A lot of readers asked me this question. I get it, it’s hard to promote yourself. It’s even embarrassing, because we are musicians/pianists, we are artists, we are not for sale. But hey, don’t think about it in that way. If you want people to know you, you have to get out there and literally tell people that YOU EXIST. So here are a few pointers as to how to promote yourself in order to build a successful and thriving music studio of yours:
1. Start a blog
Share with your existing and potential students what you’ve got: what you know about music, piano and teaching. Just write something short and simple at the beginning few lines every day, about what you’ve learnt and taught in lessons or some tips on practice and playing. Eventually you can write more and add more substance in your posts.
2. Record videos
Record videos of your students playing in lessons or even your own playing. Teach people some basic music theories, like how to read or identify chords.
3. Write something about yourself
Write about your educational qualifications, your experience in performance and teaching. Tell people about your teaching philosophy and style: it’s important for your potential students (and especially their parents) to know about your personally.
4. Share your experience
People want to connect with those whom they feel familiar with. If you share your experience with your readers, they already feel like they know you before they’ve even met you-and I know that from my personal experience. Be authentic and genuine.
Learn more from the podcasts below:
Life is about connecting with others, through something deeper and more meaningful, to touch others’ lives.
Music can do just that, and more. Through teaching, learning, playing, listening, performing, we connect with others – teachers, parents, students, fellow students, friends, public – through music learning and piano playing.
Therefore, piano lessons are not just a routine we go in week in and week out. They are many sessions of precious moments for us to share, explore and enjoy via the wonderful tool we call, “piano”.
I believe everyone likes music.
Everyone listens to some kind of music, whether it be pop music (western or local), R&B, rock, electronic, blues, folk, country, band, classical, world, jazz… Or you simply listen to some good music regardless of what genre the music is – the most important element in music is that you like it. That’s it. It is not other people’s choice but YOUR own choice.
The same should go for music learning, or more specifically here, piano playing. You should play the piano only when you want it. And then you would probably practice because you want to get better at the piano.
What is the first thing students usually say when they come in? (I am sure all of you piano teachers have this experience once in a while or too many a times.) They say, “I didn’t practice (much) last week.” or similar version of this line. Now, what is your response and what would you say to them? You might be like this, “no, no again!”, either say in silently inside or voice this out loud to your students. Trust me, I get that “frustration” sometimes, I understand that completely.
I also understand why students don’t practice (enough) sometimes. And it’s not because they are lazy – it can be but I usually give them the benefit of the doubt. I like to treat people innocent before “charged” guilty (ok, it’s not like that serious like a crime, but you get what I mean).
Depending on the situation would I ask them why. They would tell me there has been a lot of “homework/work/test/exam/activities/weddings/social functions/business trips/projects/meetings”. I get it, I really do. But I would also stress to them it is of utmost importance that they keep their regular practice sessions in albeit less frequent or shorter than desirable. Let’s say you want your students to practice 1 hour every day, would you think it’s plausible for the lifestyle they have? Would you rather set a more realistic goal for them to follow and actually keep up with, for example, 30 minutes for 4-5 days a week? Or 20 minutes for 3-4 days a week? Depending on the level and age and time of each student?
I usually negotiate with them, especially when they are adult students who have a very busy work life. I say, “ok, well, I understand that you are pretty busy, but let’s try this, try to log in 15 minutes for 3 days first, use the timer on your phone, set it to 15 minutes and just sit down and go with it. Let me know how that goes in our next lesson.” Usually they would do more that those 3 15-minute sessions if they really want to improve their playing.
Of course, there are times when a student really has no time whatsoever that week to do any practice at all. Then what do you as a teacher do? You just have to be patience sometimes. Sometimes when we push the students too hard on their learning and practice it might get an opposite effect that they might not even want to continue learning! We all want to progress, we all do, whether our role is teacher or parent or student. But there is a life we are making right here right now. I think being considerate – I use the word “compassion” – for the student we truly care for is important. There might a lesson that might not be as productive as we want it to be, and that’s ok. If the student turns around, looks back at his/her own progress and says “oh maybe I should work harder”, then wonderful, let’s do it. Certainly the teacher always has to be there to remind the student of his/her practice and encourage him/her to learn more/better. I believe it’s always two-way street (or even three in case with the parent for younger students): both the teacher and student put in effort and work together. Then the student’s learning will definitely blossom.
I find more than often though, it’s that instead of the students having not done any practice at all, it’s rather they are afraid they didn’t get the practice done as well as the teacher want them to have. So nowadays when I hear the line “sorry I didn’t practice much”, I just smile and gesture them sit down and tell them to start playing right away. “I shall be the judge of it.” Most of them do much better than they thought they would.
Giving students more precise pointers and specific directions as to how to make an effective and efficient practice session is also a great way to guide them to not be afraid of practice and get more done on their own. I shall write more about this which I find a lot of students and teachers are not too familiar with this concept.
You all have a blessed weekend of music teaching and learning,
Do you want to become a successful piano teacher? How do you define success in your teaching career? Let’s talk about the first step to your success!
Adult Piano Beginner Learners
This year we have quite a number of adult students who have come in to learn to play the piano for the first time. I am very glad to see this phenomenon.
I still remember we had this amazing student who came in last year, and the first line of his email wrote, “I am a 51-year-old man who has never learnt to play the piano…”. My eyes beamed with joy when I read that line. I couldn’t be happier! Someone at this mature age wanted to play the piano! Why would that be a problem?
Any age is a good age to learn something new. Any age is a good age to challenge oneself and do something fresh for the first time. Any age is a good age to be nice to oneself and give oneself a Gift.
I believe Music is such a Joy for anyone of any age, and playing the piano is a great gift to receive that joy.
I understand the “awkwardness” for adults to pick up an instrument (or simply learn some new skills) for the first time:
“Can I actually do it?”
“What if I can’t? Would I look stupid or embarrass myself?”
“Am I too old to do it?”
“It’s okay, I don’t really have to do this. Why bother, why waste time and money to do it?”
The list of doubt goes on and on.
I get it. I have that moment too.
Like I couldn’t swim or bike for most of my life – I learnt to do that just a few years ago. I am not good at it, but I can move! And I enjoy them.
Or I remember the first time I saw people run on campus when I was studying for my graduate degree in America. I thought to myself, “Oh! People RUN here.” I never exercised when I was in Hong Kong, almost never. No one told me I had to exercise! I only knew I had to study and practice a lot of piano. So I started running on campus too, and went to the gym and took cycling classes and did circuit weight training. I didn’t know how to do it but I just followed the instructions and that’s it! It was a lot of fun and so I never stopped exercising ever since.
Or I love traveling on my own, a lot. People say, “Oh but it’s dangerous (for a woman) to travel solo” or, “Oh but it’s so boring to travel alone”. I never feel any danger at all. A woman can protect herself just like a man does. And when you travel alone, you can talk with the locals and meet new friends. It’s a lot of fun and a different kind of traveling experience. When you travel alone, you would notice a lot of things you might not otherwise.
Or I never wrote a book. And now I did. I am happy that I finally published it, now I can make it better for the second edition, and work on the Chinese version. And also the course books. I never thought I wanted to or could write an instruction manual (it sounds so boring!). But I did, and I am glad I endured the boredom at the beginning of drafting it.
What I am trying to say is there are a lot of things we thought we didn’t want to do and tried to make a lot of excuses not to of them, and the main reason is most likely this:
We are scared.
We are scared to fail.
We are scared to make mistakes.
We are scared to be ridiculed.
But, what if we make it?
What if we succeed?
What if we are actually good at it?
Or what if, what if we actually enjoy doing it, regardless of how good or bad we are at it?
Isn’t that the most important point of we doing something, that WE ENJOY DOING THE THING WE DO?
Yes, that’s the whole point of we learning to play the piano.
Because PLAYING THE PIANO IS FUN.
So, Adult Piano Beginner Learners, keep coming! We are ready!
I looked at my diary and saw I scheduled to write something about mindset in Chinese (gasp! and yes I put everything from breakfast to weightlifting to “no phone” for an hour on my phone’s calendar). So I went to my blog and looked at what I had written before.
Then I found A Reader’s Response to “The Right Mindset” – please read it.
I then translated the English post to include a new Chinese version.
Reading through the response from my reader got me thinking, and indeed it was sentimental on many levels (the reader became someone I trusted to work for me for a while, thank you, I deeply appreciate your effort if you manage to keep reading my blog these days!).
I looked up when I wrote the post about the reader’s response – it was in April 2011. Then I looked up when I wrote the original “The Right Mindset” post – it was August 2010, only a little over half year into establishing my own piano studio. I was amazed at how early on I had this idea of having the right mindset would help you change and progress so much in not only in piano playing but also in life.
Now, September 2016, 6 years from that first post, I not only have maintained that same belief in the right mindset but also “upgraded” that belief into a “growth mindset” (instead of “fixed mindset”). I often tell and remind students and friends and family, you must have a growth mindset, be flexible, be progressive, be open to allow things to happen in their lives, believing they can grow and do so much more than they think they can. Believing in the unknown possibilities is the first step to all the amazing opportunities, joy and growth and advancement in all aspects of life, whether it be career, relationships, hobbies, or simply, piano playing.
“Do we have to take exams for our piano lessons?” My student of 9 years’ old asked me today after finishing his lesson.
“No, of course not.” I was surprised to hear him saying that. Sometimes this little boy would give the most intelligent comment unexpected of for his young age.
“Why did you ask that?” I asked.
“Well, I have a friend who now lives in America, and he is also taking piano lessons there. He told me he never had to take any piano exams, and at his school they only taught two subjects: English and Maths.” He explained.
“You know, you also don’t have to take exams too for your piano lessons. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. But everyone here loves to take it. And it’s actually not a bad thing.” I continued.
My student has taken grade 5 exam recently and received a merit result, which made him and his mother very happy. But that happy effect didn’t stay long and didn’t help him with realizing the fact that he’s capable of doing more and that he’s not playing the piano just to fulfill his “duty”.
I do think there is a merit to taking some tests for a subject you have learnt and worked hard on, just to see how well you do it so far, but it’s only good for the student if it’s just part, and not all, of the whole learning process. What I mean is, for example, if we learn to be good at English only because we can pass the tests that we are given, we would focus on how to get a good score instead of how to be good at English. By the same token, when we learn to play the piano, if we focus on how to achieve a good score in piano exams instead of learning how to understand music and play the piano beautifully, we have already lost the essence of music learning and piano playing.
I do see there is a phenomenon that if the student is not expected to take any piano exams for their piano lessons, they have a mentality of taking the piano lessons very lightly almost as if something they can throw away anytime they want. Certainly that goes a long way by tying a close relationship between piano lessons and piano exam results. If they are children, then it is because the parents focus way too much on getting a good result in piano exams and so the children are heavily influenced to think the same way as well. If they are adults, they have had this idea of “achievement equals to exam scores” deeply ingrained in their mind long time ago and it is sadly hard to be erased. I certainly do think there are high hopes for such eradication of false beliefs and new development of positive and growth mindset in each and everyone of them, only if they believe in it /me.
My student happily received the photocopy of a new piano duet I assigned to him.
“Go work on this, and be brave ok?”
I said with an encouraging smile as I handed over the copy to him.
“Sure thing!” He returned with a big smile and left the studio.
Our “Music on Wings: Piano Beginner Course” is an all-in- one piano program that provides a comprehensive training in all aspects of music learning: playing, listening, singing, reading, writing, improvising and composing.
If you are working on your scales and forget about how the fingering works, here are some references on my YouTube Channel (Teresa Wong School of Music)!
Why am I so passionate about piano teaching and piano technique ?
I think it deserves elaboration on the answer to such question.
Many parents tell me when they first meet me, “I don’t know how to play the piano/I don’t know anything about music. How can I help my child with his/her piano?”
I have no problem explaining over and over again to the anxious parents. Instead, I think it does the students good when I take the opportunity to discuss further with their respective parents.
You know, my parents didn’t know anything about music/piano either. But somehow I have become a musician, a piano teacher and now a piano teacher’s teacher among many things. My two brothers, although didn’t pursue a career in the field, are very accomplished musicians and still love music dearly.
How did my parents do it?
My Father: lots of guidance and supervision. My Mother: lots of love and care.
It was always a habit that we must practice, no matter how much homework or test/exam revisions we had for school. I am quite sure that if we didn’t practice every single day we practiced five days a week at least (Actually I can say for sure we practiced seven days a week, worked like a convenience store). Always. Unless we were out for holidays overseas, and that was only a few days to a couple weeks at most a year.
We ALWAYS practiced, and we ALWAYS went to our piano lessons, EVERY SINGLE WEEK. (Unless for the same reasons above for holidays)
So again, my parents were not musicians and they never had any proper music training at any instruments at all. All they did were to keep us up with our practice and our lessons. My father did teach us to prepare for our grade 5 music theory exam, and all he did was to explain everything to us in English when we were about 10 or so. I still remembered vividly (now as a fond memory) that I pronounced “cantabile” as “can-ta-billy” as my Father taught me to speak it in English way instead of the Italian way (“can-ta-bi-le”) !
Jokes aside, it’s all about the parents’ effort to keep up with their children’s practice and lessons. And frankly, without that persistence from the parents, the no.1 teacher in the whole wide world will not help any kid to become the next superstar. Do you actually think Lang Lang becomes one because he wanted to do that when he was 4? I don’t think so.
Parents must supervise their children at home for their practice and, cooperate and communicate with the teacher whenever they need in order to provide the best in the youngster. If parents think it is all the teacher’s responsibility to remind the children to practice, I can assure you it is wrong and it doesn’t go anywhere. No one would want to practice with so much self-discipline until they reach the point of some level of appreciation and achievement in that specific field they are at. Certainly parents and teacher are both aspired to bring the children to that level, which would be amazing to watch. But before that, there are so much for all parties to put in their work together.
Until the next post,