Written by & under Finances, Policies and Procedures, Program Development.

summer ending revIt’s that time of year where parents and students alike are gearing up for summer. Vacations are being planned, plane tickets booked and everyone looks forward with great anticipation to relaxation and good times.

What most people are not gearing up for are summer music lessons.

I’ve heard many arguments both for and against summer lessons. For some, you’re just going against the grain/trying to reinvent the wheel by staying open regularly during the summer. For others, music can only be studied with constant attention and your brain doesn’t know how to just take a summer break and start again – it just knows how to forget everything you’ve been working on.

At our studio, we choose to stay open for regular hours and keep lessons the same during the summer months. We don’t arrange a special summer schedule, we just continue as though nothing has changed in the school system since we are not, in fact, part of the school system. We fondly call ourselves a “year round studio”. We only close a total of 4 weeks a year (staying open the other 48). In exchange we offer unlimited makeup lessons provided proper notice is given and they are accomplished within 60 days of missing the lesson.

We do allow those who don’t want to be year round students to still study with us when they please; but with a slight difference in their tuition (which goes away after they’ve been with us for a straight year since we feel the purpose has been accomplished at that point).

While most people can come up with dozens of reasons why a year round system is madness, we can offer up several reasons why this is a great plan and we hope this gives other studio owners something to consider when planning for the future.

1)      We are able to give our full time teachers a guaranteed salary and benefits year round. Since we are not under the pressure of losing revenue for 3.5 straight months, we can continue our business practices as usual knowing that our cash flow remains fairly constant. Sure, we see a slight dip in registration, but we bet you’d be surprised to know that we only lose about 5-10 students for the summer out of our 450+. It is definitely a unique opportunity for our teachers to have that kind of security no matter what the season.

2)      Music study is a constant process, not something that can take a summer break. We all know this but sometimes the idea of explaining that concept to a culture so ingrained in the idea that their child’s schooling ceases during the summer is terrifying. We think we avoid this issue at large by offering lessons to all ages including a fairly significant adult population and emphasizing the “community music school” part of our niche; making very clear that we are in no way affiliated with the public school system. We purposefully do not line up our four weeks of closures with the school system or follow their inclement weather closures to make this abundantly clear. The less a parent associates you with the school system, the less they’ll garner expectations that you’ll behave like the school system.

3)      It’s easier to avoid the crazy transition back to school time in your business if you don’t have any changes to adjust. For example, if you do a special summer schedule and set of policies in your studio, come the fall you’ll be faced with all sorts of “I forgot the policies for cancellation during the normal school year” or “I don’t remember what my lesson time was supposed to be for the fall”. Not allowing the opportunity for confusion on this by simply continuing your business practices as usual allows for a much smoother transition in your school at “back to school time” and gives the parents one less thing to adjust to on their end.

4)      It’s easier to retain students if you are not ending their lessons. Ending the “school year” in your studio is a perfect opportunity for music lessons to slide off the proverbial plate. By not breaking your schedule in such a permanent fashion, it’s easier to keep students on your roster, which goes back to the stability part of this equation.

We do recognize that sometimes summer lessons are just not possible, but you would be surprised just how many of our clients go along with the lessons during the summer without breaking a sweat…while still enjoying those summer vacations and plans.

Now back to booking those plane tickets for my vacation…

Kate Powell is the office manager at the Catoctin School of Music and enjoys playing her clarinet (currently doing a 100 days of practice challenge!)