Inner Circle “Member Spotlights” give you a sneak-peek at the progress of one of our community members. Get inspired by what they’ve achieved, be heartened by their struggles and get motivated and share in their plans for the future.
What does your studio look like?
I have two studios, one purpose built beside my house in Mossman. My youngest and oldest students are four and 73 respectively. I have 22 students learning piano, guitar, uke, violin, electric bass and digital music production from beginner to Amus level. I also have a couple of Skype students that I teach from here.
I am currently expanding my teaching into mentoring teachers who are sitting for Certificate, Associate and Licentiate teaching exams. My second studio is one and a half hours drive away at St Anthony’s school in Dimbulah. I have 15 students there, both adults and under 18’s. I also have a small ensemble that I teach at lunch time for free to anyone who comes.
In Mossman, I organise six student concerts a year for students of all the music teachers in the area. There are usually about 50 students performing in two sessions at one of the local churches which has the only working acoustic piano in the area. I am also president of a group raising money to buy a grand piano to gift to the shire council so that all our students have a good piano to perform on. I have been nominated for an Aria Music Teacher of the Year award, which I am a little bemused but very excited about as well.
What concept, idea, app or strategy, has had the most positive impact on your studio and teaching recently?
Introducing digital music production with Garage Band into lessons. I don’t use it all the time but do it for a month a couple of times a year. It makes teaching fundamentals like beat, tempo, dynamics, chord families, balance in mixing, form and so forth, really easy and really relevant. I was looking for a way to engage a couple of students with learning disorders so decided to try it. I am interested in the alchemy of sound production anyway but hadn’t explored digital music production at all.
I started with a really steep learning curve and the first three lesson plans on beat and dynamics. It went really well to the point that one student just finished a slide show/story about his favourite computer game with appropriate backing music, which he created from scratch. After the first few lessons, I started using it with my other students and have found that it makes them really aware aurally of all the basic concepts of music really easily.
What was the biggest thing you did to achieve that outcome?
Going where no studio teacher has gone before! I couldn’t find any information or resources at all except a couple of sample lessons from Fun and Learn Music and some classroom lesson plans from Katie Wardrobe of Midnight Music. I had to conquer the fear of doing something really different without a reference or template to follow and worrying that it would not work or help the students. I was also worried I would be ridiculed by the other teachers in the area again as not being a serious or proper traditional teacher. I’m so glad I did it though. I have really been surprised by the aural improvement in all my students.
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How has your membership of the Inner Circle played a part in your development as a teacher?
Tim asks members how they would like to improve their teaching and business skills and produces podcasts and courses specifically targeted to members’ needs. It is a place where like-minded teachers from all over the world can connect with one another in a professional manner. I find this invaluable. We are living in an era of ‘over information’. We have to trawl through so much information to get to what is actually important so, Tim’s Inner Circle is a great place to find exactly what you need. Both of these things have made a large difference to my confidence as a teacher (I have always been non-traditional and have not fit well with my peers). It has also given me many ideas to include in my teaching.
Why did you decide to join the Inner Circle?
I joined because I had been following Tim’s blog and had seen him present at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference quite a long time ago. What he said resonated with me on many levels as a professional teacher and I wanted to support someone who was changing the direction of music teaching in a positive way. Keeping music teaching relevant to our students is for me the most important thing a teacher can do in their career, it should be what we base all our teaching decisions on.
What’s been the highlight of your membership so far?
Meeting and having conversations with other teachers. Also having an ever growing library of podcasts and courses to dip into whenever I want. My favourite podcast was the one about internet marketing just recently.
Tell us about your next big goal for your music studio and/or teaching? What does the big picture look like?
I am expanding my studio to include mentoring of trainee and apprentice teachers over skype. There seems to be a real need of one on one high level, quality teaching in this area. I feel it is important for newer teachers to have quality advice to help them develop their own goals and unique teaching style. This is to grow my business outside of the area where I live. I have been teaching for many years and have explored many teaching strategies with many different students in that time. I have also started and made successful five owner-operator studios in different countries, in my lifetime of following my engineering husband around the world. So I also have lots of small business experience.
What is one tool that you couldn’t live without and why?
I would have to say the internet. Because I am older, I spent half my teaching life without it, it didn’t exist! It is a tool I use multiple times a day for everything from book keeping to backing tracks, finding new resources and, because of my remote location, professional development. I know we don’t even think about it being in our lives because we use it all the time but it has changed teaching incredibly.
What’s the biggest challenge in your teaching or studio business right now and what strategies are you exploring to help?
Teaching in a small country town in a remote area and being the ‘non-local’ teacher, even after four years. Because of this it can be hard to get more students, even though I am one of the few teachers with any qualifications in my area.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new piano teacher (or someone considering it as a career), what would it be?
Keep learning and exploring. Don’t ever dismiss a learning opportunity as too hard or not relevant to you. Everything you learn has the potential to take you places you never dreamed of going.
The Inner Circle is growing into an amazing community that will change our teaching in many ways for a long time to come. I’m so glad Tim had the passion, vision, the persistence and energy to create this space for us.
Looking for more support in your teaching?
We’d love to have you join us inside the Inner Circle Community where you can get support, ask questions, access training and resources and feel 100% supported as you steer a path to your future. No need to feel alone in your teaching anymore – we’re here to help.
Members get access to expert teachers from around the world, a library of webinars and training videos to support your teaching, regular live and online hangouts and masterminds and a heap of bonus offers from our partners.
You can learn more about the Inner Circle Community here.