Ideal Music Teaching Environment

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Keeping a positive, relaxing and encouraging energy to your teaching studio is (unsurprisingly) quite important. Some music teachers like to experiment with various speaker setups, sound dampeners, and even different types of mood lighting. But, some guidelines should be followed for just about any environment:

Keep it clean

By that I mean keep it hygienically safe. Most students won’t care about clutter too much, and if you’re like me, especially if you teach or play several instruments, some clutter will inevitably build over the course of the day. However, you should also pick up when you can and, of course, make sure to tidy before you leave for the night so that it’s ready for lesson at the start of the next day. Even if it’s in the middle of your teaching day, if your room becomes hard to move around in due to messiness, you need to take care of it.

Keep it (inoffensively) decorated

The inoffensive part is probably obvious – most of your student base will likely be small children, and offensive material will keep them from coming back. However, the need for decorating in general is sometimes overlooked. If all the walls are blank, the overwhelming drabness can turn lessons into a chore especially for younger students. If you cater exclusively to older students, some mildly PG-13 material on the walls isn’t going to drive them away and may even turn you into the “cool” teacher. But, it’s always best to err on the side of caution since few studios run explicitly on an 18+ clientele.

There’s a poster of Frank Zappa playing guitar on the toilet in the bathroom of my practice space (where I not only rehearse, but teach some of my own students) – that’s probably as far I’d venture to go, and even that might be too much if it were inside the practice room, hanging above your chosen instrument. Still, the subtlest hint of raciness or diet profanity can actually say to high school-and-older students “this is not an academic environment – feel free to experiment and let down your hair a bit.” Older students are already crushed with academic or financial responsibilities, but this can motivate them to see practicing as indulging in a hobby instead of one more chore. Of course (and this should go without saying), make sure any attempts at a relaxing decor don’t veer into the offensive vis a vis racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other safe-space-destroying forms of harm.

Keep your gear stocked and functional

This is so obvious, yet I frequently fail to keep my own studio in ship shape. If you’re like me (or many, many other music teachers), you split your time between multiple schools and studios. Perhaps you have your own studio you teach out of one or two days a week, and you go to various stores that offer private lessons the other three days a week. Or, maybe you teach lessons inside of band classes at a local middle school in the mornings, and then teach your own band classes in the afternoon, followed by a rock band class you run in the evenings. These different locations make it that much easier to lose track of what’s missing or broken (not to mention, you may be in charge of the gear at some of these locations, while a separate business owner may be responsible at others).

The fix, simply put – whether you’re firing off emails to business owners requesting replaced gear or buying it yourself – once you find out it’s an issue, take care of it before you go home that day. Don’t make a note to fix it later as you will forget. I try to utilize my local music shop for nearly all my needs as they are knowledgeable, have high quality gear, and are trained professionals. But when a quarter-inch cable or practice amp breaks in my lessons studio, I immediately buy a replacement on Amazon.com simply to avoid procrastinating or forgetting about it. Trying to slog through a day of teaching with broken equipment is torture (although in times of irresponsibility, you’ll probably get good at improvising).

All that said, feel free to personalize your space! Throw up posters of your favorite artists on the wall, or play their tunes as background music when students walk in; use whatever organizational tools you want for your gear, or don’t even organize it at all, if that works for you (just don’t let clutter build and make the room “feel smaller”). At the end of the day, it’s your space, but you still want it to be inviting.

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