Especially if you’re starting up a studio in a new town, one of the best and cheapest ways to let people know about your studio is to meet lots of people. In spite of the fact that I write a blog that hundreds of people read every week, I’m really a huge introvert. The need to market my studio has pulled me out of my shell, and I’m better for it. So is my enrollment!
1. Get involved in the local music teacher’s associations. You might think that since you’re competing with these teachers for students that they wouldn’t be supportive, but I’ve found the exact opposite to be the case. My local MTA is made up of a wonderful group of folks who are quick to offer advice, support, and student referrals. In fact, they’re my second best source of referrals after my current students.
2. Get involved in your church music program. First of all, it’s just the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t generate students. Secondly, it will introduce you to other people who are interested in music and help to build your reputation.
3. Get involved in your local arts association. If you can afford it, purchase a business membership for your studio. Not only will this will introduce you to other people who are supportive of music education, it displays that you are supportive of other arts ventures in the community. Your business name is likely to be listed on their membership and displayed on their website and other public listings. Join other arts groups, too. For instance, the American Guild of Organists is made up of organists and choral directors who work with young musicians at their churches, and you don't have to be an organist to join.
4. Get involved in almost anything that includes moms. Whether it’s a group that meets on a regular basis – a knitting group, book club, or bunco klatch, or whether it’s occasional get-togethers that you might have passed on, get out and go. Even those home sales parties offer opportunities to introduce yourself and tell others what you do. Be sure to take several business cards to those! Always be ready with an anecdote or comment about "my students." The other person will say, "Oh, what do you teach?" And you're off...
5. Be involved in anything that allows you to play regularly in public. Play for your church. Volunteer to help out the elementary school chorus. Play for the residents at a retirement home. If you are not already contracted to play for a church, you might send a letter to some area churches indicating that you are available as a fill-in. Most places will be thrilled to know of someone they can call on when their regular pianist is on vacation. (Be prepared to tell them what you charge per service and rehearsal. AGO offers a salary guide for organists that is applicable for pianists, too. Choose a fee within the given range that is appropriate for your education, experience, and going rates among other local musicians.) The more you put your skills on display, the more you build your reputation and attract students. At the same time, you’re providing a valuable service to the community.
6. Strike up conversations wherever you are. It helps if you're Southern, like I am. We consider it downright rude if you don't pass the time of day with the person standing in line near you at the grocery store! Being chatty opens up lots of opportunities to tell people what you do. When I bought flowers at a florist shop recently for my recital, I mentioned to the cashier what they were for, and she now displays my business cards at her shop.
If you patiently keep up efforts like these, news of your studio will begin to percolate. Always have business cards ready, because there's nothing worse than a mom saying to another mom, "I met this lady at the book club who teaches piano, but now I can't remember her name..." Also, be sure to pace yourself in these efforts. I have made the mistake of moving into a new community and jumping into too many activities all at once and becoming overextended.The key here is patience. Building a reputation takes time, but in most cases, if you get out and become active in your community, you'll reap the rewards in enrollment within the space of a year.
Photo by CraigMarston.