Save $10 on your next Woodwind and Brasswind order!

“Music is an expensive business.” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this, I probably wouldn’t need to teach any more lessons. So, when it comes to supplies and maintenance for my own personal performing, I’m always looking for a deal. Coupon codes, flash sales, email lists, you name it.

Music Studio Teacher is now happy to announce $10 off you next order at Woodwind and Brasswind thanks to Ebates. The process is quite simple. First sign up for a free ebates account through our link below.


Click here to use our link!


Next, log onto your ebates account and search Woodwind and Brasswind. Follow the ebates link over to WWBW and simply shop as normal. Within a few weeks you will receive at check for $10 in the mail.

Its free, Its simple, and its more likely to work out than asking a middle schooler for a check from their parents!


*Note-you must use our link to receive this offer.

Assigning music: the struggle is real

How many of you have lived through the all too common frustration of assigning music to your students?

In my case, this is never an easy process. Many schools require students to have an original copy when performing for an event such as solo and ensemble or chamber music festivals. I know some teachers who lend out of their own personal library but you run the risk of your music never being returned, or worse. Coming back like this…..

👆That is a real life example from a student of mine. NOT dramatized 😱

Usually, students are not very proactive when it comes to getting copies of their music. If they, or their parents, don’t act on making the purchase within a day of your lesson, there is no hope of the student getting the music for the following week’s meeting. Many times, it can be weeks or months before the music arrives. And, don’t even get me started with back orders! This not only delays the student’s progress, but makes your teaching less effective, as you have to cut educational corners in order to get the piece performance ready for the ever looming deadline. That is, when they remember to bring their music at all….

Ah, memories of the time my student brought only his non-transposed piano part with him to his lesson…….😭

Over the years I have developed a three pronged approach to successfully assigning music.

I. I assign the music two weeks ahead of time. This way we are delayed only one week in the worst case scenario.

II. I send the exact URL link to the page for the specific piece. Parents are usually not as successful if I simply tell them to get the Handel Sonata for their student.

III. I recommend a sheet music vendor I can trust.

With the diverse body of chamber music available for performers, it is important to use a vendor who specializes in this type of literature. My professional experience has led me to go with Groth Music (formerly known as Eble music) for my personal and studio needs. The folks at Groth always have what I need to assign in stock and usually ship same day, so students will have it before their next lesson! Also, all music at Groth is always 10% off, and they offer 20% off for teachers each August! (Yes, private teachers count 😃)

One last thing to be aware of is the ever changing prescribed music list in your area. Many states have a database of music that students can select from. Unfortunately, this list sometimes changes from year to year and private teachers are the last, if ever, to be notified of these changes. I once made the mistake of assigning a piece that had been removed from the list! That was not a teacher of the year moment. 😳

Announcing our first contest!

We are excited to partner with D’Addario to announce our first contest to win a free lesson with:

Mark Nuccio

Richie Hawley

Jonathan Gunn

Stephen Page

IN order to enter, please subscribe to our email list at the top of the page.  Then, keep an eye on your inbox for instructions later this month on how to enter this free contest.

Now Playing: Your Student on a Good Instrument

By Cindy Hallo


SCENE: Tiny 4X4 practice room, mid-morning. The unsuspecting female teacher sits waiting for her student (who’s probably in the band room talking to her friends). A thick fog rolls in.

STUDENT: (bounding into the practice room) “Ms. Hallo! Guess what? I got a new clarinet over the break!” Holds case up proudly.

TEACHER: “That’s so exciting!” (Suddenly she notices the brand name on the case reads ‘Schmelmer. The fog gets thicker. A lightening bolt streaks across the sky. Somewhere, a lone wolf howls). “Can I see it?”

STUDENT: “Of course!” (Hands over case).

TEACHER” (Takes a deep breath. Unlatches case slowly. Lid opens with a loud, echoing creak. Teacher peers in, dreading what she will find).

TEACHER: (Raises hands to the sky, wailing) “Noooooooooooooooooo!”


Has this ever happened to you? Well, maybe not this exact thing. Lightening has probably never struck in your practice room. And don’t even ask me where that wolf came from.

But I’m sure we’ve all felt that sense of horror when a student proudly brings in a brand new instrument after Christmas break, and it’s some off brand you’ve never heard of. Maybe it’s missing keys. Or maybe it has a few extra keys that you’re not even sure what they do. Or maybe it looks pretty darn good…until you start playing it.

Look, we all love a good deal. No one more than me. I’m the girl that’ll buy 16 of the same item just so I can get that $10 Target gift card. (Note to self: Is that really saving money? Must think about this more). But a musical instrument is NOT the same as sixteen tubes of toothpaste.

Tell your student’s parents to think of an investment in an instrument like an investment in a car. Sure, that $500 Saturn will get you from Point A to Point B, but at about ten miles under the speed limit and you’ll probably have to hold the air conditioner on while you drive. Would they really want their kid driving that car anyway??

But what about EBay or Craigstlist you may ask? I’ll be the first to admit there are some great deals to be had on these sites. The problem comes in when you have to spend $80 in shipping that instrument you’ve never even play tested off EBay or have to drive 100 miles round trip to someone’s house to discover they definitely DID NOT post truthful photos about that trumpet on Craigslist. Unless they just did some artful photography to hide the fact that it looks like it’s been run over by a semi truck.

Luckily for us private teachers, Brook Mays Music can prevent this tragedy from ever occurring again in your studio. Say your student (or their parent) lets you know they’re in the market for a new instrument. In a perfect world, you’d get to try several instruments, pick 1 or 2 that you like the best, then allow your student to try those instruments out during a lesson or outside of lesson hours. At least this is my perfect world. Maybe with some sort of nachos on the side. I’m on Whole30 right now and haven’t had cheese in 14 days, and it’s literally all I can think about. Bare with me.

With Brook Mays….THIS CAN HAPPEN (not the cheese part, the instrument testing part). They will happily deliver instruments directly to your school so during your off period, when you’d be playing Super Mario Run anyway, you can try them out and pick the one you feel would be the best bet for your student. I know some teachers who charge for this service – I mean you are giving up precious Facebook time. Most parents are grateful for the extra help. I don’t know about y’all, but most of my student’s parents aren’t musical and tend to be pretty lost when it comes to buying anything related to the clarinet. I’m positive it’s the same way for all of the other instruments you guys teach. Sure, they’ll branch out when it comes to accessories (this is also how I get some pretty questionable reed choices, but that’s a blog post for another day), but an instrument is just a tad more expensive. They want something that’s worth their money and will last. That Schmelmer clarinet does not fit that criteria. Honestly, you might as well wad up $200 and flush it down the toilet.

So the next time you’re looking to play test a new instrument for your student, give Brook Mays a call. They have four locations across DFW, and four in Houston, and are eager to help serve the private teaching community!




**This post wasspomsored by Brook Mays, but all opinions are my own. I take quality and service very seriously when it comes to my students, and I wouldn’t promote something I don’t feel strongly about.

9 Must Have Apps for Every Private Teacher

by Jen Zimmerer

If you’re like me and teach private lessons full time, you probably have a lot to carry and keep track of. I teach around 65 students per week and travel to 8 schools and several homes. The less I have to tote around with me, the more organized I am and the less I sweat running between my car and lessons! I am able to consolidate A LOT of my resources by using mobile apps and websites on my phone and iPad. Here is a quick rundown of how I use these tools to run my studio:


If you want to remember who you’re teaching when, who owes you money, and what each student is working on, you need to develop a bookkeeping and note taking system. The busier you are, the more crucial this is! I have eliminated my mileage log, bulky planner, payment log, and lesson notes by moving all of those things to a digital format.

1 MileIQ App
I write off a TON of mileage and often I just have enough time in my car to get from one school to the next. This app tracks when I’m driving and creates the log for me, so I just classify personal versus business miles. The free version tracks 40 drives per week, so if you want to turn the tracking on and off or only write off a few drives per week, this is a good option. I pay for the full version because I average more like 140 drives per month. You can also start to auto-classify your drives if you visit the same places often. The auto-classify option ends up saving me a lot of time! The app will give you monthly and annual views and is ready to go at tax time when you need your final business mileage for the year.

2 Google Drive and Google Sheets
I use Google Sheets to write out my weekly schedule, track payment, and sync these to all of my devices. I can share my schedule with band directors, students, and parents so they can view (not edit) my schedule. This is most helpful for schools where band only meets every other day on an A/B schedule. Others can view the document in real time to see any recent updates or changes. I also use google sheets to track lesson payment. I have students who pay with cash, check, and even online so I need to be able to record payment whenever I receive it. If a student shows up at the end of my teaching day with cash in hand and I don’t record it on the spot, I will certainly forget and be hassling them the next week unnecessarily!

3 Evernote
Evernote is my note-taking app of choice to keep all of my students’ information and progress straight. This app allows you to create “notebooks” and then notes therein with text, photos, and reminders. You can customize this to suit your needs, but I create a notebook with each student’s name and then have notes such as: profile (school, grade, equipment info), repertoire (there’s nothing worse than forgetting what solos you assign from year to year), progress (lesson notes, individual needs, lesson planning), and audition notes (photos of solo/ensemble score sheets, honor band results, etc.).

4 Camscanner
There are numerous scanning apps to photograph and save music in PDF form. This helps me keep an archive of audition music, scale studies, excerpts, etudes, and solos that my students do not have to purchase for lessons. This comes in handy when I teach Skype lessons and need to send a quick PDF to a student for reference, or when a pianist needs music on the fly and I am not in front of a scanner/copier. Luckily most schools have these resources, but there are always times when I have an in-home lesson and have run out of copies of my scale sheet!

Thankfully, the days of carrying 100 books and a 5lb Doctor Beat are behind us! While I am not fully digital with my excerpts and solo repertoire, I can do a lot on my phone and iPad that saves me from hauling a back-breaking music bag.

6 Tonal Energy
This combination metronome/tuner is not free, but is well worth the few dollars in the App Store. This is also my met/tuner of choice for students because a mobile app gives them no excuse to practice without these tools! The home screen (for Apple) has a tuner that shows cents sharp/flat and lights up a smiley face when you are in tune. You can even set the skill level between intermediate, advanced, and pro if you want to make the smiley easier or harder to achieve. While the tuner is running, you can use the metronome with various meter and subdivision options. I also love the tone generator with equal and just intonation options. This is probably the main feature setting Tonal Energy apart from free mobile apps. For example, when I am teaching altissimo range, or the dreaded Capriccio Espagnol excerpt to high schoolers, it is invaluable to have a drone running as they play! The tuner and tone generator also have pretty good midi sounds for individual instruments and transposes for you. Finally there is an analysis tab to record and chart volume and pitch.

7 Scales
This is a pretty simple free app that generates scale flash cards to quiz students. You can modify Major and/or minor and how many sharps/flats the student will be quizzed on. You can tap the screen or shake your phone to change scales. This is just a fun way to randomly ask scales so students don’t feel like I am always choosing their least favorite ones! No more digging in your bag for your hand-written flash cards!

8 Sight Reading Factory
This app (also a website) requires a subscription, but is again worth the investment. Many schools provide students with a login code or sell reduced subscriptions. In Middle Tennessee this is the sight reading generator that we use for All-Midstate band auditions. There are 6 levels ranging from very basic to very advanced. You select instrument, level, time signature (you can choose random) and key signature (random option also). Each level has a breakdown to show the new range, rhythms, and key signatures that are included. When students practice on their own they can use a “play back” feature to hear the example played correctly and compare this to their performance. The downside is they do not get feedback from the app on their own performance and the examples are not very tuneful.

9 Voice Memo
When you don’t need a high quality recording, voice memo is a handy resource to give students playback options. The easier it is for students to record themselves, the more likely they are to do it. Occasionally, I ask students to send me recordings if we miss a lesson or if I need to heir their progress during the week. I also record on voice memo from time to time to send recordings to parents via email or text. “Listen to the progress Jessica is making on her solo!” Or “Here is a fun duet we played today! Enjoy!” This is a quick way to touch base and get families excited about lessons.

Please comment below!


Jennifer Zimmerer holds a Master’s Degree from The Florida State University and a Bachelor’s Degree from Towson University. She is an active teacher, performer, and clinician in the greater Nashville area.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, but rather the resources I find most helpful. Please comment with the apps that help with your private lesson studio!

Techniques for optimizing your scheduling efficiency or How to have more time for Netflix

By Cindy Hallo

It’s back to school time!
(Either you’re high-fiving yourself right now, or you’re hyperventilating while curled up into a ball in the corner. No judgement either way.)

I love the first few weeks of school. I’m also one of those really weird people who loves doing laundry, so you can take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt. There’s something about a blank slate I really love. And two months to forget all those annoying habits all your students have. What other job allows you to say, “Okay, maybe last year didn’t go quite as well as I wanted, but this year…THIS is gonna be my year. The kids are actually going to LEARN SOME STUFF this year.” New students, new schedules, new administrators, new music….It’s like cracking open that brand new spiral notebook – the year can be whatever you make of it.

Of course, that feeling lasts about .004 seconds until you realize you have 30 students who all HAVE to have a lesson during class and the schedules shifted this year, so every single band class starts at 11:32am and no one wants to stay after school and WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS TO YOURSELF EVERY YEAR!?!?

I kid. Sort of.

A few years ago, I discovered my favorite way to figure out the puzzle that is a private teacher’s life at the start of the school year. My first few years of teaching, I would sit with some notebook paper, some scribbled notes about which times students preferred and proceed to try and write it all in on the 8 1/2 x 11 metaphor for the next 9 months of my life.


It obviously ended badly.


I would have things crossed out twenty times, I would try and match up the times across all five days so things lined up the way I wanted, teardrops and blood spatters from my hard work would mar the writing….basically it was a mess.

Now here’s where you chime in and say, “Cindy, my favorite program/app/Hogwarts spell is blankety-blank. It works great!”

Here’s what you need to know about me. I’m a bit of a techno-phobe.

That’s not true. I like technology. Sometimes it doesn’t like me, but I wouldn’t ignore it in the hallway if it said hi to me.

I remember things better if I write them down. This goes for almost everything in my life – training schedules, student’s names, doctors appointments, etc. For some reason it feels more “real” written down. I’m not opposed to later transferring it to a favorite app or program, but I work better organizationally with things handwritten out.
Enter my favorite way to organize schedules. As I was telling Sean about what I was going to write about on this post, he suggested I also make sure everyone knows how to log into AOL via their dialup connection. I think that was his nice way of calling me a Luddite. Or he really likes AOL, I’m not sure.

Moving on….

Every school gets a different color. Students who need class time lessons get randomly grouped together. Before and after school students have their names written down along with the time of the lesson. I start with everyone’s first wish for lessons and move on from there. I write them all down on paper (you didn’t think I was going to get away from the paper did you?!) cut them out like I’m making a kindergarten art project, and sit down on the floor to arrange my fate.

(No, I don’t clean my kitchen counters. I’m a teacher…WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT??)

It’s. So. Easy.

I can visually see where I have spaces to fit students, I can try and group students from the same schools together, and if I screw up somewhere along the way, I just rearrange my little slips of paper.

I take photos as I go along in case something happens to the paper (boyfriend, cat, portal to hell opening up in the middle of my floor) and delete as I update the schedule. After I have it set, it gets transferred to a Google calendar.

Visually, this works amazingly for me. I like the color-coding so I can pull up in my head what school I’m going to next, and I honestly learn the kid’s names faster.

So if you also like doing things (probably) the hard way or just really enjoy coloring (which is totally a thing now), try this method.

I mean, you have some time to kill while the dial up is connecting, right?

eBook release

After a long hiatus, I am happy to announce the release of our first eBook! Building Your Private Music Studio offers insight and suggestions in establishing, growing, and enhancing, your studio to increase impact and income. Numerous suggestions are strategies are offered for organization, scheduling, technology use, and avoiding the numerous financial pitfalls that can occur in this profession. For just $6.99, less than half the cost of one lesson, the eBook can be downloaded from . Please click here to get your copy!

Work -Life Balance for the Musician

By Cindy Hallo


I was going to title this post “Time Management”…..and then I remembered I don’t know ANYTHING about that subject. Like at all.

I’m the girl that works two jobs, runs 40-50 miles a week, travels around the country for marathons, and sleeps no more than 5 hours a night. Free time is something I had back in 2005.

I think a better word for what I want to talk about is “Boundaries”. It’s very easy for people whose job doesn’t require them to be parked in a cubicle from 9 to 5 every day to extend the work day. This is especially true for lesson teachers – it’s like a game of Tetris sometimes to fit all your students in the allotted amount of time on the right days at the right school, during the right class period. Obviously the administration wasn’t thinking about our needs when they created the school day…rude!

Maybe other people learned this a little more quickly than I did, but I can’t tell you how many times my schedule come September would resemble a 12 hour shift on an assembly line. Student willing to start lessons at 7am? Sign me up. Stacking them four deep after school? Hellz yeah. Going to students houses in the evenings/on the weekends if I couldn’t fit them in during normal school hours? Of course! Before I knew it, I was working 10-12 hour days 6 days a week. An 8 hour day was like a vacation. When the drive-thru girl at Taco Bell knew my order by the sound of my voice, that’s when I realized how bad it had gotten.

This year, I’ve taken a step back and realized something.

I don’t have to take every student that crosses my door.

I know. I’m a freaking genius.

Turning down students does not make you a bad teacher, much like saying “No” doesn’t make you a bad person. This took me several years to understand. The first part anyway…I’m still trying to figure out the second part. It actually makes you a BETTER teacher when you realize how many students you can comfortably handle in your studio. Each student gets a little more of your brain power, a little more of your time. And you get to eat something besides Taco Bell for dinner during the week.

I’ve found myself spending more time thinking about the best plan of action for each student, following up on emails, making sure I bring the right music to school with me, etc. And I’m definitely taking better care of myself. I eat better, find more time to run, have more time to relax with friends and family, and sleep better. And I don’t think I need to tell any of you that a well rested teacher is a much better teacher.

Now I’m not saying drop all your kids and only accept a few each year. We’ve all gotta pay the rent. But I am suggesting instead of just blindly accepting any student that sends you an email, you take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is there a lot of driving? Am I going out of my way at rush hour? Am I giving up something I enjoy to teach this lesson? How serious is this student? This might sound a little selfish, but teaching is a lot like being a parent (says the girl with no kids, so take it with a grain of salt)….taking care of yourself first makes you a better teacher.

And quit eating Taco Bell. That stuff will kill you.

Income and Impact – Dr David Cutler Guest post

Music studio teacher is excited to kickoff 2016 with a guest post from Dr. David Cutler. His new book,  The Savvy Music Teacher is available here.

The Direct Link Between Income and Impact: Savvy Music Teachers
By David Cutler

On the surface, the suggestion that the best independent music teachers are those who earn the most money seems ludicrous. No obvious, mathematical correlation can be drawn between fiscal and pedagogical success. We have all encountered incredible educators who struggle to make ends meet, or financially comfortable ones who are mediocre instructors at best.

Yet I argue that there is indeed a parallel. When done right, impact and income are closely related bedfellows. Savvy Music Teachers (SMTs) find ways to make them both go up, in harmony.

How is this claim supported? It is difficult to devote 100% of attention to teaching excellence when tormented by problematic personal finance. Economic woes trigger a host of problems, inducing stress, strained relationships, and zapped enthusiasm. Individuals forced to take supplementary “day jobs” they despise just to get by, or those with unmanageable schedules and an unbalanced life, are unlikely to have time or energy to go the extra mile for students.

On the flip side, a sound financial model increases likelihood that teachers find the psychological space to offer their best. It provides a foundation for maintaining a studio, organizing meaningful activities, pursuing professional development, and tackling passion projects, in addition to fulfilling personal desires such as buying a house or raising a family.

Is there a more direct correlation? There is if you do things right. In order to increase impact, SMTs are known for employing teaching tools and strategies that expand beyond the average studio. As a result, their offerings are differentiated in innovative and meaningful ways, which translates to more students and higher fees. In addition, they offer a variety of products and services beyond lessons that enhance learning and revenue. Independent music teachers looking for a raise have an opportunity: imagine new, valuable musical experiences. Connect those initiatives to a sound economic model and, voila, both earnings and value rise.

When writing The Savvy Music Teacher, I had the good opportunity to interview more than 150 independent teachers from across the globe (many are profiled in the book). Typically, I would contact them with a particular angle in mind: curriculum, policies, tuition model, studio management, etc. During these talks, however, the conversation often strayed in wonderful ways, exploring peripheral issues that were also parts of the model. We discussed challenge, opportunities, frustrations, and solutions.

As a rule, instructors with inventive business models matched them with creative teaching approaches, and vice versa. For example, music teachers who generated substantial incomes were more likely to integrate improvisation, technology, and multiple musical genres than those who didn’t. That was a fascinating lesson. It seems that creativity is a transferrable skill. Those who master it benefit in a host of ways, creating simultaneous wins for themselves, students, and communities.

Income and impact; money and meaning. These terms may not be synonymous, but for SMTs, they are closely related.

DAVID CUTLER balances a varied profile as a jazz and classical composer, pianist, educator, arranger, author, speaker, and director of the world’s premier experiential arts entrepreneurship workshop The SAVVY Musician in Action. His books The Savvy Musician and The Savvy Music Teacher help musicians build a career, earn a living, and make a difference. Cutler serves as the University of South Carolina’s Director of Music Entrepreneurship.




David Cutler’s Savvy Music Teacher

Fellow music teachers, have you ever wished there was someone you could approach for specific advice on maximizing the earnings and efficiency of the niche market of private lesson teaching? Look no further! I give you your new career guide: David Cutler’s The Savvy Music Teacher.


Having just finished this book, I was extremely impressed with the author’s ability to relate and expound upon the daily struggles of private teaching combined with the provision of various strategies for financial and personal improvement. At times I found myself turning pages with the excitement of a Harry Potter novel!

The book outlines a clear goal: Become the most impactful music teacher possible while earning a yearly salary of $50,000 to $100,000. Is this really possible for us private teachers? I can say, without hesitation, that if you were to aggressively implement David Cutler’s strategies into your financial model of music teaching, you would be well within this figure.

How many unorganized or un-savvy music teachers do you know living week to week, with no concept of their financial future, or present earnings? This sad situation can even sometimes lead to musicians leaving the music field entirely. If this describes you or a teacher you know, this book will be a lifeline for changing your views on earning and managing money, as well maximizing impact on your students.

Even if you consider yourself a highly organized teacher without any more room for financial expansion, this book will outline additional financial avenues you may have not considered, or overlooked, that will enhance your current earnings.

The book is divided into two halves. Part one outlines seven distinct streams of income available to private music teachers. It then outlines detailed steps on how to integrate these into your life, or how to expound upon them. These numerous streams include:

Private teaching
Group classes
Additional (miscellaneous services)

If you believe you are already implementing these elements into your small business of music teaching, you will be surprised by the many avenues available you may not have considered in each chapter. Specifically for me, I always see a significant drop in earnings during the summer months. I’m teaching as many students as I can, but it is never enough. This book proposes a detailed process on establishing summer camps, and clearly outlines the large financial benefits this type of event can have on your summer earnings.

If you feel many of these categories are not realistic to you, you may be surprised at how easily you will be able to generate extra income from the author’s suggestions. True, not every teacher may be able to integrate every stream into his or her lifestyle, but even getting just a few streams of music income going besides private teaching can really have a positive effect on your bottom line earnings.



The second half of the book is dedicated to setting up your studio, filling your studio, time/life management, winning the money game, your financial picture, and career blueprint. In a field that can easily be isolating, these chapters are gold. How often can one receive free financial advice specific to the private lesson field? These chapters are even more valuable than the first half because they help motivate music teachers to plan for the future of their business, and not live in the now of lesson check to lesson check.

 This book is completely inspiring and a must read for lesson teachers in any capacity. Whether you are teaching one night a week or full time, you will be inspired to teach better, smarter, and create higher earnings after completing this book. Personally, I have been planning many, many expansions to my studio from reading this book and am confident my earnings will rise as a direct result of reading this book. To purchase a copy click here