The Best Way to Grow Your Music School
Attracting new students is certainly important, but the best way to grow your music school, or the easiest way, is to improve student retention.
And the way you can improve student retention is by focusing on helping kids develop a love of learning, practicing, and performing an instrument. The way you can achieve this is by stacking easy wins on top of each other. The more wins a student experiences, the more fun the lessons become, and fun builds desire and confidence.
Desire and confidence lead to motivation, and motivation leads to action or regular at-home practice. Practice leads to growth, and growth or progress provides proof to the child that they’re becoming a musician.
Once a child begins to identify as a musician, now you’re on your way to having a student for years. The more of your students who identify as a musician, the better your student retention is gonna be.
Boost Teaching Results with a Focus on Experiences
If we can focus less on teaching kids the way a school teacher typically does, which usually involves sharing information with the child, and instead focus more on how a parent or mentor teaches—through experiences—then we will achieve better results as music teachers.
A music instructor who focuses on sharing information is using a method book right out of the gate, and a method book obviously is gonna be focusing on sight reading and music theory, introducing these concepts and skills at the very onset of music lessons.
It reinforces the belief that playing an instrument is perceived as challenging, a sentiment most kids feel or even fear before they embark on learning to play an instrument.
If you’re a kid who knows nothing about playing an instrument and you see someone right in front of you playing the piano beautifully, you might think, “Oh my God. That looks impossible. How do they do it? It’s like magic. It seems impossible.”
So if little Susie comes to her first piano lesson and you open up a Hal Leonard piano book for beginners, it’s only gonna reinforce that belief and that fear. If a child has yet to establish any musical wins and you introduce that method book, they’ve yet to form a desire to grow as a musician, and that method book isn’t gonna help at all.
No Book Beginners: A Book by Tim Topham
So how does one possibly even teach a music lesson without a method book? How does one teach a music lesson without a method book and provide a well-structured lesson that incorporates skill building? How does one teach without a method book and then assign something for the child to practice at home?
My guest today, Tim Topham, has a new book called “No Book Beginners,” which teaches instructors how to build a child’s confidence and belief in their musical abilities without using a method book in the first few lessons, perhaps even in the first couple of months.
In Tim’s book, he talks about how to incorporate a method book into the lessons while keeping the initial elements from those first few weeks of teaching a child without the book.
No Book Beginners is specifically focused on teaching piano, but a lot of these ideas can be applied to other instruments. But to be honest with you, I have found that guitar teachers and drum teachers naturally take this approach in their lessons. So much of drumming and so much of guitar can be taught without a book. It’s not uncommon, especially in guitar, for teachers not to use a method book at all.
I believe there’s something piano instructors can learn from guitar, drum, and bass instructors. It involves finding a balance between verbally instructing, sharing ideas, modeling how to play certain concepts for a child, and developing skills in that manner, as well as building skills through the use of a method book.
Now I’m sure most of you or many of you know who Tim Topham is, and just in case you don’t, Tim is an internationally renowned music educator, piano teacher, writer, podcaster, and presenter. Tim’s passion is helping teachers maximize student engagement through creativity, a topic he delves into extensively in this book. He talks about engaging kids through technology and innovation, while also building a sustainable and thriving business.
You can learn more about Tim and the different services that he provides by checking out his website, topmusic.co.
When I first heard about Tim’s book, it resonated with me because I’ve always been a big believer in teaching sight reading, but only after a student has learned the basics of chord building, both right and left hand techniques, rhythmic patterns, and improvisation—essentially, the skills that a child can apply to pop music, the music they listen to, and the music they love.
Speaking of pop music, before I queue up my interview with Tim, here’s a quick word from today’s sponsor, Piano Jam.