How do I expand my studio?

January 14, 2009 at 02:28 AM ·

So I need some suggestions on how to acquire private violin students.  I am a Suzuki teacher.  I'm actually part of a larger co-op group called San Diego Suzuki School of Music.  The idea is that we all teach from our homes and then we all chip in for group class on Saturday.  So I have the structures for a Suzuki studio in place.  Now I just need to get more students.  I started taking on students in October and currently have four now.

Here are some things I've tried/been doing:

-posted in craigslist

-the co-op does have a website so I do get some advertisement/inquiries from that source

-I've contacted a good number of private schools in my area to ask if they will distribute my flyer in their weekly envelop.  Some of them have agreed, others said they don't advertise for things not related to their school, and the rest I have not heard back from yet (it's only been a few days).

-I've put up a flyer in public areas that allow you to advertise in their space.  Like a smoothie shop by my house has a board you can tack up flyers on.  Things like that.


So yes.  I've been aiming for free advertisement.  I have thought about posting an ad in the newspaper.  But those are expensive and I'm really now sure the return would be worth the money.  Also keep in mind that I need to target parents/people who are interested in the long term.  This is why I contacted the private schools instead of public.  I figured those parents are already committed to private education for their kids.

Any other ideas?  Suggestions?  Comments?


Replies (29)

January 14, 2009 at 02:48 AM ·

How about trying to target adults too. I don't know but you could have a special formula for adults, or old folks or give a 2 in 1 lesson (I mean something as teaching the violin to the kid and mom or dad at the same time). You know, playing the violin is the dream of many adults but there is so much false stories about this... Maybe an orchestra for adult beginners would attract people because it is often hard for them to find partners to play with. It is important to show that it is acessible to all and you could maybe reinforce the fact that it is so healthy for the brain and can prevent alzaimer etc (maybe I'm getting a little too far here lol)

The main thing is to remember that the best publicity is often told from one person to another like we say in french (par le bouche à oreille) So if you have good pupils that want to play publically or enter contests gigs etc, it is good for you. 

It is just ideas like this since I'm not a teacher, it's hard to tell if they would really work or not...

Good luck!


January 14, 2009 at 04:24 AM ·

Create your own web-site.  You will want to make sure if someone googles "Violin + San Diego" (or a particular suberb of San Diego), you will appear in the results.  Google this yourself to find other teachers in the area and see what they are doing for on-line advertisements.

On your site, make sure you have enough information about yourself and your credentials, the level (& age) of student you are wanting to attract, schedule, studio address, studio policy, methods of contact, etc... 

You can also use your profile on this site in much of the same way.  If you have your own web-site, you can add a link to it.

January 14, 2009 at 05:04 AM ·

I spend plenty of time carping about public schools, but I was a product of them, as was a friend of mine; two former All-State concertmasters...I follow your logic, but as long as it's free then don't completely rule it out.  Definitely develop good relationships with ensemble directors at the schools, who may not be string players themselves. 

If you're giving a recital any time soon, that can get you some visibility.  If not, think about it. 


January 14, 2009 at 05:14 AM ·

The program I am part of does do recitals.  We do two recitals a year plus a parent meeting.  Adult students are always fine to have.  However, it's more difficult to target advertise "clumps" of them.  I'm a little wary of talking to public school band directors.  I've had a few bad experiences with that.  I've found that they tend to get very territorial even if they may not actually play the instrument themselves.  Like somehow I'll be stealing students from them...?

January 14, 2009 at 05:44 AM ·

One thing I'd like to add is my own experience in searching for a viola instructor.  I searched the web to find instructors in my area.  Then I reviewed where they were located specifically, what their studio hours were, what levels of students they took (beginners, intermediate, advanced, young, old, etc...), their teaching style, experience and music training.

From that I got a "short-list" of potential teachers.  I took that list to everyone I knew to get their input and advice if they had any.  When I lived in CA, I started with a "trial" lesson to determine fit with potential teachers.  At that time, I chose a teacher who recently graduated and was finishing conservatory with AT experience who taught not only Suzuki but other methods as well.  I ended up being her one and only adult student, but I didn't let that fact get in my way.  It was a learning experience for us both, and I think I got the greater benefit.

When I moved to OR, I repeated the same search method.  This time, I was involved in the music community and was able to recieve references from the local musicians.  This played a major role in who I chose to pursue as a teacher.  The feedback I got was "it depends on what you want to get out of lessons".  Ultimately, I chose a teacher that was also an active performer that had a reputation for being quite adventurous. 

Hope this helps.


January 14, 2009 at 08:03 AM ·

I talk to local orchestra directors (especially at elementary schools) when I have the opportunity at workshops, concerts, etc. and offer to do a free sectional or string clinic in exchange for being able to put up a lesson flyer.

I don't ever address the kids directly about studying with me. They really need to do it on their own, and many school teachers are able to say "hey, think about private lessons if you want to improve, and check out my bulletin board for contact information for local teachers" without actively endorsing any one particular studio.

Overall, it's important to support the school programs...many of those beginners in 4th and 5th grades would never play a string insturment unless they were given the chance to. At the program I teach, we pretty much require all 4th and 5th graders to play an orchestra or band instrument. ;) It's a wonderful thing...everyone gets a chance to try instrumental music, and they can bail once they get to middle school if it's not their thing. While I don't personally teach any of the kids privately that are in my school orchestra, I maintain a good working relationship with many of the local teachers...I send them a number of enthusiastic new students each year and in return I enjoy strong support for the ensemble training that I concentrate on. The kids then really feel like their lessons and their orchestra experience are related and relevant. It's an "everybody wins" situation. ;)

January 14, 2009 at 08:46 AM ·

Hey Gene,

Do you have names of anyone in L.A. that I could contact?  I'm thinking of taking students again, but since I'm still relatively new here, wasn't sure of anyone yet. 

January 14, 2009 at 09:50 AM ·

Hey Danielle!


Welcome to the boards! I had no idea you were apart of! How cool is that. Very small world!

January 14, 2009 at 01:26 PM ·

I forgot, put a picture of you and/or your pupils on the advertisments. Why? Because when we see that the person looks nice and kind, we are more encline to go towards him or her!  It helps to put the advertisment more "human"!


January 14, 2009 at 07:40 PM ·

Hey Paul!

I just joined like 2 days ago.  It looked like a helpful resource.

Why weren't you at training this last weekend??

January 14, 2009 at 07:41 PM ·

I thought about the picture thing.  The problem is that I'm mainly a violist.  I don't really have any adult pictures of me playing the violin lol.  Think that'll make a difference?

January 14, 2009 at 10:20 PM ·

There is a website called Lesson Portal where music teachers can post free listings. They have a presence on Facebook, also.

January 15, 2009 at 12:45 AM ·

I think that by not utilizing local public school programs you're not doing yourself any favors.  Why would an orchestra director not want his/her students to take private lessons?  I wish all my public school kids would take lessons.  Obviously I am a much better violinist than some of my student's private teachers but that doesn't bother me too much.  Even though they teach suzuki they're still help make my program better.  I don't have the time to teach my students privately and honestly I don't really want to either.  I know plenty of public school teachers like myself that wish for their young students to take lessons.

January 15, 2009 at 01:49 AM ·

Here's an example:

I teach an afterschool program at a public school.  The orchestra director is a guitarist and knows nothing about the violin.  He told all the kids to get bigger violins than the ones my program rented them.  The ones I had them playing on were correctly sized (they could touch their scrolls, slight bend in the arm, back was not arching from the weight).  The ones he had them rent were WAY too large (most of them couldn't even reach the fingerboard).  He finally came into my classroom one afternoon and basically yelled at me.  His reasoning being that because he has 40+ years of teaching experience and could name drop, he therefore knew better.  I calmly explained why you size a kid down instead of up on a violin.  He ended up storming out of the classroom.

Needless to say, I've been a bit wary.

January 15, 2009 at 01:52 AM ·

"Even though they teach suzuki they're still help make my program better."

Suzuki kids are almost always excellent students.  Look up to see what the method actually teaches as oppposed to the stereotype.

January 15, 2009 at 02:53 AM ·

Thank you for your suggestion, Glenda.

I will look into the musicpeeps site.

January 15, 2009 at 08:06 AM ·

Hi again,


This is indeed a very helpful site. I've been here for about 3 years.


I actually had no idea that there was training. What is it for? Would it be possible to observe one of these days? It'd be nice to see Michele George again.

January 15, 2009 at 08:11 AM ·


Didn't  you go to the first weekend?  Or am I thinking about book four training?

Michele is doing book 1 again.  She's splitting it up over the course of a few weekends instead of all at once.  Next round will start the last Friday in February I think.

January 15, 2009 at 02:56 PM ·

hey, why don't you send Ms. D an email? we talked about this a little bit in S. ped last semester and how she built up the program here.

and side note, our vla section misses you... very much.

good luck :)

January 15, 2009 at 04:20 PM ·

One bad experience with a music teacher shouldn't put you off public schools in general.  It's elitist and unrealistic.  I was a product of the public schools as many of my colleagues were and we were in need of good private teachers too, not just our rich private school counterparts.  Concerning the suzuki method - I don't discount it or look down on it as a method, I just don't agree with it.  Evenso I wouldn't prohibit an orchestra student of mine from pursuing it in any sense.  I have a masters degree in education so I don't rely on stereotypes of the method, I'm well qualified to have an opinion of it.  Welcome to by the way.  By no means do I mean to start an anti-suzuki argument, but there are many musicians out there that either like it or they don't, don't take it personally.

January 15, 2009 at 04:46 PM ·

to answer the original question,,,

still comes down to this:  provide current students with lessons that they are so excited about that they just cannot help telling everyone else about it.   

easier to communicate with people you already know than chatting up strangers.

diploma, certificates, seminars, etc is good to have but cannot replace or come close to the book that each violin teacher needs to write and preach to each individual student.  

January 15, 2009 at 06:50 PM ·


I did not take the comment personally, nor did I orignally bring up the argument.  In your eariler post you said "Even though they teach suzuki they're still help make my program better."  To me, that is a needless brush off and bias on your part.  It's about as relavant as me saying "Even though the kid was from New York, he still contributed to my orchestra."

As far as public schools go, I do not discount those kids.  I never have.  It's the directors that concern me.  However, I will look into spreading the word there.

January 15, 2009 at 06:48 PM ·

Hey Alayna!

I did actually email Ms. D many a moon ago.  She never replied and I never got around to shooting her another one.  Perhaps I should do so....

How's the UE orchestra sounding?  Is the viola section dead lol?

January 16, 2009 at 03:36 AM ·

Just a suggestion based upon my experience as a parent. First, tell your parents you have open schedules. Also, consider if your Suzuki program is flexible. We had terrible issues with schedules when we were with our Suzuki teachers and the group lesson. Needless to say, we left Suzuki quickly in favor of a more individualized approach. The teachers require that you do the group lesson and the private lesson, so if for some reason you can't do both, they determine that the parents are not serious somehow.This is the reason our boys left Suzuki. Very little flexibility was available and our boys needed to do homework and spend family time on the weekends. One of our group lessons went really late when the boys were very little. We were getting home after their bedtime. Another thing to consider is that older students can stay up later so move their lessons later in the evening. Little ones can't alway go to school all day and then drive to a lesson and drive home and do homework. As others have suggested, schools have the children during the best hours of the day and should not be dismissed too quickly. If you want to only teach from home, I suggest you put a few high schoolers after supper and open the early slots up for younger children who need to go to bed earlier. Also, why not offer the little ones lessons on Saturday instead of group lessons on Saturday. Saturday morning is a terrible time for many families and I think many drop Suzuki due to the group requirement at a certain age. As the students get older, unison playing is not as compelling as when the students are younger.

January 16, 2009 at 03:33 AM ·

orch is....well it's orch. we have three vla's. we lose two or maybe all three next year... and we are playing ravel and bernstein. :)

ms. D had a lot of family stuff to take care of this semester, but we are looking forward to her being back at school full time this semester.

maybe you could try having some of your students and yourself giving a recital in the public schools, that's how our jr and sr high orchestras recruited, we played at all the elementary schools.

January 16, 2009 at 04:11 AM ·

That's a good suggestion, Alayna.  I'll maybe look into that.  See if I can arrange something.  I heard about Ms. D and her mom.  Very sad =(



You make some good points.  Saying that my schedule is somewhat flexible could be a very good selling point.  Schools do tend to hog more than their fair share of time =S  Group class is always more difficult to work in.  We do ours on Saturdays as well and it really comes down to "well what day really IS good for everyone always at the same time?" 

The group class is required becuase of the peer impact, not just unison playing.  Growing up with the same set of kids in violin class while your school classmates and teachers are constantly changing is a very powerful thing.  It's very much a bonding experience and those who consistently went to group as children are far more likely to continue playing well into their adult life (professionally or not).


January 16, 2009 at 04:37 PM ·

I don't have anything to add about recruitment, but I do have a comment about retention.  I would recommend that you write a business plan, and put in writing what your goals are for your students,  the services you will be providing for your students in order to reach those goals, and your specific expectations you will hold your students to.

If you are going the private/group Suzuki route, make sure that you have your studio attendance policy in writing for the parents.  Go over this policy with new parents.  Transparent communication is the best way to keep retention rates high.  Make sure that the students, and their parents, are on board with  your vision for their musical education.

As far as "Open Schedules" go, you could offer weekly in-home lesson visits.  If you choose to go this route, be sure that you are fairly compensated for travel time, travel costs, and general inconvenience. 

Good luck!


July 18, 2009 at 06:17 AM ·

This may sound crazy...but has anyone tried advertising with paper doorhangers?  I will be moving to a new city soon and will need to build a studio quickly.  It's just one of many ideas I have.

July 18, 2009 at 10:28 PM ·

I've tried posting flyers in coffee shops and such.  Never got a call or email.  I have been steadily getting more and more students since I originally posted my question.  But it has all been from word of mouth.  It seems to be the best albeit slower form of advertisement.

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