When I first started teaching in a music academy about 23 years ago, I was trained to teach piano in groups. The school I was employed in used the Yamaha Education System and then later became a Harmony Road School. Both of these systems were great and thorough training. I still use the methods I learned in these programs everyday. It was difficult being a new teacher, but it was a very enriching beginning.
After two years, my husband and I moved from the area, and opened our own studio in a tiny Idaho mountain town. My new studio was small and I couldn’t afford twelve student keyboards. With some help from parents, we purchased one Yamaha Clavinova, opened a tiny space in my mother-in-laws book store, and hung a shingle. Doot ta da Dooo!…we were in business.
Since I also couldn’t afford the licensing and territory fees associated with my prior franchised music certifications, I became a private piano and voice instructor. I still wanted to teach groups, so I did the best I could by pulling my voice students together in my living room right before a recital, and giving them some snazzy movements. It was show choir type stuff. I also offered a weekly studio class for music appreciation study and peer performance opportunities.
After a while, I was hired to direct a traditional children’s choir in a church, and then later some general music classes in an after school center. All the piano lessons I taught were private. My students were doing okay, but the parents were running me ragged with make-up lessons, and we could barely make ends meet.
I did the best I could as a new teacher, and a new mom. Overall, I was enjoying teaching music to kids and being a studio owner. The desire to teach primarily in groups never really left, but it just never seemed to be the right timing, or space, or affordability. This situation proceeded through the next twenty years of my teaching through a family move to a new area, and then teaching in a music store, and then finally into my current studio space.
I did offer a performance-based group singing class for about three years as an add-on for piano students and it was a great experience for the students. There was an excitement and community in the studio as a result of that group and many friendships were made. The students performed in the community.
Additionally, we put some of our students together in garage bands just before competitions. They did really well. It was fun, the studio was soaring. But, as children do, (Cue the strings…)those kids grew up. The life-span of the that particular group had come to an end. Additionally, the recession had caused our studio to take a serious financial hit.
Many of our students moved on for financial reasons, others graduated. Some just wanted to pursue other interests. The studio became really small, and I was left feeling a little deflated. I took outside work as a children’s ministry leader in a church, and let the studio simmer on the back burner.
My own two sons were growing up, and I was feeling the pinch of their fleeting childhood. As a result, I left my position as a children’s ministry leader to spend more time with them. My small private piano and voice studio was still holding on, but needed some attention as well.
To be honest, I was pretty much at my wit’s end. Things in the studio weren’t what I wanted them to be at all. I would employ strategy after strategy to motivate my current students to practice, and it just wasn’t happening consistently. The students were going through the motions, but all the synergy and life in my studio was gone. I knew something had to be done. Something Big.