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By Louise Lee

Once a student is in the door and lessons are rolling, you want to keep the student and parents engaged, so they stick with you. Being a good teacher during lessons is only the beginning. Encourage your students in other ways, too, and show parents that you’re committed to and care about their kids.

“You want to build not only satisfaction, but loyalty,” says Andrei Pricope, who teaches 70 cellists and violinists at his studio in Park Ridge, Illinois.

Here are three ways to keep students coming back for more:

  1. Invent Incentives
  2. Establish Events
  3. Communicate via E-Mail and “Snail Mail”

1. Invent Incentives

To provide motivation for kids to keep practicing and continuing lessons with you, create a system to recognize their progress. You can use whatever standards you like, but keep them achievable. You can even give each level a name like “bronze,” “silver,” and “gold.” Mark each milestone by awarding a certificate, medal, or small gift such as a charm or other trinket. “The important thing is to do something to recognize the student’s achievements,” says Marcia Neel, president of Music Education Consultants in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Even jaded high schoolers love [recognition] if it’s presented in a public setting.”


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2. Establish Events

Holding events outside of lessons enriches students’ musical learning, but it also lets students and parents hang out with one another to create a sense of community and feeling of belonging to your studio. Try hosting a master class or performance seminar to let students play informally for each other. Set up a field trip: set a date to bring students to visit the local luthier or an open rehearsal of the local community orchestra.

After a successful outing, resist the temptation to pile on more events. Limit your events or field trips to no more than two per semester. Parents and kids additionally involved in soccer, karate, or ballet don’t want to feel that you’re sucking up too much of their time. “Too much [outside activity] can backfire,” Pricope says.

3. Communicate via E-Mail and ‘Snail Mail’

Keep families engaged by creating and sending out a newsletter every few months. Welcome new pupils, announce recent accolades your students have won, and note musical events at your studio and in your area. You can distribute newsletters via e-mail, but mailing hard copies can create a better impression, Pricope says. “It’s something parents will stick on the refrigerator and it’ll be seen by the whole family,” he notes.

Most importantly, send a handwritten personal note to your students and their parents congratulating them on recent progress at least once a semester. For example, parents and students may cherish a note as simple as: “Cheryl has shown much improvement playing in third position.”

Show them you care and the favor will be returned.

This article was originally published in the June 2011 issue of Strings magazine. This is the second article in a two-part series on building and maintaining a private studio. The first article, “4 Ways to Attract Students to Your Private Teaching Studio,” appeared in the May 2011 issue of Strings.