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.