch in class. I just can't seem to fit it all in, in a half-hour.

-- Patricia Hickok (, March 15, 2005.

It's GT, easy to miss when it appears just next to the (non) address as it does. I do hope everything works out for you!

-- GT (, March 16, 2005.

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