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This isn’t the first time I’ve written about being a private music teacher. I’ve previously blogged about 10 Things I’ve Learnt in 18 Years as a Private Music Teacher, 8 Myths of Private Teaching, and Reflections on Private Teaching: The First 20 Years. I also wrote a 100,000-word thesis on the subject of private teaching! I’ve been teaching for 21 years, and if you’re a private music teacher too, then you’ll know that no two weeks are ever the same. In this blog post, I wanted to share something of one of my weeks. Everything written here is what I remembered to write down each day, so I’m sure I’ve missed lots, but nevertheless, I hope this gives you a flavour of a week in the life of a private music teacher!
Monday mornings have traditionally been ‘admin mornings’, and this week is no exception. I’m still teaching a few people online, so on Monday morning each week, I set up meetings for those who use Zoom, and email lesson invites and links. I also send out invoices using MyMusicStaff to those who book their lessons on a flexible basis. On Mondays, I send out these invoices for the week ahead. Within minutes, some have already paid, so if it hasn’t happened automatically, I record these payments in MyMusicStaff.
Every day of the week starts in a similar way as I check my bank accounts and record any accounting transactions in QuickBooks. These days, the bank connects automatically, so it’s just a case of categorising transactions, though even then, QuickBooks is pretty good at remembering repeat transactions.
I’m currently mentoring three teaching diploma candidates, and two have emailed over the weekend, so I spend some time replying to them. A lesson enquiry has also come in over the weekend, but I add that to Tuesday’s to-do list as I need time to read and digest the email. I open up my teaching studio (nothing glamorous, a converted garage) and get out the pile of books I need for today. I have letter trays for each day of the week where I stack books up, so it’s pretty quick.
I have just seven (four piano, one flute and two singing) lessons to teach between 2pm and 7pm. Five out of the seven are adult learners. The first is working on Debussy and Bach, whilst the second is working on some Chaminade for her DipLCM. I can teach a huge variety of music every day, and today is no exception. The last lesson ends with a renaissance lute song, ‘Oft have I sigh’d’.
I send lesson notes using MyMusicStaff, so scribble notes by hand during the lesson, and type these up when I finish. By the time I’ve finished typing these up and emailing them, it’s close to 8pm, and time to get some fresh air!
This week, my timetable feels like it’s turned into a game of musical chairs, so the first part of the morning is spent rearranging some lessons, some to later in the week, and some to later in the month. After Monday’s later finish, I have to clear up the music I’ve left scattered over the top of the piano. Luckily, it’s easily remedied. Music which needs putting back in the bookshelves goes in a ‘to put away’ tray; it means I don’t have to spend time searching where it goes, and can have a mass putting-away session during the holidays.
It’s the 7th of the month, and that day when I follow up any unpaid invoices. Luckily, there are very few of these, and after a little reminder sent via MyMusicStaff payment is always promptly made.
I’m hoping one student is ready to record one of her LCM Grade 4 pieces, so I check the settings on my iPad to ensure we don’t end up with too big a file. Another student has just sent his last LCM Grade 5 piece, so we’re ready to submit them. I send an invoice for the exam in return, but the recorded exams are far easier to coordinate than face-to-face ones!
A student whom I taught previously got in touch about restarting lessons, so I reactivate her on MyMusicStaff and reset her login and password so she can book a lesson. It’s always great to hear from previous students who want to start again. She’s the second one this week; the first one I taught over 10 years ago.
Today I’m teaching another seven (four piano, two flute and one singing) lessons between 2pm and 7pm. I used to teach much later. Before COVID I was teaching until 8:30pm and in the early days, 20 years ago, I often taught until 9pm or 9:30pm. I wouldn’t dream of doing that now. These days, with a healthy number of adult learners, I no longer need to teach so late, and to be honest I prefer it that way.
Some of my students are in the midst of GCSEs and A-Level exams, so are naturally stressed and tired. I always encourage my students to continue their lessons even during these periods because it offers half an hour a week where they can take a break and relax a little. Some are still managing to make good progress, including one who has just submitted his recordings for LCM Grade 5 Piano.
One student gets another piece recorded for her LCM Grade 4 piano, and we make plans to record another next week. Recording in a lesson, whilst time-consuming, is, in my experience, more productive, because they get instant feedback from me.
The final student of the day wants to practise a song for a school show, but alas, she doesn’t have the music, and neither do I, so we put that to one side. Again, the day ends with typing up lesson notes and sending these by email.
I don’t normally teach on Wednesdays, so it tends to be a day for catching up. Today I need to finish writing a review to be published tomorrow, and start writing my monthly newsletter, Creative Notes, which goes out at the weekend. I’ve got some DipABRSM quick study recordings to listen to and give feedback on, and some music to copy and print out for lessons on Thursday.
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I value having a day in the week when I can catch up, otherwise, as we well know, admin can pile up. I’ve written most of my review, but finish it off by adding the affiliate links and images. Once complete and checked, I schedule it to be published tomorrow, and set myself a reminder to check it’s gone on OK. Then, I schedule it to go out on social media. I schedule new blog posts and reviews twice on the day their published, then again the following week, and the following month. I’m expecting this review to bring quite a bit of traffic to my website, so it’s worth a bit of extra effort. Of course, I then realise I need to write next week’s blog post, having got a little bit behind with these, so I make a start on that.
Another private music teacher gets in touch to ask if I have a piece of music from a previous exam syllabus, so I hunt that out, scan it in and send it over. By now, most people realise I’ve got rather (too much?) a lot of sheet music.
Today, we’re having the flat roof replaced, so there is a lot of noise outside, making it hard to concentrate. That said, I’m glad I’m not trying to teach over it!
Thursday morning turns out to be one of those where as fast as you deal with some emails, more come in. As I’ve written about before, I’ve set fairly strict boundaries about dealing with emails. I aim to reply to all within 48-hours, but even then, some need a more immediate response. Luckily, most can be dealt with quite quickly, which is lucky, as I’ve got a piano lesson to teach at 11:30. I grab 10 minutes after the lesson to type up the lesson notes, in addition to reading another three emails which have come in.
My scheduled review went live at 12noon, so I spend a bit of time sharing it online and responding to replies. The rest of the day is fairly full teaching-wise, with 2:30-4pm and 5-7pm all booked today. Four out of today’s seven students are adults, and of the remainder, 15 is the youngest. Today brings three piano lessons, two flute lessons, and two singing lessons.
I’m already checking for my LCM exam result by logging in fairly frequently. The system states to check back after two weeks, but others tell me they’ve had results sooner, and you don’t get an email when they arrive!
One of my afternoon students wants to practise some of her choir parts, and luckily, she’s brought copies for me too. I’m always happy to do this in lessons, and Ola Gjelo’s Seasons is new to me, but sounds pretty. I love that nearly every week, I still come across pieces of music I don’t know. Two students are in the middle of exams (one A-Levels and the other with two weeks of mocks coming up). The final lesson of the day has to be adjusted as I’ve lost a page out of the vocal selections for Matilda. Sometimes, we really do keep ourselves on our toes! Lesson notes typed up, I’m done by 8pm, and once again, time to get outside and some fresh air.
Following the musical chairs earlier in the week, today turns out to have only three lessons, although they end up being spread out between 11:30am and 5:30pm. I don’t mind too much as there’s plenty of time in between them to get other things done. By 10:30am I’ve dealt with the morning’s emails including replying to a parent to update them about their child’s progress, and replying to a lesson enquiry. We’re mulling over whether we need a new piano stool so I have a quick search online to see what’s available. It’s 10 years old, and the seat was reupholstered (not terribly well) about two years ago. It’s got to the stage where I’m not wild about sitting on a hard board for several hours a day, and I don’t think it does my back any good! They are expensive: as a private music teacher, I’m not made of money.
The first student of the day has a bit of a breakthrough: not bad for a Friday! It’s lovely when these happen, although I’d be lying if I said they happen every day!
I finish off my monthly newsletter, adding the final touches and links, then schedule it ready to go out on Sunday. It’s a bit of a labour of love, and I never really know if people enjoy it, but I keep it up, and once again, enjoy the writing.
We grab time out to pop into town after lunch. It’s very hot, and very crowded, and I make it back just in time for my 3:30pm lesson. The last student of the day is, as we’ve all been, disappointed to find that all the songs she wants to sing are on the same list of the exam syllabus, so some negotiating at a later date will need to take place.
Overall, it’s been a busy week, and like everyone, I’m glad to have made it to Friday!
Even as a private music teacher, there’s not a huge amount of admin to do today, as I decide all the emails can wait until Monday. We need a break sometimes. I have to confess, after a week’s teaching, I often need a break from music at the weekend. That said, some new music arrives, and I have fun playing through it.
I also take the opportunity to unpick Wendy Stevens’s Rhythm Cups resources. I bought them just before the first lockdown, so they haven’t really had much use yet. It’s good to be able to try these out (some of them are surprisingly tricky!) I upload the audio tracks to Google Drive so I can use them during lessons.
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