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Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
Opus_Maximus #1924362 07/08/12 07:25 PM
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I don't question that things are different in different areas.


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Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
keystring #1924367 07/08/12 07:37 PM
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Keystring, I understand, and thank you for clarifying that.


BTW, AxiomPro, where are you located?


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Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924386 07/08/12 08:40 PM
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So it sounds like these places run the gamut from "teaching mills" run by non-musician owners to actual real schools that care about something other than profit. Interesting. I wonder what the ratio is. And yet the teachers are all contractors, except I guess for Opus Maximus, in this thread anyway. BTW I'm in Houston, Rocket.

Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924407 07/08/12 09:15 PM
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I am grateful that where I work the owners are smart business people who care about both quality of service AND profit, because if they did not watch the bottom line, they would soon go out of business.

As a performer and teacher and recording artist, it took me a while to come out of my altruistic style of thinking and understand that the "Music Business" is two words..."Music", and all the wonderfulness that it is, and "Business", which is often not so nice, but can be done with honesty and integrity, and is a necessary part of life, and must be done with sound business practices. Even Chopin had to teach to pay the bills.


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Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924408 07/08/12 09:17 PM
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I would NEVER in a million years teach in a music school or music store. Here is my most recent post on why, from my blog:

http://wp.me/ptnC6-gb

And, a much older one:

http://wp.me/ptnC6-R

Meri


Clarinet and Piano Teacher based out of Toronto, Canada.Web: http://donmillsmusicstudio.weebly.com
Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924503 07/09/12 04:18 AM
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I teach in one of these schools, and it's pretty much exactly as you described, AxiomPro.

When I first moved to this city it was a better than nothing situation so I didn't mind the lower pay. As my private student base has grown I have reduced the school back to one day a week and for now, it's still better than nothing for that day, but it does drive me absolutely crazy.

The school charges $32 of which I get $14. I wouldn't mind this split if absolutely everything except for the teaching was taken care of by the school, but we teachers are constantly being asked to handle payments, get contact information, even keep tabs on scheduling. I also wouldn't mind if the school had some decent terms and conditions which they actually enforced. As it stands we teachers never know how many students we're actually going to have when we rock up, thus we never know how much we're going to get paid.

Because of these problems the quality of teachers at the school is rapidly declining. Anyone who values teaching as a profession very quickly moves on, so most of the teachers at the school now are either incredibly inexperienced, don't give a hoot about it, or both.

The piano that I teach on literally fell off the back of a truck. That's how he got it so cheap. Seriously. There are no microphones for singers who join the ensembles. Today there wasn't even toilet paper.

The type of student that a place likes this attracts is generally someone that is only vaguely interested in learning, might come for a lesson or two, then just disappears (without letting anyone know). The student turn over is ludicrous. Since the start of the year I have been through 22 different students at the school (5 of which I am currently teaching). I know it's not my teaching as privately I have only lost 2 students since the start of the year, and both of those were moving interstate.

The most frustrating thing is that I can see so many simple things that could be changed to make the school run in a much more effective and professional way. But the owner is the type of person who has to do things his way (including teaching 60 students a week whilst trying to handle all of the admin himself). If I ever said something I'd be out the door (a point that was proven by a teacher who loved working there and wanted to help improve it but was given the boot the second he spoke up).

The only reason I'm hanging on to my one day a week for the moment is that I managed to get three incredibly promising and motivated young students. I can't take them if I leave and I know that the standard of teaching from whomever fills my place will not do those children justice. So I stick around for them, even though many weeks I feel so incredibly close to quitting all together!


Private Piano and Vocal Teacher.
Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924567 07/09/12 08:11 AM
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A music school can be so different from another music school. We have interacted with two music schools, both are very reputable community schools, employ highly qualified faculty members, offer a large array of courses from private lessons to master classes in many instruments, theory, aural training, music history, music technology, many orchestras and chamber groups, etc. Students can study music in a very systematic and thorough manner, have many performance opportunities and get to be part of a music community. My impression of the students who go to these two schools is that they are very serious about music. I know of other, privately owned, much smaller music schools that are much more limited in what they offer. But honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with the concept. Teachers who teach there have their own reasons to do so, instead of operating their own studio (there are definitely pros and cons to teach in a school or to teach from home, everyone will just need to decide for him/herself). Parents who send kids to such schools assess teachers the same way if they send kids to a private studio in a teacher’s house. I know parents who send kids to such small schools and they are very happy with the outcome.

Last edited by childofparadise2002; 07/09/12 08:12 AM.
Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
Opus_Maximus #1924612 07/09/12 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
Yup, I am teaching for two right now. They students are charged $70 per hour, and I take home $26!! More than half! This is normal and terrible..


If it is so terrible then why not venture out on your own?

Jonathan

Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
childofparadise2002 #1924616 07/09/12 10:23 AM
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I think it is important to note that there are many different places that group together teachers and that they are not all the same. These places usually have convenient, accessible locations and are highly visible, while a teacher's home may be out of the way and not obviously a studio from the outside. They will have places for parents or family to wait, and hopefully have decent instruments available - maybe one for the teacher and one for the student. A competent and even fairly experienced teacher may opt to teach at such a place rather than his own home for such practical reasons. I'd think that a good school or store would attract good teachers. In fact, if they're smart they'll know that the good teacher makes the place what it is.

It would be unfair to conclude that all music schools are shoddy and have only inferior or beginning teachers because this is absolutely not true. As with anything it is caveat emptor and choose carefully, including the private teacher with a studio at home.

Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924625 07/09/12 10:41 AM
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We use a school for these reasons:

1. convenient - location, hours, pricing (flat monthly fee)
2. clean, well maintained, free wifi (doesn't sound important but it is nice!)
3. consistency with teacher
4. for lessons missed, easy to reschedule with same or different teacher
5. make ups permitted for times when we are on vacation/teacher is on vacation
6. nice recitals
7. it's really quiet - dd gets the big room with the grand piano, nicely lit big windows
8. free practice rooms - my child warms up for her lesson instead of waiting in the waiting room
9. parents can use kitchenette - in the winter I bring my travel mug and make tea
10. my child's teacher also teaches on her own but I think the school gives her 2 days a week where she doesn't have to travel to student's homes. She can just go in and teach.
11. lessons can be 15, 30, 45, 60 or more minutes. 15 is typically for preschoolers just starting I think.
12. friendly staff

Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924648 07/09/12 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by MaggieGirl
We use a school for these reasons:

1. convenient - location, hours, pricing (flat monthly fee)
2. clean, well maintained, free wifi (doesn't sound important but it is nice!)
3. consistency with teacher
4. for lessons missed, easy to reschedule with same or different teacher
5. make ups permitted for times when we are on vacation/teacher is on vacation
6. nice recitals
7. it's really quiet - dd gets the big room with the grand piano, nicely lit big windows
8. free practice rooms - my child warms up for her lesson instead of waiting in the waiting room
9. parents can use kitchenette - in the winter I bring my travel mug and make tea
10. my child's teacher also teaches on her own but I think the school gives her 2 days a week where she doesn't have to travel to student's homes. She can just go in and teach.
11. lessons can be 15, 30, 45, 60 or more minutes. 15 is typically for preschoolers just starting I think.
12. friendly staff

Sounds like a great place to browse the internet and drink some tea. AND - it is so convenient. Count me in . . .

Oh, yea, are there any MUSICAL reasons?


In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.
Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924673 07/09/12 12:53 PM
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These schools are my main competitors. At the "strip center" music schools in my area, the teachers are generally employees, not contractors, of the school. The owners are usually solid piano teachers, but the employees are generally community college students seeking music degrees.

These schools exist for two reasons:
1) Teachers are willing to work for the wages offered.
2) Parents are willing to enroll their students at the music school.

I've received transfer students from some of the nearby schools, most of whose parents had been dissatisfied with a "one-size-fits-all" approach and a lack of a formal curriculum/methodology.

The value proposition for private teachers is hugely different from that of music schools.

I assume you feel the same way about TakeLessons? I called them once and acted like I was looking for lessons for "my daughter." Wow they did everything they could to sell me on lessons through them - even called me back multiple times to follow up!


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Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924679 07/09/12 01:09 PM
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Not all of these teachers are just students. Many of them simply do it to find students, some because they want to, and many other reasons.

They also don't have to follow one particular form or theory of teaching. At the one I was speaking at, for example, the teachers are free to use whatever method they want and do whatever they want.

But the students belong to the studio, not the teachers, so they must be employees. They are also offered no benefits of any kind, but I have heard of some studios doing differently.

I can also think of one studio space where the teachers are only charged $13 for the room (rather large ones!) an hour they teach. One of my piano students is also a voice teacher, and she used to teach out of her home. Then she switched over to this studio and does much better there because it is a separate space, the room is essentially hers (it is a small business, which is probably why it works out this way).

Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
LoPresti #1924691 07/09/12 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by LoPresti
Originally Posted by MaggieGirl
We use a school for these reasons:

1. convenient - location, hours, pricing (flat monthly fee)
3. consistency with teacher
4. for lessons missed, easy to reschedule with same or different teacher
5. make ups permitted for times when we are on vacation/teacher is on vacation
6. nice recitals
7. it's really quiet - dd gets the big room with the grand piano, nicely lit big windows
8. free practice rooms - my child warms up for her lesson instead of waiting in the waiting room
11. lessons can be 15, 30, 45, 60 or more minutes. 15 is typically for preschoolers just starting I think.

Sounds like a great place to browse the internet and drink some tea. AND - it is so convenient. Count me in . . .

Oh, yea, are there any MUSICAL reasons?

The reasons I've left in all sound like musical reasons.

Convenience is a musical reason because if you can't get to or afford the lessons, they aren't going to happen.


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What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924703 07/09/12 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
The reasons I've left in all sound like musical reasons. . . Convenience is a musical reason because if you can't get to or affrod the lessons, they aren't going to happen.

Well, PianoStudent88, I can only agree with you in a very narrow, tangential way . . .

I have read enough other posts by MaggieGirl to recognize that she is attentive and diligent about the care and education of her daughter. Brava! For that reason alone, picking on one of her writings is just not right!

Nevertheless, the reasons MaggieGirl cites, are (with the POSSIBLE exception of the warm-up opportunity) in the category, as you state, of convenience, and not musicality. Those reading this thread, who are attracted to the convenience of a strip-mall, might well assume, “This is for me, and here is how I evaluate: They are open later on Thursdays.”

You and I can purchase our groceries at Walmart - it has lots of parking, is brightly lighted, is open all the time, and the bathrooms are SO CLEAN!

Ed


In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.
Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924709 07/09/12 02:36 PM
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Allow me to provide several real-life examples.

My studio is surrounded by these "music schools," which didn't really start to pop up until 10 years ago. Most independent studios are suffering because--like many posts in this thread have shown--parents don't care about music as much as convenience. Furthermore, parents are truly immune to the abuses that are going on.

For example, some of these "music schools" completely abuse the CM testing system in California. They go off bragging about how their students pass with high rates and can skip many levels, thus saving parents $$$. If you go to a recital at one of these places, you will seriously be rolling on the floor laughing at the quality of the performances.

Here's a fact: Some of these "music schools" register students under other teachers' names. At testing time, we always are shocked how some of these music school teachers can have 80 or 90 students. Really. And some of these music school teachers are the dumbest when it comes to doing their share of work on test days. Real piano teachers always wonder how these people are capable of teaching AT ALL.

And the freaks who run the "music schools" are sneaky. They scatter their teachers over several branches, so they can inflict the maximum amount of pain on the maximum number of private piano teachers. These "music schools" can legally dump all the work on other private piano teachers and legally get away with doing nothing. When one branch gets tough, they'll just register the students under another teacher's name.

I know all this because I have worked closely with my branch's CM Chair and I keep communication with other CM Chairs who are experiencing similar problems. This "music school cancer" is really not a secret among teachers. But, of course, parents are clueless when it comes to knowing this kind of stuff.

Just wanted to give you some specifics. I know California might be on an unique island of teaching, cut off from the rest of the real world, but you can pretty much extrapolate the problems here to other places. If it happens here, it can happen anywhere.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
PianoStudent88 #1924729 07/09/12 03:57 PM
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I think the point was that none of those things speaks to the quality of instruction.

Availability, access, and atmosphere of instruction, but not the quality of it. Of the things listed, only the idea of a warm-up room and a quality instrument directly affect the quality of instruction.

And this: "Convenience is a musical reason because if you can't get to or afford the lessons, they aren't going to happen."

Is kind of like those schools defending Chocolate Milk in the cafeterias by saying "at least kids will drink it." Yeah, sure they will, but it's still basically sugar.

How many parents think to themselves: "Well yeah, it's a bad school, but it's better than no school at all..." That's pretty much the definition of low standards to me...

Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
Originally Posted by LoPresti
Originally Posted by MaggieGirl
We use a school for these reasons:

1. convenient - location, hours, pricing (flat monthly fee)
3. consistency with teacher
4. for lessons missed, easy to reschedule with same or different teacher
5. make ups permitted for times when we are on vacation/teacher is on vacation
6. nice recitals
7. it's really quiet - dd gets the big room with the grand piano, nicely lit big windows
8. free practice rooms - my child warms up for her lesson instead of waiting in the waiting room
11. lessons can be 15, 30, 45, 60 or more minutes. 15 is typically for preschoolers just starting I think.

Sounds like a great place to browse the internet and drink some tea. AND - it is so convenient. Count me in . . .

Oh, yea, are there any MUSICAL reasons?

The reasons I've left in all sound like musical reasons.

Convenience is a musical reason because if you can't get to or afford the lessons, they aren't going to happen.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
AxiomPro #1924744 07/09/12 04:59 PM
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OK, Ed and Kreisler, I stand rebutted.


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Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
PianoStudent88 #1924760 07/09/12 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
OK, Ed and Kreisler, I stand rebutted.

Not rebutted as much as hoping to REfocus on the very core of music lessons . . . just as I know you would.

Most of us on this Forum recognize the "back story" - the thought and care with which someone like MaggieGirl would select a music teacher. We believe (hopefully!) that she has many more pertinent (musical, instructional) reasons for her selection of this particular school. However, without knowing that about her, someone simply reading her checklist of conveniences could easily believe that internet access really should be the #4 priority, right after a pastoral setting and an ion-free waiting room.

Ed


In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.
Re: What do you guy's think of these "strip center" music school
rocket88 #1924762 07/09/12 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by rocket88
Originally Posted by AxiomPro
Originally Posted by keystring
What we're seeing at our end is middlemen offering services which they have others do, and raking in the profits. The middleman knows nothing about the service, hires inexperienced people, and imposes policies that are good for money but don't necessarily make sense in terms of quality service.


That right there is the heart of the matter, i think


There is so much here that is completely the opposite of what I have experienced that I almost do not know where to start.

But here goes anyways.

First, "The middleman knows nothing about the service,"

Facts please? Here are some:

There are two music stores here in town where I live, a medium size city in the south...I have subcontracted to one of the stores for over twelve years as a teacher.
The owners are musicians who gig and teach on a regular basis. The other store is a small guitar store that specializes in rare and antique instruments, and the owner is a well-known musician who has 2 teachers, both well known local musicans.

Second: "Raking in the profits"

News flash: The economy is struggling. Music lessons are not the essential food, clothing and shelter. No one I know is "raking in the profits", especially with rising taxes and insurance.

Third: hires inexperienced people,

Not where I live. Its the opposite, actually. Where I subcontract there are 4 guitar teachers, 2 piano teachers, one wind instrument teacher, one drum teacher, and one vocal coach. All are full-time or near full-time musicians, many with degrees. For example, our wind instrument teacher is a Berkelee grad. In the years I have been working there, there have been one or two inexperienced teachers slip into the program, but they don't last long.

Bottom line, it is a quality operation. The percentage I make is quite a bit better than 50-50, and it works very well for me and the other teachers, which is why the store has a waiting list of qualified teachers who would love to work there. (sorry, love to SUBCONTRACT there).

I am sure it is different elsewhere, that there are "teaching mills" but to tar with the same brush all places that subcontract their music teachers is inaccurate and wrong.


rocket88, I'm fortunate to be working for a music store that is much like the one you work for. It almost sounds identical! The regional managers, store managers, district managers, etc. have music degrees, perform, teach, and are extremely knowledgeable in not only their specific instrument, but all instruments carried by the store. They receive 1/3 of the teacher's hourly rate. The teacher can charge whatever they wish to charge. I've worked in the store for several years now for a variety of reasons. I do not have a studio to give private lessons in. I give some private lessons in the students' homes, but truthfully, prefer working in the store environment. I do not have to worry about scheduling, make ups, rescheduling, billing, etc. This is all handled by the store. Teacher bios are available on the website, so the potential student can select a teacher fully aware of their qualifications. There are only a few teachers who do not have degrees. Teachers with Ph.d.s have worked in this store. They are professional, knowledgeable and very customer oriented. There are down sides of course. There is a huge turn over, because students can pay monthly, and often the parents seem to want a place to "drop off" the student so they can do their errands (many drop them off "early" and don't return until long after the lesson is over). Students do not play on an aooustic piano. Teachers are told that they have the right to have their own policy, yet the store policy differs, so basically the student is obligated to follow store policy. The only problem I have with that is that, per my policy and store policy, teachers are NOT required to make up student cancellations, yet the store will push teachers to make up all cancelled lessons, and usually at the students' convenience. I have noticed that teachers who attempt to set boundaries are not assigned the same number of students as teachers who do not.

We have 6 piano teachers, several guitar teachers, strings, brass, voice and percussion teachers. They are extremely professional, most with degrees and very dedicated to the profession. I am appalled at the generalization made by the OP that "The middleman knows nothing about the service, hires inexperienced people..." and would like to know where the OP's information was gathered from.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
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