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Things I wish I'd known when I started my piano studio: "hat advice".

During her 40-year career as a music teacher, Jan Mouser, NCTM, has found that there is more to being an independent music teacher than just teaching. To operate a studio, one needs to wear many hats--financial planner, juggler and motivator, to name a few. Just in time for graduation, Mouser shares her insight with MTNA's collegiate members, both here in AMT, and during the Collegiate Exyo at the 2006 MTNA National Conference.

Wear the Hat of a Financial Planner

* Devise a small business plan.

* Start investing and open an IRA immediately.

* Charge what you're worth, plus a little more--be expensive.

* Whatever your tuition fee, insist on payment at the first of the month or term. Better yet, arrange for the same year-round income each month.

* Invest in disability insurance. You have no sick leave.

* Raise tuition fees every year. Don't agonize, just do it.

* Charge late fees.

* Charge a substantial annual registration fee to help replenish your library and equipment.

* Have parents sign a policy-tuition agreement yearly. Avoid being burned.

* Plan when relocating. Check zoning. When you're new, location is everything. Assume it takes a year or more to build a studio.

* Marry well (not necessarily wealthy). Fall in love with someone who understands the profession and has the same priorities. My husband insisted on having me personally choose a new Steinway B for one of my birthdays.

Wear the Hat of a Juggler

So many hats, so little time ...

* Don't work so hard. Find time to be an arts advocate in your community and state.

* Try not to teach half-hour lessons.

* Ask for your students' dawn-to-bedtime schedules.

* Devise "swap lists" for schedule conflicts. My policy states that there are no make-up lessons. Good idea.

* It's helpful to have an extra pair of hands. Hire a cleaning service. Barter for services.

* Exercise! Take care of yourself.

Wear the Hat of a Daily Motivator

* First motivate yourself. Take lessons. Travel. Go to conferences. Keep the vision.

* Teach music that gives you goose bumps. Give music kids can play-not too hard or too long. Once in a while, stretch them with something really challenging.

* Devise practice/technique contracts, charts and contests. Nothing kills motivation more than not practicing. Visit

* Easier said than done, but reduce dropouts. I take the "save the world" mentality. Keep kids coming together in groups to develop friendships and peer influence.

* Teach as if each year is their last year. Sometimes they quit and it may break your heart, but at least you've given them the best year you could.

* Educate parents before piano lessons begin. Help parents with ideas for encouraging their children at home. Keep communication lines open.

* Practice what you preach. Practice? Keep performing.

Things I Regret

* I wish I'd kept a journal about my teaching and performing.

* I wish I'd written down more student anecdotes and cute sayings.

* I wish I'd asked my college teacher, Dorothy Munger, more about her study with loser and Rosina Lhevinne.

* I wish I'd called my mentors more often for inspiration (like Barbara Wasson, Ohio, who at age 88, teaches at two universities and in her home studio.) I got busy. Advice--call, send e-mails and write thank you notes to your former teachers. It will make their lives worthwhile.

* I wish I'd taken more kids to concerts. Families don't always follow through.

* I wish I'd kept a studio scrapbook through the years. Presently, I have each student or family contribute a page per year.

Good Things I'm Doing

* I encourage at-home recitals. I see the student's piano and meet the family dog. I know the student and family in a unique way.

* I get up early and take students to breakfast when they have accomplished a significant goal.

* Yearly, I schedule a family-included recital in the summer.

* I let my hair down. I sometimes wear funny hats and try to keep a playful attitude. I dress professionally but occasionally "fall on the floor" when a piano miracle happens.

* I ask students to design recital covers. Through the years I have arranged for eight students to play concerto movements with their high school orchestra or band (this year the first movement of the Grieg).

I have infected hundreds of students with the love of music. A couple dozen or so have gone into the music profession. I have developed beautiful lifelong friendships. I continue to love teaching.

Jan Houser, NCTM, an independent piano teacher in Jefferson City, Missouri, is an active performer, church music director, past president of Missouri MTA, current state MTNA Foundation Fund chair and the 2003 Missouri MTA Teacher of the Year.
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Title Annotation:Forum Focus: Collegiate Chapters
Author:Houser, Jan
Publication:American Music Teacher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2006
Previous Article:Music advocacy: what counts is the seed.
Next Article:MTNA member survey results.

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