This blog post about how to hire the right-fit teachers for your music studio or school was written by guest contributor Joanna Shiel. Joanna runs a multi-teacher piano school based in London, which she currently manages from abroad. When not teaching, she loves playing the dance machine in the arcade, enjoying a coffee at art galleries and discovering new hiking spots. Her favourite dessert is lemon meringue pie.
When you think about hiring the first teachers for your music studio, how do you feel? 🤔 Clueless? Scared? Definitely-not-for-me? Perhaps you’re excited and ready to start ASAP.
⬆️ Listen to the podcast above or keep on reading, whichever fits your style. ↙️
I travel and teach. No, I literally travel and teach from the road (I’m currently writing this article from an AirBnB in Brazil where I’m learning Portuguese).
Thanks to the global pandemic, I knew that many of my students would be very happy to continue learning with me online. But there were several who really needed and wanted an in-person teacher.
So I took the leap and turned my solo-preneur home studio into a multi-teacher school where I could teach online and run from anywhere.
We all know hiring a great teacher is important, but hiring the right-fit teacher is vital to you and your business’s well-being. If you’re expanding your music studio or school and need to hire teachers, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting that first right-fit teacher in the door.
Getting Your Ducks in a Row
The most important step is making sure you and your music studio are ready to hire new teachers. The clearer you are about these things, the easier it will be to hire the right teacher.
- What your school stands for
- Who you are as a teacher
- The lifestyle you want
- What you want to contribute to music education
Do you have the right mindset yet? 🤔
As teachers, we’re used to being leaders – so this mind shift shouldn’t be a stretch. But when we start to take on extra responsibility, we need to (1) be crystal clear on our policies, (2) be on-point with our communication and (3) have pretty solid expectations for ourselves, students and teachers.
We need to shift our mindset from ‘I’ to ‘we’.
Quite cool huh?! We’re going to start building something great – not just for ourselves but for our communities.
Take some time to explore your philosophies as a teacher. Getting clear on what’s important to you will act as a great filter for who you definitely don’t want to hire.
Think back on your own musical experiences:
- What was meaningful?
- What was demeaning?
- What did you enjoy?
- What did you struggle with?
Consider what you value about your school now:
- A more traditional or a more experimental approach?
- Are you a creative and exploratory school?
- Is an improv-focussed lesson more important than a reading-focussed one?
- Are you trained in Kodály, Suzuki or some other approach?
- How do you feel about exams and performances?
- Do you use lots of rewards in your lessons?
- Who do you teach – adults, children or both?
- Are you online or in-person; or perhaps a mix of both?
What are your goals as a school? Get really specific:
- How many students is enough?
- How much money do you want this business to make?
- Where do you want to teach?
- Do you want a franchise or to keep things local?
- Do you want to run an agency, or have oversight over the way your school runs?
When you are clear on these, it’ll be much easier to attract a teacher with the same philosophies and value system. (Hint: These make great interview questions too!)
Crafting the Perfect Right-Fit Piano Teacher
Now is when we get creative!
Imagine your multi-teacher studio. What does it look like? What do your teachers look like?
Contractors vs Employees
An important consideration is how much freedom you want your teachers to work under. In general:
- If you’re telling someone what to do, when and how to teach, they’re an employee.
- If they have complete freedom to teach however, whatever and whenever they like, they’re an independent contractor.
Take a look at your answers from before to decide how you want to manage your school’s teachers.
Please note: Always check in with employment laws in your state and/or country. Get advice from a lawyer and your accountant so you’re well informed to take the next step.
Location, location, location
Get clear on your teaching space. When you hire teachers for your music studio, where will they work?
Is it in your home studio? A rented space? In the students’ homes? Online?
Now comes the fun part – finding your perfect teacher.
Asking around in your network is a great way to hire music teachers for your studio who are aligned with your values. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Facebook teaching groups
- Your current students and families
- Friends and family
- Current students who are ready for more responsibility
Local music universities and colleges are excellent sources of newly-trained musicians looking for a bit of extra work.
There are plenty of job sites you can use for free to advertise roles. Personally, I’ve had a lot of success on Indeed.com and haven’t ever paid to find a teacher.
Hopefully by now, you’re super duper clear on everything you need to hire the right-fit piano teacher for your studio. You’re ready to create your job ad.
Start by summing up your school – in around 3 sentences – as the amazing place to work it is. What makes you different as a school?
Highlight what part you’ll play so candidates know what their responsibilities would be.
Learn more about how to market your studio and more at Nicola’s centralised Studio Business hub page.
Your Perfect Teacher
This part of the advertisement is where you sum up the perfect-teacher qualities you’re looking for, such as:
- Excellent communicator
- Student, brand-new or seasoned teacher
- Owns a car/bicycle
- Has a music degree or grade 8 in their instrument.
Write a list of qualities which are important to you, and highlight those in your advertisement.
Bonus Open-Ended Questions
If you’re advertising on an online forum which allows for it, get those creative juices flowing by asking a couple of bonus questions. This will weed out those who are simply applying to everything and anything, and also give you insight into those who do apply.
Hopefully, by now, you have a list of prospective candidates and are ready to meet them.
If you do it right, you don’t need to dread meeting candidates. Interviewing can be a really fun, interesting and humbling experience.
In the Interview
If you can, record the interview either by video or audio so you can review the footage when you have more time to evaluate. You might like to take notes during the interview, but don’t let that distract you from being fully in the experience with the candidate.
Be wary if the candidate:
- is late.
- reschedules more than once.
- doesn’t ask you any questions.
- seems too set in their ways.
- simply doesn’t seem like the right fit.
I’d be very skeptical of those candidates, as they’re likely to behave the same way when they teach.
It’s good to have a list of six or seven questions which you find important but aren’t too specific. This will give you focus and guide the communication, but give you the space and flexibility to have a conversation.
Some excellent questions might be:
- What were your early musical experiences?
- What are your thoughts about technique?
- What are your goals for the next year, and why?
- Who was an excellent teacher for you? Who was a bad teacher?
- What methods do you currently use? Why?
- How would you teach a 5-year-old, complete beginner?
- How would you assess a transfer student?
It’s important to give lots of space for candidates to talk, so open-ended questions can be very revealing.
Whenever there’s a gap in the conversation, don’t be tempted to jump in with another question or talk about yourself. Give it space and see what happens!
Ultimately, Trust Your Gut
As a teacher, you know how to read people. If something ultimately feels off about a candidate, trust yourself and don’t make the hire.
What’s the most important quality of the right-fit teacher for your studio?
Let me know in the comments below. 🙂