A lot has changed since we originally wrote our blog, “What Makes Us Different From Other Studios” back in November 2016, so I decided that we needed to write an updated version! Besides our Music Buck system and our very own Early Childhood curriculum which we wrote about in the first blog, we’ve got a lot of new things that makes us different than any other studio out there!
Student of the Week is something that we really love about our studio. Each teacher can choose a student who stood out that week in their lesson- or not choose anyone if there was nothing to write home about! Students’ pictures are displayed on our Student of the Week board at the studio. They also get 10 music bucks and a printed certificate, and the best part- our Student of the Week yard sign, which they can sign their name on the back and keep at home for the week!
Our Adult Performance Opportunity called the Champagne Serenade is also new this year. We wanted our adult students to have a casual and fun performance experience to showcase what they’ve been working on, and meet our other adult students! We are really excited to host our first Serenade this Saturday, May 4th.
We get a lot of compliments and positive feedback from our parents about our sense of community, which has always been super important to us: we really strive to make our studio feel like a family. We’ve created an inviting studio space for our students who have lessons there, but we also want our students who have in-home lessons to feel just as much a part of the studio. Each Sunday we send out a weekly email newsletter that includes Students of the Week, upcoming student birthdays and events, our Merry Musicians preschool class, and our latest blog.
Recital Prep/Theory Group Classes are something we’ve added since we opened our studio space. We offer 2-3 group classes before each recital and DMTA festival, so that students can perform their prepared pieces in front of a small group and get feedback from the teacher. As of now, we have a group theory class every February for those students who are taking the Texas State Theory Exam.
We know that there are amazing teachers all over the metroplex, but something that helps us stand out from the rest is the time and care we put into matching students with the right teacher based on personality and learning goals. Before we enroll any new student, we conduct a phone interview with potential families so that we can pair them with a teacher that we think they will mesh well with. The right fit between student and teacher is extremely important for happiness and longevity in lessons!
Last but not least, we are very proud to say that all of our teachers at Music So Simple are Dallas Music Teachers Association (DMTA) members, with three of our teachers serving on the board. We think that being involved in our local association is essential for continuing education, personal growth, and extra opportunities for our students.
We are really proud of the studio we’ve built in the last 3 years, and we will continue to make improvements where needed. We value feedback from all of our families and most importantly we always put people first!
Teaching in a big city like Dallas has its pros and cons: on the plus side, we have more potential students, more connections, and more resources. But with a larger population, that also means we have more competition. There seems to be a teacher with space in their studio around every corner. In a competitive city, it is important for us to make sure that our studio stands out amongst the rest.
One thing that differentiates us from other studios is our reward system. We’ve written about music bucks before, but I can’t say it enough- they REALLY work in helping students progress and reach their yearly goals. Students can earn Music Bucks for practicing, memorizing pieces, participating in classes outside of their lessons, or doing extra theory work. At the end of the month, they can spend (or save) their bucks to buy prizes. I’ve seen a lot of studios do prizes every 3 or 4 months or once a year, but in my experience the more often they receive rewards, the better!
Another unique feature of our studio is that our early childhood curriculum was created by us based on our teaching experience and expertise. We’ve taken the favorite songs and activities from over the years and put them into a successful program. Ms. Stathia has been teaching these classes for over 15 years, and Ms. Meredith has been teaching Music Together for over 10 years, so we really know what works. Our preschoolers learn about different instruments, cultural music, and learn to identify notes and rhythm patterns. It’s a great program that is not only educational, but helps prepare them for private lessons later.
Ms. Stathia and Ms. Meredith are also both board members of the Dallas Music Teachers Association. We feel it’s important to be active in this organization, and we make it a priority for our students to participate in DMTA events. We also encourage our students to take the state theory exam each year. Being involved in DMTA helps us stay connected in the teaching community, and elevates our expectations for our students.
And last but certainly not least, our strong relationships with our students set us apart. We really feel that building trust and a friendship with our students is what really helps them blossom, and they want to make us proud. If there is no attachment, students typically don’t care about how well they do and tend to quit. We strongly believe in the teacher/student relationship and taking time to place each student with a teacher. Our students are very special to us and it’s this bond that we cherish the most.
Not that other studios don’t feature these things, but it’s hard to find a studio that has ALL of these. If you are searching for a studio, please be sure to think about other things besides proximity and price- it is the quality of the teacher that it most important.
Every week, each teacher at Music SO Simple is able to pick one student who really “shined” that week. This is a tradition that I absolutely love and that I wanted to continue in my own business. You see, we can pick a student for any reason! It could be that the student showed up with their books for the first time in a while, or that they practiced more than usual. It could be that they blew their teacher away by memorizing a random piece, or that they learned one on their own. Maybe even that they had an attitude that was better than their “usual” attitude. The reasons are endless! The student(s) that are picked receive a certificate, 10 music bucks, and a “Student of the Week” yard sign for the week.
Some people might think that recognizing a student every single week could get redundant. That’s a lot of music bucks and certificates given out! But you have to remember that we have 20-30 private students each. Theoretically, that would give each student a chance to be student of the week at least once during the school year. Now, do we give it to everyone? The answer is no, but we try really hard to find a reason to give them some recognition. I’ve seen some students in such a slump, with not a whole lot of practicing and on the verge of quitting. A little positive (public) encouragement gives a little lift. They are basically getting a high five that everyone around can see that just gives them the boost that they need. Even for the students who are used to doing well every week need a little recognition. My students always ask me why I picked them. And I’m honest! Even today, my student said, “Ms. Stathia, why did you pick me out of all the students you teach?” I told her that I saw so much improvement in her and that she totally surprised me by learning her holiday piece all by herself in just a week! She normally practices just a couple times a week, but when I had given her that piece, she practiced it almost everyday!
These kids have so much going on with school, lessons, and other activities- they stay busy! My own kids are included in this!! We are busy parents too and not always giving our kids the attention and time that they need. When my daughter got Student of the Week a couple of weeks ago, her dad took her out to get a special stuffed animal- as a way of saying great job! She knew we were proud of her, and then proceeded to keep practicing every day without us asking her to! We need to make our kids feel special and recognize their progress, and at the same time encourage them to keep working hard.
We all need a little motivation to work towards long-term goals, regardless of our age. For our students, we decided to continue a little incentive that I started quite a few years ago called Piano Bucks.
The idea began around 2003 when I attended one of my first national conventions. I remember seeing music money being sold at one of the vendor booths and thinking that I could design something like that myself! When I got back, I designed a printed my own little “bucks” and rewarded my private students with them every time they did something great! It could have been answering a question, or working extra hard on a piece, or completing their theory work. These bucks became so popular with my private students that they began telling my (at the time) group students about them- which then led me to give them to my group classes.
Once my students started earning bucks, they had to spend them! So, I came up with prizes for the students to buy; of course, they loved that! A prize box is brought to lesson at the end of every month. This really helps students to not get distracted every single lesson wondering what they can buy, and it also forces them to save a little too! Being able to visit the prize box each month gives them even more incentive to earn bucks because they see things that they want to buy! So, the student goes home and plans to practice every single day till their next lesson! The day of music buck prize box, students are always so proud of what they can buy and what they earned.
Upon creating Music SO Simple, I really wanted to keep the piano buck tradition that my students loved so much. So, since we added voice to the mix, we decided to call the “music bucks” instead. Our students love music bucks- they help motivate our students to practice, officially making it a habit. We also use them as a reward for learning festival/recital pieces, memorization, and performances. In addition, we give them as gifts for Christmas, when they are chose for student of the week, and birthdays. Music Bucks are seriously a win-win! It’s not rocket science- it just works!