Teaching Music This Summer?

Eric Branner

May 10, 2017

Summer will be awesome for your teaching business. Here are some ideas that keep a studio thriving over the summer months!

Hey! Shouldn’t You Be Practicing?! Hey! Shouldn’t You Be Practicing?!

Summer is coming! The teaching forums light up this time of year. Music teachers and academic tutors often express anxiety over staying gainfully busy over the sunny months. Perhaps you’re worrying about students going on vacation and not taking as many lessons? Or students wanting a temporary or permanent break from lessons over the summer? It’s easy to feel nervous about an impending summer…

Don’t fret! You will survive! You will thrive! This summer will be awesome.

I’ve made it through 18 summers as a full-time, private music teacher. In the early years, summers could be lean months. Students were off to camps, on vacations, playing video games, and just needing a break from the structure of the school year. Over the years, I learned that summer is actually the best time to learn!

Think about this...

If you’re teaching now, you probably spent your childhood summers beefing up on your practice. Perhaps you went to interest-specific camps to get better at your craft. I spent all four of my high-school summers practicing 4–8 hours a day. I took extra lessons with new teachers. I had the bandwidth and time to get on a serious practice schedule and commit to it. I was so happy!

Here are some ideas to make this summer your favorite and most productive ever:

1. Teach Your Best Students More Lessons! Use Summer Intensives

Every year, I ask a few of my really fiery, passionate students if they’d like to use the summer break to get WAY better. I offer additional private sessions and groups…sometimes three per week. What a win-win.

You get to spend more time with your favorite students, and they get a lot better. Your less motivated students can take a healthy break too, and you won’t lose any income or teaching time. You can be so creative with how you spend this time… try some new methods, technique, theory, repertoire, and improvisations, for example.

2. Summer Camps!

Conduct summer camps for your current students and their friends. You can also market your camps locally to attract new customers. There are a million great resources on how to do day camps, so I won’t go too deeply into it here.

I’ve taught groups of friends, entire families, and business groups how to play music together. I generally do mornings or afternoons, five days of a week, culminating in a performance.

My most favorite camp, “Camp Branner,” occurs late in summer. I take my top high school students on a week-long excursion. We rent a lodge in the North Cascade Mountains, set it up as a recording studio, and spend the week practicing, jamming, and performing! The overnight camp is a whole different trip than the day camp, and I encourage it only when you’ve got a quiver of rock-solid, trustworthy students.

Happy Campers! Camp Branner Happy Campers! Camp Branner

3. Seize the Day! Day Teaching

Summers are awesome. Students aren’t in school! You can schedule lessons whenever you like.Teach day times instead of the school-year evenings. Offer lessons in the morning and watch your calendar fill up.

Often, families want to get out and enjoy summer afternoons and evenings. I’ve found that evenings are difficult to keep packed during the summer months.

So, embrace the summer. … Go outside and get some vitamin D in the afternoons. Meet your friends at a patio bar for dinner, because you won’t be able to come the fall!

4. Teach New Students!

Summer is a great time to hustle and get new students, or pull from your waiting list if you have one. I always start a ton of new students over the summer while many current students are on vacation. At summer’s end, I rebuild my fall schedule from the students that are best suited to my studio… and send the rest to other teachers. This has been a path to great vibes in my studio for the last decade.

5. Plan a Show or Project!

At summer’s end, I host my annual Guitarbeque. More than 200 people show up to eat great food, and hear friends and family perform their best repertoire.

This event is my numero uno way to keep all students engaged and motivated over the summer. I love hosting the event, students love performing, families love watching. I’ll add that this recital is the only marketing I do for my teaching business aside from word of mouth.

You could also consider a rad summer project for your teaching studio. You could rent out a recording studio for a day, and have your students record some music. You could create outreach performance opportunities. Farmer’s markets & retirement communities love some live music! Mix it up.

6. Get Your Business Together!

This summer can be the summer you really dial in your business. Maybe it’s time to automate your payments and scheduling, give up invoicing, and enforce that cancellation policy you’ve been so lax about. You can save ten hours a week and countless stress headaches by adopting something like Fons for your studio.(I’d be happy to show you how I automate my studio if you’d like. Just ask.)

If you feel great about how your business operates, the first month of summer is the time to forecast how you want to grow your business over the next year. The natural lull in regular students offers a window to consider raising your rates, setting your schedule, and growing your studio. Set some goals!

6. Take Time To Recharge! Go With the Flow!

These tips will help you stay fed and sheltered over the summer months. However, some teachers love a reduced teaching load that can naturally occur with summer. If you can swing it, a break is a lovely thing. Taking a few weeks, or even a month off from your teaching schedule does wonders for the spirit. I know it’s scary to imagine your students running off to another teacher… but they won’t. And if they do, it was time!

Happy Days

Living in Seattle has really inspired me to enjoy the sunny days and relaxed schedule of summer. We’ve had perhaps the gloomiest winter of weather EVER! Seattle outdid itself this winter! Summer is going to be awesome.

I hope these ideas give you a bit of comfort and inspiration for the coming season. We’d love to hear your ideas for how you make summers work! Let us know your secrets to awesome summers in the comments below!

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