What makes a professional piano studio?
About a year ago, one of my student’s parents said to me, “Do you know why we booked into your music school?”
I laughed and said, “Because I’m such a fabulous teacher?”.
She responded, “Actually no, it was because your studios were so clean and you made sure any instruments that went in the babies’ mouths when we started were disinfected before the next class”.
I’d like to share a story about a small group of children that started learning music back in 2009. These children were just 9 – 12 months old. Their parents brought them to participate in our Jungle Music program, which introduces children to music through fun and play with their parents.
The difference with these children was that they were all born premature.
So their mums and dads had gone through an enormously stressful time, with the birth and then subsequent medical issues associated with babies born preterm. Music can be a great way alleviate the stress and promote the relationship between parent and child.
Seven years later, two of the students are still learning, one has just completed Grade 1 piano (with distinction), and the other will sit Grade 1 next year. They have also promoted our music school to many other parents who have subsequently enrolled their children in our music school.
These children enrolled in 2009 and by the end of this year, their parents will have invested close to $10,000 in music lessons for each child! And to think, the only reason they started learning music with us was because we made sure that our studios were clean, tidy and well presented.
I often say this is just “common sense”, however I have found that “common sense” isn’t actually that common!
5 cleaning strategies for your studio
Talking about ‘cleaning strategies’ sounds pretty boring, but it’s so important.
Your studio is likely up against tough competition, not only from other music studios, but from competing activities: dance, drama, martial arts, sports, etc.
If you’re not ensuring that your students’ workspace is spotless each day, then you’re likely doing yourself a disservice. It’s a small thing with big impact.
Here are 5 strategies to ensure that every time a parent brings their child for a lessons, my music school looks fresh and clean:
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- Vacuum every day. It sounds unnecessary, however it really is important and helps to avoid a build up of dust. Allergies are extremely prevalent these days and dust is often a contributing factor. Sometimes we have to do this twice a day as we have around 300 students attending during the week.
- Clean the pianos and other instruments regularly. You would be amazed at how dirty the highest and lowest octaves on your pianos can get. Let’s face it; how many of us have lots of students doing 7th grade and above? Music students fall under a pyramid with many more at lower levels and fewer at higher levels. Often those higher and lower notes on the piano are rarely played, so they can become a dust trap if you leave your pianos open or have digital pianos with no cover.
- Ask children to wash their hands before they play. My preference is not to use antibacterial soaps, however the waterless soaps are incredibly convenient. If you have children washing their hands try to use plain soap without the anti-bacterial ingredients. There is plenty of research showing those ingredients make hands no less clean, however they have do have other environmental issues.
- Regularly wipe all glass, walls, doors and handles. In our music schools three out of four walls are white. This adds to the feeling of clean as well as making the studio look bright and open. White walls can be a challenge as children love to put their fingers on them. We use “Jiff” and “Gumption” to clean the white walls, as they are able to bring the walls back to looking really white and clean. Glass will always show finger marks, so a dash of “Windex” on a rag ensures spotless windows.
- Have tissues at the ready! When you have taught as long as I have, there’s nothing quite like being able to reach for Kleenex when that child who has just sneezed, has snot hanging out of his/her nose! Always unpleasant, but it comes with the territory. We always keep a spare box in the cupboard. “Wet Ones” are also great to have, just in case.
Creating a professional environment is important if you want to be seen as a professional teacher. Would you be comfortable seeing a doctor or dentist if they didn’t have a clean surgery?
I wanted to finish with some more general tips to keep your studio looking professional.
5 tips for a more professional piano studio
- Have a bookshelf for your books, rather than the top of the piano! This not only makes your studio look clean and tidy, it will save you time by being able to find books when your need them.
- Avoid “Blutak-ing” things to your walls. Put up a noticeboard that allows people to pin signs and pamphlets to it.
- Create as much light as possible. Good lighting helps to enhance an environment. Halogen or LED downlights are excellent, especially if you have a feature wall. Artwork is always enhanced by good lighting. Parents often appreciate a lamp next to parent chairs, so they can more easily read magazines, etc.
- Check the seats that students and parents use regularly to ensure they are not “falling apart”. You would be surprised how quickly screws need to be tightened in furniture, especially Ikea furniture! If you do have Ikea (and I have heaps) remember to keep the spanners in a safe place.
- Supply current magazines for parents to read. They’re a tax deduction, so enjoy reading them first! Dispose of magazines that are over three months old. In my music school I support the NSW Art Gallery, so we put their magazine in rack every month. This also shows parents that we are committed to the Arts and Arts Education.
First impressions are lasting impressions. Creating your professional environment takes a bit of extra time and effort but will pay off in the long run, like it did for my students. Remember, professional teachers are paid more, so take the time to make your studio look the part!
Have your say
How do you make sure your studio is a professional environment for children to attend? What do you feel is important when you visit doctors, dentists, waiting rooms, etc.? Do you agree with these suggestions?
Leave your thoughts below.
Paul, Thank you for this article! My wife is a music teacher out of our home and we have a 340 sq ft studio with five digital pianos and enough room for a sitting area for parents and siblings. We are currently remodeling this room and we chose to go with wood plank tile and replacing the carpet. I am noticing while this process is going on and carpet tea-out that the room has much more of an echo! My wife gives voice and piano lessons both. Do you have any recommendations for keeping this echo at a minimum and staying within a nominal budget, or at least getting the biggest bang for our buck? This room has a large ceiling about 16 ft at its highest point. Do you also see me adding some sort of acoustic absorbing material in our ceiling? Any and all help you can provide would be appreciated! Thank you, Bob
Great article, Paul! I wrote an article a few months ago called “Icing your studio” on my blog. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter – like how clean, welcoming, and clutter-free you keep your studio!
Excellent article! I have a bit of a strange question…what tips do you have for sanitizing the hands-on resources in your studio? It’s easy to tackle the basics, but I haven’t landed on a good solution for regularly sanitizing things such as laminated cardstock (e.g. flash cards, game boards, etc) or plush toys. (When very young kids get tired towards the end of a lesson, we do silly things like balance a stuffed animal on our heads while playing to ensure we stay alert and sit up straight and tall. Do I need to worry about the possibility of head lice?)
Great question. I tend to wipe those laminated type of products with antiseptic cleaning wipes as required but no less than about once per term. Plush toys are more difficult, some can be hand washed or washed using the a gentle cycle in your washing machine.
Things like head lice are always a bit of an issue. Personally in the last 26 years of teaching, I’ve never had an issue. That’s not to say that there might not be one. If so I would use the same cleaning product that would be used for clothing in the event of head lice.
I hope that helps, cheers Paul
I love this. I’m just about to convert my garage into a sound proof studio which will be a huge upgrade from my dining room/office/piano room/toy storage space.
This has given me some food for thought.
Thanks Colin – glad to hear!