Today, music schools are trending, and private lessons are usually the driving force. But parents and kids are changing. A new generation is used to being over-scheduled, and the private lessons format might not be for them. If you have a lessons operation, it’s important to consider offering a diverse program that appeals to different kinds of students.
You can start with a basic private lesson program and build from there. Creative classes and solutions for busy parents and kids enable more people to take advantage of music education. By diversifying your lesson program and offering different opportunities for different students, you can also bring in new faces who will shop in your store, get their instruments repaired and take advantage of all the things you have to offer.
So how do you get started?
1. Offer programs that help grow your lesson program. Creating a musical theater program in 2014 not only helped us double student enrollment but also inspired many of our musical theater students to study voice while their siblings took lessons on a different instrument. This helped us to grow many of the programs that we offer.
2. Offer unique group classes. Don’t just offer group piano or guitar. Offer classes that help students explore a specific niche. Start by looking at what’s trending and popular in your area. Try a “Sing in the Style of …” or “Orchestra Boot Camp” class. Even though these classes appeal to specific groups, they often lead to broader interests, more students and more classes.
3. Take your classes on the road. If you have an interesting class, pitch it to a local nursery school or private school. We brought our “Meet the Strings Program” into various local nursery schools. We were also able to start offering our contemporary voice classes to a group home for girls.
4. Offer a series of classes in your showroom. What? Yes. Create a short session of classes at a low rate, and set aside a corner of your store to teach the classes. We call ours Sound Bytes. They are four weeks long and very affordable. Some people prefer this—it doesn’t feel like a lesson if it’s not in a teaching studio. Changing the environment and commitment level has inspired people to give it a try and will open the door for them to continue their studies.
5. Offer some type of combo lessons. For instance, let students try a combined voice and guitar lesson. Sometimes they do voice, sometimes guitar. Some weeks they do them together. (What singer doesn’t wish he or she played guitar?) Sometimes, financially, it’s too hard to pay for both. This is a nice way for students to try both and eventually stick with one or start studying both separately.
Depending on your location, student needs may differ. Many of these ideas work for us in our fast-paced community outside New York City. What is it that people need in your neighborhood? Ask students what they want, and even ask potential students who don’t sign up for lessons what they’re looking for. Your customers and prospects have the answers. And whatever you do, make sure your lessons and classes are high-quality and maintain your brand integrity.
Mike and Miriam Risko run Mike Risko Music, a music lessons and retail operation in Ossining, N.Y.