Two common struggles of teachers/studio owners are motivating students and keeping students long-term. These are, of course, related to each other. A student who isn’t motivated to practice his instrument probably isn’t enjoying the experience and isn’t progressing, and it’s likely that it won’t be long before his family feels the investment is a waste of money and decides to pull their child out of lessons.
That said, I’ve never been one to implement reward programs to try to motivate a student. I’ve known teachers who provide prizes or even monetary rewards for students who practice a certain number of times per week, but in my experience these can be ineffective and expensive. Instead, I have found that providing students with performance opportunities motivates students to practice and in doing so, helps encourage a long-term relationship with the student and his family.
A student who is preparing for a recital or competition is likely to practice faithfully. He doesn’t want to embarrass himself by playing poorly in front of his family and friends, but wants to impress them with his musical abilities. A student playing for a competition or festival will, likewise, want to impress the judge and earn a good score. A student who doesn’t practice and gives a poor performance is likely to want to turn things around the next time and prevent this experience from happening again! Since some instruments can also be a bit isolating, hearing their peers play can also be motivating to kids. A beginning piano student has the opportunity to hear a high school student play a famous Chopin prelude, and becomes excited about what he will be able to learn someday if he sticks with his instrument.
Parents also enjoy opportunities to see their children shine. Hearing their children play in a recital or festival makes them proud and helps them understand the real gift they are giving to their children by keeping them in music lessons. Hearing advanced students play also allows parents to see the rewards of a long-term commitment to lessons.
At my own studio, I try to provide students with many opportunities throughout the year to play in a variety of settings and through a variety of organizations. I never require that a student participate in all of the events I offer, but I always make my students aware of what opportunities they have and help parents select a few that fit their child’s abilities and personalities well. Some of the performance opportunities I provide are:
- Annual studio recitals, held at the community room of our local library
- Seasonal recitals put on by my local teachers organization at our university (allows students to play in an amazing venue on an amazing instrument)
- Masterclasses put on by my local teachers organization each spring
- Students share holiday music selections each December at a local nursing home
- Competitive opportunities through the National Federation of Music Clubs and my state music teachers organization