Solo Season Is Upon Us!

by Cindy Hallo

With All Region auditions rolling to a close (is everyone still alive???), it’s about that time again!

I’m going to be really honest here. I’m a tad OCD about picking out solos.

Hard to believe that last statement if you’ve read my posts on reeds and scheduling my students by laying out tiny color coded pieces of paper, right?

My favorite time to pick out solos is at the end of the school year. I hate that awkward time between end of the year auditions and the actual end of the year where the students (and teachers, let’s be honest) are losing focus and motivation….fast.

New concepts tend to be falling on deaf ears, giving out difficult etudes is like trying to explain physics to a 6 month old, and it’s basically all I can do to help the kids remember how to put their instruments together.

Enter: YouTube and the clarinet solo



Anything you can do to get a student excited and interested in practicing right before a long break is fair game in my book. You want to watch the clarinet made out of a carrot again?! Okay, fine….as long as you’ll practice over the break.

YouTube tends to peak the interest of almost every one of my students. It’s fun watching different musicians play a familiar (or unfamiliar) piece, and videos of orchestral arrangements almost always spark a discussion about musicality or orchestration or even conducting. Bottom line is it engages the students and leads to conversations we might have never had.

When picking out solos in May (or over the summer if the students are taking lessons), we have a bit more time and I can afford to pick out 3-5 quality choices for the kids to listen to and finger along with before choosing their piece. For new students, after All Region is over I’ll pick 2-3 viable options and spend a lesson letting them listen to the possibilities. Letting your student take ownership of their solo choice more often than not makes them practice it more leading to a better performance. Full disclosure: this has backfired on me. Hard. No, I do not want to talk about it. But 9 times out of 10 your student grows from “picking” their own solo.

Looking for an easy way to have your students buy music? Pass along this link


and you’ll never have to see your precious originals come back to you looking like this:

Recruiting tips with Jen Zimmerer

The beginning of the school year can be a hectic time as you finalize your schedule and recruit new students to fill the gaps. Whether you’re just starting out, or looking to expand your reach, there are many ways to grow your studio.

There are numerous methods for reaching prospective students and getting your name out there. The best is word of mouth. If students, parents, and directors are already hearing your name, that’s less work for you! Obviously this comes with time as you get settled in your area and start to produce results. Do your students enjoy working with you? Do parents find you reliable and easy to deal with? Do directors see the results in their students and enjoy the recognition the program receives from these students’ successes? As the year progresses, look for local solo contests, ensembles, scholarship competitions, and college events that your students can participate in. Hold recitals at schools, churches, or local venues to give your students valuable playing experience and show the community what your studio is about. Where can you and your students get involved? If your studio is more established, consider applying to perform at your state conference or your instrument specific conference if it is near enough.

If you’re new to the area, the best way to get in touch with directors is in person. Sending an email or making a phone call often doesn’t produce results because directors are so busy! Find out what the local band or orchestra directors’ association is and make an appearance at a meeting to introduce yourself and express interest in teaching private lessons or offering clinics. This is even better if a friend or colleague will introduce you and offer a testimony to your qualifications! Getting involved in these organizations often comes with opportunities to judge auditions and solo festivals, which is another good chance to connect with directors and students. Something as small as providing valuable feedback on a solo/ensemble sheet might get you a call from a director or prospective student! If you’re not busy, why not give some free sessions just to show them what you can do? Think outside of the box as well, any opportunity for some face time with other educators is helpful!

Another valuable resource for growing your studio is other private teachers. The people I respect as musicians and educators are the ones I recommend when parents or directors are looking to hire. Take the time to get to know other musicians in your area and consider chamber music or splitting recitals to gain exposure for everyone. Is there an established teacher in your area who will recommend that their overflow students contact you? Perhaps a multiple woodwind teacher will send you their more advanced players if a student is getting serious and you are more specialized. Getting to know local university professors is invaluable as well. You will be sending them prospective college students while they may refer younger students to you. Get involved with university events pertaining to your instrument and make yourself useful to their recruiting efforts and studio activities.

Remember to keep your recruiting materials up to date. Always have plenty of business cards handy and carry lesson flyers when you have an opportunity to pass them out or tack one up at the local library! Keep your resume and CV up to date with all teaching and performance experience. A website is also a valuable resource for those googling your name or searching for lessons in your area. LinkedIn or a Facebook business page can also bring in students.

If you have a school or area where you are established and wish to bring in more students, keep your focus there! Talk to the directors about performing for the class, holding sessions where all students can attend, and find opportunities to be visible and meet parents and students. Depending on how your local schools start beginners, maybe you can host a beginner session to start good fundamentals and meet new students. Even coming to class for a sectional early on will show students who you are and start developing that relationship. At higher levels, consider a back-to-school themed event to get everyone back on track after summer break. Fall is a big time for regional and All-State auditions as well, so plan to have events at schools where you already teach to help out your own students and gain interest from others who are not enrolled in lessons. Attending school performances and events is also a big way to show support and build your rapport with parents!

Remember that building a studio takes time. This is a people business! You need the trust of your students and other educators, which doesn’t happen overnight. The process of growing and maintaining a successful studio happens year round, so consider some of these suggestions throughout the school year to make your life easier next fall!

Game of Checks: Payday is Coming

Everyone is getting all hyped up for Game of Thrones, and with the lack of students you probably have this summer (I mean free time) we all know you’ve binge watched three seasons already getting caught up.  Here’s our take on the GoT characters in the music education world


Ned Stark-favorite band director you’ve ever worked with. Retired after your first year


Varys-That other private teacher who approaches you in between classes and starts gossiping about people you’ve never heard of before.


Cersei-The salty private teacher.  Tells you about the time they almost won an orchestral job.  Always hatching a plan for a new, non-music career. Constantly telling you this is their last year private teaching.

Joffery-First year band director. 10 years younger than you.  Tells you things to do that make no sense.



Tyrion-That one student who spends half their lesson telling you a story, rather than playing. Still makes Region band somehow




Arya-first year private teacher. Has 3 students, but they are going to be amazing! Also, has never heard of taxes


The Night King-Appears only occasionally for pre-UIL guest adjudication. 1,000 years old.  Scares the middle school students

Hodor-Teaches tuba, enough said



What characters did we miss? Comment below

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!