Mindset Successful Teaching Business

Why preschoolers are the best clients for private music teachers

Music teachers need students  

Usually, when a teacher begins their business, clients are hard to come by.  Also, choosing who to work, with as a niche-focus, seems counter-intuitive.  You need the business, you don’t want to turn away anyone else.  However, to stand out in the crowd, it’s always advisable to choose a niche focus.  Every small business can better differentiate themselves with a specific target audience or focus.

Teaching as a business

When I began focusing on teaching music as a real business, I stumbled across a secret.  What I stumbled upon, was a virtually untapped market – preschool and early grade school students.  It began out of a personal need.  My son was 3 and asking for lessons.  There was not a teacher I found that would accept him at this age.  Thus, I went back to my teaching roots and started it as a homeschooling project.  Before too long, my son’s classmates began asking for lessons and I was spending more and more time as a music teacher.

Some of my students at our Spring 2016 recital.

I discovered that the youngest students were not being served by anyone in my community.  By specializing in music lessons for kids 4+, I stood out from the sea of music teachers.  

As I developed my methods and tested new lesson plans daily, I began to attract quite a following.  I am humbled and grateful to have worked with so many students in my community, many of them for years!

Why younger is better

By starting my students younger, I have been able to work with them for much longer periods than most other teachers.  My average student seems to stay with me for 5 years or more.  While I think some of it is due to my skills as a teacher and the use of the Musicolor Method, I also realize there are other factors.

Parents of preschoolers are generally more involved with their children’s lives.  They want to be there and look forward to activities they can share.  Practicing music is definitely a learned discipline that can benefit from this.

Preschoolers have a lot of passion and curiosity about music.  They are ready to learn!  It’s only recently that Universal Pre-K has become recognized around the world as a powerful way to affect society as a whole.

Young preschoolers at 3, 4 and 5 years of age are generally less busy.  They are not being booked with as many activities as older children and definitely less than teens.  The older the child, the more conflicting schedules!  

I have noticed that beginning around 8 years old, my students start to try to adjust their schedules to fit swimming, religion, soccer and other activities.  From middle school on, they have even more activities like traveling soccer teams or choruses and debate teams.  High schoolers also have a ton of homework and the beginnings of teen romance!  

Because I have started my students so young, we get to cover the basic groundwork of technique and basic concepts of reading music.  By the time the pop/rock/rap music or Broadway shows interest begins to blossom, we can actually start playing those kinds of songs instead of working on basics.  

So the next question is how do I teach a preschooler when they can’t even read?

We’ll cover that in the next article.


What Is The Hidden Elephant In The Room? Permission.

“Who gave you permission to do that?”

I’ve always marveled at people who can just go out and do things in several different fields.  They are the Leonardo Da Vinci’s of the world – true renaissance people who don’t allow the artificial labels and boxes to contain them.

There are examples of architects who are also creating furniture or smart phones or interior designs (Philippe Starck comes to mind).  Or photographers who also compose symphonies (Gordon Parks). Or fashion designers (Tom Ford) who are now directing films.  In the past, many famous names come to mind as being renaissance folks:  Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Michelangelo, Galileo, etc.

Who gave them permission to do these things?

It was no one but themselves.

Musicians and artists often struggle with permission to practice their craft.  They have to hustle!  Teaching is an opportunity but it seems many do not make it a priority.  After talking to many creative folks, I’ve discovered a few things.  There is a resistance to starting a business.  The reasons I heard include: lack of confidence, experience, a plan, focus, fear and more.  But behind all of this, I have discovered another reason…permission.

No one gave them permission.

As children, we are taught to always ask for permission.

“Can I go outside?”

“Can I have a snack?”

“Can I sleep over?”

It’s a natural part of every child’s life.  But for many, that habit created a pattern that is difficult to break.

Our society is organized around permission.  It sets structures for us to work, live and play within.  Color within the lines.  This hierarchy structure is necessary and useful, especially for safety reasons or for life and death industries like aerospace or medicine.  But, at some point we need to grow up and be adults.  Are we not going forth because we have not given ourselves permission?

“You don’t need to ask permission to take responsibility.” – Ed Catmull, President, Pixar

Jobs are being eliminated from the old structures of permission.  They are being replaced with the self-motivated work of responsibility.

Whether you are currently employed or self-employed, you have the opportunity to take full responsibility for your results:  financially, emotionally, mentally and socially.  Everything.  You don’t need to ask anyone’s permission.  You can just start doing it.

Of course, there are many other things that are required for success.   But it all begins with letting yourself take action.

Over the last few years, I have been training and coaching music teachers and business owners.

Here’s what one told me.

“The act of me agreeing to contractually pay you for the [coaching] immediately, concretely changed my mindset from an amateur to a professional.”

In some ways, you can see he had finally given himself permission to make this a focus.

No One Is Coming

This reminds me of the writings of psychologist Dr. Nathaniel Branden.  He is famous for several books including the Six Pillars of Self Esteem,  The Psychology of Self Esteem and others.

Throughout his books, there is a central theme: “No one is coming.”

In other words, there is no windfall.

There is no knight in shining armor riding up to save you.

There is no hero.

It is within you.

Give yourself permission…the elephant will wander off.