Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How Do Parents and Students Choose a Music Teacher?

A friend of mine spent over a thousand dollars a year ago to put a prominent ad in a local paper in order to market her studio prominently. The result was only a handful of calls, none of them serious inquiries. How is this possible? Aren't ads supposed to be the most effective marketing tool?

One of the trickiest things about music education is putting the right students together with the right teachers. Look at the pages of music journals and you would be surprised how little you find on the subject.

For students and parents, the problem is how to find the right teacher. What criteria does one use? Price? Education? Distance?

For teachers, the problem is how to find the right high-quality students. How to advertise? With flyers? In the paper? On the internet?

Katherine Goins in the July Piano Pedagogy Forum attempts to find the answers to these questions. In The Music Teacher Selection Process: Establishing a Reputation for Teaching Excellence, she discusses the results of a survey she circulated among parents and students asking questions about how they identify factors in the music teacher selection process.

Her results showed that 82% of respondents cited word of mouth as the most important factor. Of the nearly 50% of parents who thought a difference existed between music lessons and other activities, Katherine writes:

For this group of parents, program reputation, philosophy, and teacher quality played an important role in the decision process, outweighing factors such as location, cost, and other opportunities.

Her most important conclusion was that reputation does matter, as does networking and joining professional organizations for teachers. Perhaps the most successful trajectory for a teacher is a long tail phenomenon where up-front advertising is less important than having a dedicated core of students and parents who will over time spread the word about their positive musical experiences and put their friends in touch with the teacher that inspired them.

A Parent's Guide To Piano Lessons - sheet music at A Parent's Guide To Piano Lessons By Jane Smisor Bastien. Bastien Piano. Special Bastien Books. Music Book. Published by Neil A. Kjos Music Company. (WP29)
See more info...


  1. Anonymous3:12 PM

    Thanks Chris, good article!
    -Olga T.

  2. Great post on ideas about teacher reputation, Chris!

    I thoroughly agree with Katherine Goins's conclusions on this topic. I've been developing my current private studio for five years now and can say that a good deal of my new recruits come directly from my circle of families or their close friends. People also seem to recognize quality teaching if a teacher retains good students: these students can often show solid, continuous development through recitals and other public performance events over the years.

  3. Olga and Josh, thanks for the comments. I was glad to see Katherine's article, especially given all the current buzz about internet teacher directories, which so far don't convince me as a place to find quality students.