Good idea to pack 'em in ...?
March 3, 2011 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Private music teachers! What are your experiences offering group lessons? Trying to make more money on a per-hour basis.

My wife has been teaching one-on-one private lessons for about seven years now. To her credit, she has always maintained a studio of at least 20 students, and now she's approaching what I would consider full capacity. Over the years, we've done a little research and surveyed her parents, and it seems that the after-school-to-6 pm time window is ideal for students to take lessons. Since we cannot fill slots before or after that window, we're looking into other ways she can increase her teaching revenues.

I'm wondering if any MeFites have offered group lessons and what their experience has been. We live in a large metro area, so despite private lessons being a luxury item, the demand is there. However, we do occasionally run into parents that can't afford the list price, so we offer their student lessons every other week, or they quit and find someone else. I'm also wondering if we could capture students in that price-bracket, but make up for it in volume.

Additional data points: We charge about the average rate for teachers with a degree and teaching license. She teaches part-time orchestra at the local high school, so she's very familiar with group rehearsals. Her current students range from 4 years to 18 years.

posted by agnielson to Education (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Homeschoolers won't have to fall in to that time frame.
posted by raisingsand at 6:18 PM on March 3, 2011

Seconding raisingsand. Most communities have home schooling organizations with which you could talk. You may even be able to do group sessions with multiple home-schooled students. Many high schools have "jazz band" type programs. Perhaps she could pitch a similar program aimed at home schooled students.
posted by Nightman at 6:30 PM on March 3, 2011

I teach private music lessons. While I've never formally organized group lessons, I did get a couple of my students together to play a trio piece with me for the studio's recital, and found:

- kids in small groups can be a different challenge. Keep it organized and running on a track to minimize problems with boy/girl interactions, one kid dominating the other, etc. We did all right because we had a few sessions to achieve a goal (play a piece of music in public), but I found it was quite a bit less productive on a per minute basis for each student because the group dynamic is so different.

- I would think piano would pose another challenge. I can get 2-3 kids with clarinets in one room. Not so with piano. Is she going to discuss a teaching point and then have the kids take turns doing something? Has its advantages (basically the format of a master class), but it's far slower than 1 on 1. I would also see stronger/older students going for this, and benefiting from it far more, than beginners. Advanced players learn a lot more by listening than beginners do.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:53 PM on March 3, 2011

I have offered group lessons in two scenarios - grinding poverty, where more than one kid in the lesson meant that lessons were possible/affordable, and group lessons in a music school setting where the point was maximizing profit for the school.

For you, I would suggest offering the opportunity for "tag-team" lessons. Two kids who are friends, who take the lesson together, maybe learn duets together. Pay the price for one hour of lessons.
posted by LN at 6:56 PM on March 3, 2011

I feel that I can never accomplish as much in a group as I can one-on-one. Though keep in mind my teaching style was very much catered to each individual kid, depending on their skill level and motivations -- no two students ended up with the same lesson plan.

Fully utilizing the lesson time can be a pain -- setup/breakdown always takes a lot longer with a group. Even if your all your students arrive on time. If your wife goes this route, she will need to have a very strict schedule. I would expect an hour lesson -- I don't think any useful group work can be accomplished in 30-45 minutes.

You'll probably have more productive group lessons where you're just working on fundamentals -- learning how rhythms work can be fun in a group. Nitpicking technique and trying to hone in on what makes something "musical"... that's harder. If you've got kids who are plateaued at their skill level (or are college-bound), they really deserve some one-on-one time.

It ultimately depends on the kids. Some kids do great in a group setting, others will be incredibly shy and won't want to play in front of anyone else. For example, when I used to teach oboe, singing the part, first, was a huge part of lessons, and for some kids, it took a lot of time to earn their trust to get them to open up and sing. I can't imagine being able to accomplish the same in a group setting.
posted by Wossname at 7:37 PM on March 3, 2011

Why not just gradually raise her hourly rates? You'll cut out some of the students, but make equal or more revenue. Then you backfill with new students willing to pay the higher rate. This is a common technique for businesses who contract at an hourly rate, and I've used it myself in my own consulting business.
posted by dblslash at 10:59 AM on March 4, 2011

Over the years, we've done a little research and surveyed her parents, and it seems that the after-school-to-6 pm time window is ideal for students to take lessons.

Is there any market for lessons for adults? The adults I know who take classes often take them between 7 and 9 pm.

If adults aren't looking for formal lessons so much as a bit of fun, how about an amateur performers' group? Nothing too stressful, just 4 performances a year at local hospitals and retirement homes.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:57 PM on March 4, 2011

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