Tag Archives: musikgarten studio

Fall Checklist for Children’s Music Studios

With the turning leaves and cooling weather of fall, children start back to school. Teachers have had an all-important  break, and are refreshed and ready to face a new year and often times, a new set of students. Early childhood music studio owners and teachers often run classes year-round while teaching the same groups of children as they progress in music. However, Fall still presents an opportunity for educators to reinvigorate their children’s music programs. Four ways in which to do that include outbound marketing programs, refreshing teaching space, reviewing lesson plans, and stocking up on classroom materials.

Perform Outbound Marketing to Grow Your Studio

Children’s music studio owners know that in order to sustain and grow their business,

it’s important to feed new students into the program. The following outbound marketing programs can help grow the number of new music students, and in turn, revenues.

  • Referral Programs – Provide incentives for parents to invite other parents to join your studio.
  • Eblasts – Whether you are using your own internal email list, a purchased list based on your target demographics, or a list offered by local organizations, emails can be very effective.
  • Direct Mail – Postcards or letters with incentives towards targeted demographics or neighborhoods are most helpful when repeated periodically.
  • Organization/Group Opportunities – Organizations such as the PTA, Mommy’s Groups, Neighborhood Facebook pages, and other organizations for young parents offer sponsorship and outreach opportunities.
  • Social Media – A fairly inexpensive way to reach out to potential customers while sharing your brand and benefits.

Refresh Your Teaching Space

Creating a space that is conducive for learning is very important for students’ cognitive performance. Here are just a few ideas for making your teaching space new and inviting to students:

  • Provide ample space for each student – As your classes grow, so should your teaching space!
  • Get organized to reduce clutter – A clean classroom helps students focus on the lesson and the teacher, not distractions.
  • Add a splash of color – Having a colorful classroom, such as carpeting or wall hangings, adds excitement and gets kids excited to come to music class.

Review Lesson Plans

While many lesson plans are “tried and true,” reviewing and looking at them in a different way can be exciting for even the most experienced educators.

  • Think if new world examples to explain established concepts – Explaining concepts with something students can relate to makes a better connection to the subject matter.
  • Each review uncovers new revelations – We often read books and watch movies multiple times because of things we may have missed the last time around.
  • Review aids recall – Just as with studying any subject, review always helps to recall information. Thorough knowledge of material gives teachers confidence.

Stock Up on Classroom Materials

Children’s music classrooms often have many more tactile materials than traditional classrooms, so having an ample and operable supply on hand is very important:

  • Plan for growth – While you may be reluctant to carry inventory over your expected class size, you don’t want to turn a windfall of new students away because you don’t have the necessary materials.
  • Wear and tear – Many materials, especially musical instruments, can experience the same wear and tear as children’s toys. Proper sound and tone are also important when teaching musical concepts.
  • New edition – Written materials often go through various editions and may have subtle changes and corrected errors. Check with your publisher to make sure your materials are up to date.

The new school year presents a time for teachers and students to re-energize their love of learning. Taking some steps in the children’s music classroom can help create new growth in the program as well as nurture a positive learning environment.

The Importance of Music for Happiness in Child Development

This week marks the first official day of Spring, and for most people, Spring signifies awakening, renewal, and new growth. Most of us seem to be happier in Spring, and there is scientific evidence to support that. With longer and warmer days, the increased exposure to sunlight increases the production of serotonin “The Confidence Molecule” in the body, while decreasing the production of melatonin. That chemical change, along with the psychological change of being outside more, makes Spring a very happy time for most. As we would assume, happiness is very important for our emotional and physical health. But even more so, happiness in is key to healthy development in children.

While many factors contribute to the happiness of children, music is one factor that can have a very positive and lasting effect.

The Importance of Happiness in Childhood   

When most of us look upon childhood, we can remember a variety of events, activities, and people that evoke feelings of happiness, sadness, being frightened, or upset. While caregivers tend to put a great emphasis on the extent to which different influences or activities shape a child’s future success, research shows that memories of childhood are linked more to social events and activities than any solitary ones.

Adults are more likely to fondly remember social interaction at events such as a birthday party rather than the actual gifts they received. Happiness in childhood social interactions encourages kindness and good moral behavior, and helps to prevent tantrums, defiance and rebellious behavior. In addition, adults who reported higher levels of well being during childhood were more likely to report being satisfied with their adult life, including work, relationships and health. This should be no surprise, but caregivers often ponder over the best methods of providing children a happy environment. While the various factors are too many to list here, there is a distinct correlation between music and childhood happiness.

Music and Childhood Happiness

As we have explored in this blog before, music facilitates listening, learning, language development, independence, and initiative in children.

Music also helps reduce childhood anxiety and depression, while promoting healthy and restful sleep. All of these factors affect moods in children, and as a result, their developing outlook on life. Furthermore, early childhood music classes promote social interaction and cooperation, which as mentioned above is a key factor in memories of a happy childhood. Singing and playing together in a group provides the positive feelings of shared community and teamwork. Music increases the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which play a role in closeness and connection with others. Exposure to music from the earliest stages of childhood increases a positive world outlook and happiness. Group early childhood music classes especially benefit a child’s well-being, as it becomes a way to practice cooperation, communication, and interaction with peers.

Spring is a time when nature seems to come awake in many ways, including more music. For example, Canaries stop singing every autumn when the brain cells responsible for song generation die, growing back in the winter months so the birds can sing their songs in Spring. While birdsong may not be a sign of happiness in birds, it certainly brings joy to many who hear it as the sun begins shining longer and brighter.

A Short History of Do-Re-Mi

Anyone who has seen Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1965 hit The Sound of Music remembers the catchy song that Baroness Maria uses to teach the Von Trapp children to sing. The lyrics are “Doe, a deer, a female, deer, Ray, a drop of golden sun, Me, a name I call myself..,” and so on. While the syllables of Solfege, a system designed to teach the major musical scale, is assigned to do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti in English speaking countries, the sounding of each is cleverly used in the adored song. But the history of solfege dates way back to the turn of the 11th Century, and has been used by many early childhood music programs to teach the major musical scale.

The Origins of Solfege as a Music Teaching System

The system of solfege was invented nearly a thousand years ago by Italian music theorist and Benedictine monk, Guido de Arezzo, who was also the inventor of our bar note system still used today. A renowned teacher, Arezzo was looking for a simple notational system to teach the pitches of the six notes of the major musical scale to those who had never before had musical training. At the same time, this system teaches music students to site read. To illustrate this system, Arezzo brilliantly represented the hexachord through the Latin hymn Ut queant laxis, or the Hymn to St. John the Baptist.  Each successive line of the hymn used the syllable for each note – ut,re,mi,fa,sol,la, sung in the proper pitch. In the 8th Century, another Benedictine monk, Paulus Diaconus, aka Paul the Deacon, translated the words:

Ut queant laxis in Latin:
Ut queant laxis, resonare fibris
Mira gestorum, famuli tuorum,
Solve pollute, labii reatum,
Sancte lohannes.

Word translation by Paul the Deacon
So that our servants may, with loosened voices
Resound the wonders or your deeds
Clean the guilt from our stained lips
O St. John.

Musikgarten teacher using Solfege to teach tonal patterns.
Musikgarten teacher using Solfege to teach tonal patterns.

The Evolution of Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti

The solfege invented by Guido de Arezzo continued to evolve to even as recently as the 1830s. In the 1600s, Ut was changed to the open syllable Do at the suggestion of the musicologist Giovanni Battista Doni (Based on the first syllable of his surname) in order to complete the diatonic scale. Then in the nineteenth century, English speaking music educator Sarah Glover changed the “si” to “ti,” so that each syllable begins with a different letter. This is the version that was used in the famed song from The Sound of Music.

Two Types of Solfege in Modern Use

Still used for site reading training in many children’s music classrooms today, there are two main types of solfege – Moveable do and Fixed do. Moveable do, also called tonic sol-fa, has each syllable corresponding to a scale degree in the hexachord, and is mostly used in Germanic and Commonwealth countries, as well as the United States. In Fixed do, each syllable of the solfege corresponds to the name of a note, using the original “si” instead of “ti.” It is commonly used in Romantic, Slavic, and Spanish Speaking countries, and is also principally taught at the Julliard School in New York City.

Through an amazing conception and gradual evolution, the solfege system has been teaching music students and singers to learn the major music scale and site reading. While many remember it fondly from The Sound of Music, it endured from hundreds of years before as a tool to help early childhood music educators. Having changed slightly for different languages, solfege transcends them to speak the universal language of music.

Musikgarten Exemplary Programs 2020

As we bring this year to a close, Musikgarten wants to thank all of our teachers who continue to bring the best of early childhood music education to children and parents, especially the Musikgarten Exemplary Programs for the 2019-2020 year.

Exemplary Awards are given to teachers in recognition of long-standing commitment to the Musikgarten philosophy and current offering of four or more levels of classes utilizing the Musikgarten Music and Movement Series. Congratulations to each of the winners. We appreciate your loyalty and support! (Note: These are in alphabetical order.)

Angelic Voices – Angie Sawyer

Anja Scheidel’s Musikgarten Studio

Apple Tree Arts

Shelley Baird – Texas Amps and Axes

Boone’s Tunes of Delmarva: Susan Upton

Kathryn Brunner – Musik at Home, LLC 

Community School of the Arts – Wheaton College – Wheaton, IL

Paula Craig

Betha’s Musik – Betha Christopher

Nan Croney​ – Croney Music Garden

Early Childhood Music School of Williamsburg United Methodist Church  

East Dallas Children’s Music

Glenda Evans – Musikgarten with Glenda

Heidi Fields – Immanuel Valpo Musikgarten

Joy Galliford – South Florida Music

Gate City Musikgarten                                                   

Ginger’s Music of Oklahoma City                               

Growing Musical Children

Jill Hannagan

Susan Holtzscher – The Studio Connection

Hunterdon Academy of the Arts

Nancy Spahr Huskey – Miami County Early Childhood Music

Jefferson City Music Academy and Helen Haynes

Ellen Johansen

Karen Haughey Music Studio

Shannon Kramer at Miss Shannon’s Music Studio

Nancy Kubo

Kuite Music Studio – Karen D. Kuite

Jill Lundberg – Music to Grow

Heather McEndree – Cumberland Valley School of Music

McMainly Music – Lana McMains             

Bobbi Morgan

The Music Factory                                                          

Music for Life Musikgarten Studio, Lynelle Vogel, Winona Lake and Nappanee, Indiana

The Music Garden                                                           

Music Institute of Chicago

The Music School of Delaware                                   

Musikgarten Bellaire – Jill Vaughan, Director

Musikgarten of Guelph – Caroline MacDonald

Musikgarten of Lexington – Jennifer Tutt                   

Musikgarten of Oak Park                                              

Musik Kids Program Wyoming Fine Arts Center                              

Sarah Nishioka

Dennis and Carla Pratt

Sarah’s Music Studio – Sarah Grove-Humphries

Doris Sing, St. Andrew’s School of Fine Arts

Sonia’s Musikgarten – Sonia Markholm

Chelsea Spence-Crane, Tri-City MusikGarten

Judy Stoner – Glen Ellyn Family Music School

Union Colony Children’s Music Academy               

Carla Waterfield – Carla’s Musikgarten New Orleans

Julia J. White, MM, Director Young Artists Music Studio

Virtual Children’s Music Classes – A Teachers Prospective – Part 2

In this second installment exploring the challenges and reflections on teaching a virtual early childhood music class, we continue our interview with Rebecca Cauthron of East Dallas Children’s Music. A certified Musikgarten teacher, Rebecca provides her experiences, tips, and ideas to help other teachers and parents of children’s music classes to navigate through social distancing while still maintaining a valuable connection between teacher, students, and parents. To find out more about Rebecca and the team at East Dallas Children’s Music, please see the end of this interview:

In today’s continuation of our interview, Rebecca covers specific technical issues and tips for teaching virtual children’s music classes, as well as reflection on how this online teaching format differs from in-person teaching:

As many of us know, keeping young children’s attention during an in-person classroom setting is hard enough. What technical advice could you offer to someone who has never created or provided an online children’s music class to make the experience better for the children, teacher, and parents?

Rebecca: First, the tips I offer to parents are:

  • Don’t face the camera towards a window. It backlights the image and all a teacher sees is shadows. Light coming from the front or above is best. It is important, still, for the teacher to see the student and the child does love to see themselves, too, but they quickly get over it!
  • A laptop at arm’s length is best for the child’s viewing. The parent can control the mute button and the child can have the teacher in view without being too far back to create a distraction. If using Zoom, have them put the “speaker view” on so the teacher is always big (mostly for children under four.)
  • The camera needs to be approachable for the child, so they can interact closely with the teacher. If needed, the parent can cover the keyboard with a piece of paper taped to the sides (A cloth or a blanket could overheat the computer.), and finally…
  • Placing the computer on a box, the floor, a step stool, or a short table is preferable for the young child.

For teachers, my advice is to first follow all of the recommendations above, and also

  • Make sure you are very well lit. A ring light or photography lights really help. The better the children can see you, the more effective you will be. Also, have your computer on full brightness, because it will illuminate your face in addition to the other lights. Make sure the room is very well lit. Close any drapes and black out as much outside light as possible, unless it is in front of you and the camera.
  • A webcam will give you the most ability to fine-tune the video appearance; it will also give you a wider viewpoint and the ability to move it around. Sit a little less than an arm’s length away from the camera. Don’t be concerned about your entire body being in the camera, because it is your face that is important.
  • When you are standing up and moving around, shifting your camera up to get your head and as much of your body as possible is fine. When everyone is moving, they are not really looking at you anyways (except for those toddlers who are fascinated by the movement they see on the screen).
  • Turn off your ceiling fan and put devices on do not disturb. The ceiling fan creates moving shadows, choppy sound, and a breeze on your hair.

Teaching children’s music encompasses and utilizes nearly all, if not all, of the senses. Delivering those over the internet can often be tricky. What technical tips can you offer about delivery that makes the online experience better?

Rebecca: First, sound and internet capabilities go hand-in-hand. This is in regard to both the giver and the receiver. A computer on wi-fi is best. Do not go through a phone’s LTE or 4G because it will not be stable, reliable, or fast enough. The student will have a better experience if they do the same, but the teacher definitely needs to be on a fast wi-fi connection. Make sure you are in range, and if it is weak, put a booster near your teaching area.

To assure connectivity, I like to run a speed test like www.speedtest.net. The experience is best with symmetrical upstream and downstream. Ping (measure latency/delay) and that will vary slightly from student to student, but it mostly tells you the time that it takes to go there and back, so-to-speak. This is reflected in the slight delay we experience and why we can’t sing together. When singing and keeping a steady beat, remember that they hear you in real time, just a second delayed, so just keep on singing and tapping. They will not be with you and they will end after you, but not on their end. When having them echo, audiate their response and continue. Don’t wait for them to finish. It is EXTREMLY helpful to have a practice class with a close friend(s) or relative(s) and have them record so you could hear and see what they are hearing. If you have been teaching virtually for a while and have not done this, you may be in for a shock!

Also keep in mind that for classes below age 4 and maybe some older classes, no matter how good you think you sound, if you do not have everyone else on mute, it will sound broken up to your class, even with high quality mics. There will always be a child louder than you or an unexpected loudness that will inevitably interrupt your stream! I still have to use the mute button with my younger classes, but for my older kids, I never have to use it, because my voice always cuts though as the prominent speaker in the room. In the least, I would recommend getting a microphone that can travel with you.

For an excellent example and demonstration of Rebecca’s sound system click here.

How do you manage playing music/recordings during the class?

Rebecca: I have a separate computer that feeds into a mixer so I can have my music set-up and ready to play without having to share my screen or type it on the computer that is acting as my camera. This is preferred, but highly unlikely that this is a possibility. I just happen to have a techy husband who was a sound engineer and did stage lighting! The second-best option is to simply share your screen and optimize it for listening to music. My least favorite option, but is still audible, play music directly from your computer. It is grizzly, tinny, and bumpy, but it is audible. Before you start class, you’ll want to always make sure your parents/students can hear the music. Ask them to give you a thumbs up if they can hear it. If they can’t, check the volume on your computer. Make sure it is turned up all the way.

What about a choice of video conferencing platform? The options out there can sometimes be overwhelming?

Rebecca: When using a video conferencing platform for the first time, become familiar with the platform and its safety features. Look at all of the features for sound and video and any advanced features. If you don’t understand what they are, google them. Watch how-to-video guides on how to use the platform and research pros and cons. A little bit of time taken to find all of the features can save you a great deal of time in the future. And the more you know about the platform, the more you can help your students’ parents with their questions.

It sounds like you have really set things up well for teaching music on an online environment. Now that you have a good bit of experience in virtual teaching, what things do you think are lost or gained from an in-person classroom setting to an online format?

Rebecca: The biggest fear and take-away that I had during our initial trial last year, which prompted my initial blog on virtual classes (Part 1 and Part 2), was that the child would develop behavioral patterns and resistances that otherwise would likely have been redirected and thwarted by the teacher.  I saw in my own son such different personalities in the class and at home. I maintain that if I were not a teacher myself, it would be challenging to be responsible for singing along with my child (learning the songs), redirecting my child, making sure all of the materials are ready to go, and being a joyful presence in the class. It is much easier as a parent to attend the class with the child and just be an active participant alongside them. It is much easier to model when you are in a room where everybody else is also modeling for their children; the children look around and see what the other children are doing which leads to learning decisions. I think that is the most important life changing aspect that is lost online on all levels is: Interactive, interpersonal learning decisions. I also think there is a lot less singing going on the other end of the screen. They know that they can hide behind their mute button!  Again, when all of the other children are singing, it is more fun, valuable, self-correcting and rewarding to sing along. The confidence goes way down when they are in a room by themselves (parents and students)

Also, it is much, much, much more difficult to teach keyboard online, although, I find that I am having the children use their words to figure things out. When I am teaching in-person, it is hard to be patient and let them discover for themselves; online makes it almost impossible for me to help them too much! I miss ensembles. I miss class resonator bar “Scoot, Scoot, Scoot” turns. I miss using the physical aspects of my teaching room with the children (go sit in this corner for this activity, put your paper under your name and crawl to the poster, etc.) I even miss the smell of their stinky little feet when they take off their shoes to come into the classroom. I miss their eyes looking up at mine, or not! I miss, most of all, the random conversations that pop-up during class. This can’t be replicated.

We understand that the virtual format of teaching has been a necessity for many more than a choice, and most teachers would much rather be face to face with their students. Keeping that in mind, are there any things you find you have gained during this conversion?

Rebecca: What is gained by online teaching is a focus and a more condensed direction towards a goal through each activity. I have to work much harder online to make the activity musically meaningful; I have been teaching for almost 25 years in an interactive classroom! You can’t just holler out, “Betty, how should we move next?”  Online, you almost have to take suggestions all at once and then remember them! I digressed to what is lost, but my point is that I have to work much harder to come up with new “tactics” in order to teach the goal, therefore, it is usually much more detailed, thought-out, and relevant. I obviously gain control of my classroom, because behavior is not really my issue anymore. There is a lot less interpersonal play between the children which is wonderful and sad all at the same time.

So, do you feel like once it is safe to do so, that you will go back to in-person classes only, continue with online only, or a mixture of both? Why?

Rebecca: We are without a doubt going back to in-person classes as it provides the essence of our program: Socially, emotionally, and cognitively making music together.  The bonding between the students, teachers, and parents form the strong foundation of musical development. From a parent’s perspective, in-person teaching is a shared goal of giving their child the gift of music and learning a little bit themselves along the way. In an in-person setting, teachers earn the students’ trust from an early age and the students realize that music, love, happiness, and the teacher give them the confidence to learn, grow, try new things, and challenge themselves. It is extremely difficult to form this kind of bond through a screen. If it is the only way for a while, so be it, but we will do so with our hopes for the future that we can make music physically together.

From the numerous quality instruments, multiple part ensemble building, being part of a common interest group, pitch matching while they are playing the resonator bars, running and playing together in real time, manipulating physical space while we are all rolling on the floor to the sweet eye contact made when they first enter the room and when they say their goodbyes, it makes a difference to be there. But the truth is, we don’t know what is going to happen even in the near future. We need to keep our options open and understand that virtual learning, I believe, is here for good. There may be options for hybrid studios; in-person classes, but if you are out of driving range for the class, then an online option would not exclude those who live in rural communities. I have always believed in equal access when it comes to music education. I often thought how wonderful and valuable it would be to teach flute to students in extremely rural communities with no access to private teachers. So, would I teach a Musikgarten class to students in communities that lack a Musikgarten program? What will this new age of teaching look like? That is for another blog.

Thank you again for participating in this interview. I am sure that many teachers and parents will find your experience and insights here extremely helpful as they navigate the difficult situation educators find ourselves in today.

Rebecca Cauthron is an early childhood music educator at East Dallas Children’s Music, a flute instructor for Duncanville, TX ISD, and an adjunct flute professor at Dallas College Mountain View Campus. East Dallas Children’s Music, established in 1989 and founded by Cathy Mathia, offers a full range of Musikgarten classes from Birth through age 9 and adults. Cathy and Rebecca are joined by Musikgarten certified teacher Jaycie Skidmore at East Dallas Children’s Music. For more information on East Dallas Children’s Music and its talented and dedicated staff, click hereClick here for a full studio bio.

Balancing Digital Media for Children at Home

With summer in full swing, and the pandemic still influencing parents work arrangements and social activities, we find ourselves asking the familiar question “How much screen time at home is adequate for my child?” Children’s music studio owners and teachers often get this question from their parents with the added caveat, does virtual educational time count as screen time?

To better answer this question, lets first understand what “screen time” actually means. Medline Plus defines screen time as a term for sedentary activities performed in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Note that the operative word here is sedentary, meaning children are being inactive physically while sitting down. Keyboard, mouse, remote, or game controller use are not considered physical activity in this definition.

So then, how much screen time should be allowed to children per day? For years, The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended no screen time for children under the age of 2 years, and no more than two hours per day for children and teenagers. But recently, the AAP have adjusted their guidelines to acknowledge the role that technology plays in our daily lives, as well as the new reality of Covid-19. So rather than provide definitive recommendations on time children should be allowed on screens, the new guidelines emphasize the active role parents play in allowing screen time in moderation, and how to navigate the balance.

With the onslaught of Covid-19, parents are transitioning into work from home (and back again) while trying to figure out childcare responsibilities. Similarly, schools are trying to juggle social distancing and remote learning. As a result, a good portion of childrens education has transitioned to online and virtual delivery. Understanding this necessity and its additional challenges, the AAP and other health care organizations have offered parents some flexibility and more general guidelines for managing screen time for children at home:

  • Take an active role in what your child is doing on screens – Sit down with your child and review what they are currently doing online, using it as an opportunity to have discussions about what is acceptable in both the household and society as a whole. It’s also a good idea to supervise while your child is engaged in screen time, even if it is only an occasional glimpse over their shoulder.
  • Establish a healthy and balanced “Play Diet” for kids – Know and explain the difference between physical, social, creative, and unstructured play. A healthy play diet consists of a balance of these activities, and parents should learn how to expect, promote, and maintain it during long periods inside at home. Again, this requires attention and involvement from the parent, but once a balance is established, children will begin to manage it on their own.

Parents understand the negative risks that too much sedentary screen time can have on their children, including obesity, loss of social skills, irregular sleep patterns, and behavioral problems. With the transition of home life that so many families are experiencing through the Covid-19 crises, parents are taxed with how to deal with it responsibly in this new reality. While the official time limits for screen time have been loosened by health care professionals during this time, parents can follow a few guidelines to ensure that their children can continue to develop in a healthy and balanced environment.

What Web Site Format is the Best for your Early Childhood Music Studio?

Small business owners understand that having a web presence is imperative in today’s market, both to provide a means of simple contact information and grant legitimacy to your business. Often times, the very first thing an interested prospect will do is Google your business to get as much information as possible to help with their purchase decision. This is especially true for Millennials.

 While there are way too many topics on organizational web presence to cover in one blog post, one that children’s music studio owners have constantly asked about is “What is the best kind of web site format for my business?” The options available can be daunting. When it comes to deciding on which format to go with for your music studio business, there are three major factors to consider – Budget, desired functionality, and autonomy/ownership. Typically, as desired functionality and autonomy increase, so does the necessary budget.

  • Social Media Profile or Page – There has become a trend of companies using one or several social media profiles in place of a web site. These pages are quick and free, making it perhaps the lowest cost option for businesses. It can also be a good way to build brand loyalty with customers. There are some downsides, however. For one, social media profiles offer limited page layout design, and have rules concerning content. Social media by nature also allows input from your audience in comments, likes, etc. This can be problematic if one disgruntled customer wants to badmouth your company on your own profile page. Lastly, smaller businesses, such as children’s music studios, can be eclipsed by the deep pockets of larger organizations that spend thousands to place numerous ads on your profile page.
  • Licensed Company Web Templates – Many organizations provide their dealers or franchise partners with a predesigned, web site template that is already branded with the corporate color palette, fonts, logos, etc. These often come at a small per month expense, including hosting, and are relatively easy to set up. Most also include Content Management Systems (CMSs), which provide password access to a Wysiwyg editor (simple toolbar of icons like in Word) so that content can be added and edited with copy, pictures, links, etc. Some of these sites also provide some functionality that are specific for the industry, such as children’s music class sign up forms and calendars. Also constrained by the template design, ultimate ownership of these sites belongs to the corporate entity that provides the license.
  • “Free” Web Site Builders – Web site builders have become very popular with start-ups and small businesses. GoDaddy, Wix, and Squarespace are popular providers of this format. While still considered “templated” web sites because the overall structure of the site is already provided, they tend to offer many options for different “look and feel” templates, depending on your particular tastes. Site builders also offer a large variety of Plugins, or modules that can be added for certain functionality such as online chat, class scheduling, or ecommerce. While they may come across or marketed as “free,” however, there are very often hidden costs to these sites such as hosting and domain fees, ad-free versions, and other upgrades such as email service and increased functionality. Finally, if you become unhappy with the provider of your site builder and want to take your business elsewhere, you have to leave your web site behind.
  • Open Source Templated Web Sites – Open source refers to a coding language that is available to anyone out there that wants to program a web site. There are several open source templated site platforms out there that are very popular, with WordPress being the most well-known. Offering virtually tens of thousands of pre-made site templates that can be bought at a relatively low price than custom programmed sites, they also offer a large amount of Plugins for all kinds of functionality. Being open source, these templates can be highly customized, tend to work well on mobile devices, and offer robust Content Management Systems (CMSs). Building these sites is not as easy as it sounds, as you must learn each template’s CMS with particular quirks. But because they are so popular, there are a lot of resources and programmers available for building and maintaining them at an additional cost. Having full ownership of these sites, you will be able to host and move them just about anywhere you like. However, also because they are so popular, open source templated sites are popular targets for hackers, so constant security patches must be installed.
  • Total Customized, Hard Coded Web Site – If highly customized design and functionality is what your organization needs, a hard-coded custom designed site offers the most flexibility to “stick build” a web site. These sites, depending on how much customization is desired, can run from the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for small to medium businesses. For industries that have very unique offerings that require unique functionality, this may be your only option. For example, a fabric company that wants to offer online customization of its fabrics, as well as showing inventory in real time might need a customized solution. Custom web sites also offer scalability of and security, which comes at a price.

While the multitudes of web site format options out there might make your head spin, for small businesses such as children’s music studio owners, it is often best to start by determining what kind of budget you have for your web site. It is often good to start small when launching a web presence. Weigh that budget against how important functionality and autonomy/ownership is to your business needs. Something as simple as a social media profile may not be enough to tell your entire story. Also keep in mind that on average, web sites need to be updated or redesigned about every 5 to 7 years in order to stay in step with trends in technology. So, starting small is a good way to learn about web technology without breaking the bank.

Tips for Retaining Students in Your Childhood Music Studio

Owners and operators of children’s music studios will tell you that gaining new students is the most challenging part of their business. But often music teachers also struggle with how to retain those students once they take their first class. Any good businessperson will tell you that it costs up to five times more to acquire a new customer than to gain the same revenue from an existing one. But owners of children’s music studios often struggle with how to move an infant into the next stage of toddler classes, or toddlers into the next stage of pre-schooler classes. Of course, parents are the key, but exactly how do you get them to agree, or even better to desire, to keep moving through the program. In addition to running an effective and beneficial childhood music program, here are a few tips to help you move parents along to the next music class:

  • Begin each program with a Parent Orientation Class – The first class of any music program should set up proper expectations before classes begin, such as class policies, participation expectations, and class materials needed. Since new parents can be entering each new program or curricula, orientation should be performed in the first class of each program. This gives parents a frame of reference for all other parent education efforts throughout the semester.
  • Provide a personal testimonial about why you chose your particular curriculum – Professional marketers will laud the effectiveness of a good testimonial. Part of this stems from the psychology of positive affirmation. Consumers, and especially mothers, want to know that they have made the right decision for their child. By telling your own story of carefully selecting the children’s music curriculum they will participate in provides assurances that they have made a good purchase decision. Parents also provide a wonderful testimonial for other parents, so do not be afraid to ask for your more seasoned parents to provide kudos, either verbally or written.
  • Make Off the Cuff and Did you know? parent education remarks Creating anticipation is a cornerstone of good creative marketing, as is the reinforcement of a belief or message. By making “off the cuff” positive comments about what parents can expect when children move into the next curriculum level, an emotion of anticipation is created. One way to do this is with “Did you know?” statements, such as “Did you know that this pattern “ba-ba ba” (or du-de du) is the same as that yellow notation game up there on the wall? It’s the first pattern your child will read in music notation in the [Next Class Name] class!” It is often helpful to write down and memorize Did you know? statements for each class so that you can naturally mention them “Off the Cuff.” An average of two per class helps to reinforce the anticipation and affirm the value of your next program.
  • Use the end of your last class to sign up for the next – There is no better opportunity to market your next class than when you have a captive audience. At the end of your last class, provide an overview of the next class, along with the benefits the next class will provide to their child. Visual aids and class materials help to show these benefits. Announce that you have a sign-up sheet ready and ask who would like to sign up. To incentivize the parents, offer a special on the next class, such as discounted materials or class fees. Don’t be afraid to ask for the business, it is what is necessary to keep your studio going while providing valuable exposure to music to young minds.

While it is important for any business owner to think about retaining customers, it is also important to keep in mind that the first purpose of children’s music studios is to inspire a love of music in children. While these customer retention techniques are helpful in assuring the success of your business, remember that seeing their child having fun while learning music will encourage the parents to want to continue more than any marketing tactic ever could. So, be sure to spend the majority of each class simply having musical fun with the children and parents! 

Five New Year Resolutions for Promoting Your Early Childhood Music Studio

As the calendar resets once again, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the past year’s successes while looking forward to the new year with the wisdom it provided. This is no different for any size business, whether it is a large corporation or a local children’s music studio. While keeping in mind the best approach for keeping New Year resolutions, here are five ways to go about planning for your music studio in the New Year:

  1. Don’t Call them Resolutions, but GoalsAccording to US News and World Report, 80 Percent of new year resolutions fail. To help prevent from feeling frustrated over resolutions not achieved, think of them more as goals to build on and strive for instead of simply “pass / fail.”
  • Reflect on the Last YearWe learn from both success and failure, so it is important to reflect on both over the last year. Think about your studio’s major achievements and milestones, and how you can best continue or capitalize on them. While reliving failures is often painful, it is just as important to evaluate last year’s stumbling blocks and understand how to prevent them from reoccurring. For example, make your marketing dollars work smarter by evaluating what promotions and advertising spends worked best for your children’s music studio.

  • Set SMART Goals for the Coming Year – Write down three to five major goals for the coming year, while making sure they are SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RELEVANT, and TIME-BOUND. Many failed goals can be attributed to unrealistic and non-specific expectations.
  •  Develop a Plan for Reaching More Customers – Whether its meeting (2) new parents a week, handing out (20) complimentary baby or toddler lesson cards a month, or posting something new to social media about your childhood music program at least (2) times a week, write down a goal for reaching new prospects within a specific time frame (see SMART Goal setting above). Also, don’t forget that it costs much less to keep a current customer than to find a new one, so also set goals for nurturing relationships with your existing music class parents and children.
  •  Look for Partners to Help you Achieve Your Goals – No successful business owner will ever claim that they “did it all on their own.” Think about who may help you achieve your goals and build your music studio. Whether it’s a program with the local library, or partnering with an experienced early childhood music education organization, there are many resources available out there to help you achieve success in the coming year.

There is a reason that the above list only contains five (and not ten or more), resolutions for growing your music studio in the coming year. Too many goals can be overwhelming and impossible to achieve, so starting small will help you to focus and will ultimately lead to greater success.

How to Market Childhood Music Programs to Millennial Parents

The Millennial generation has often been hard to define for many marketers and business owners, but it is extremely clear that if you are marketing to the parents of young children, Millennials should not be ignored. The Pew Research Center defines the Millennial generation as those being born from 1981 to 1996, (or currently falling within the age of 22 to 37). In 2016, Millennials accounted for 82% of births in the U.S. In order to best market an early childhood music studio, owners need to know what makes the Millennial generation tick, and what to keep in mind when reaching out to these parents. Here are a few tips for marketing music lessons to Millennial parents:

Digital Natives are All Grown Up and Rely Heavily Online

 While it can be argued that the Internet had at least some influence on consumers before 1981, there is no doubt that Millennials were the first full generation to grow up with it from birth. They have been so engaged online, that many have never even heard of an encyclopedia. As would be expected, Millennial parents depend heavily on the Internet to find the parenting information they need. Online resources – parenting websites, online forums, parenting blogs and social networks – collectively gather 71% of first and second place rankings when it comes to top parental influencers.  The majority of this influence points towards social media, where 97% of Millennial moms and 93% of Millennial dads find social media helpful to their parenting for exchanging ideas, product reviews, and price checks. Music studio owners marketing out to Millennial parents cannot ignore this 22 million strong and growing group of heavy social media users!

Understand How to Talk to Millennials

 With children comes a new identity and responsibility for parents, and marketers need to understand that when creating a message that resonates with them. However, Millennials are very much about being genuine and not being “helicopter parents.” However, they do need recognition to make them feel good about themselves and the decisions they are making in regard to purchases for their child or children. Think about the “trophy for everyone” mentality that was so pervasive in their childhoods, and you can begin to understand Millennials need for acknowledgement and affirmation.

Millennial Dads are More Involved

 Millennial dads spend nearly triple the amount of time with their kids than that of previous generations. It’s important to note, however, that Millennial dads are not taking over the roles of moms, but rather looking to define a more involved role for them in the family. Early childhood music studios are increasingly catering to including dads in their curricula, inviting dads or both parents to participate in classes from the earliest stages of music appreciation and understanding. Marketing to not just the mom, but both parents of the millennial generation has become far more important than previous generations.

Millennial Parents Prefer Video to Reading

 Millennials use of online resources cannot be overemphasized, whether checking reviews, social media, or Googling about high fever in infants, they were the first fully connected generation. It is no surprise, then, that Millennials prefer Digital Video such as YouTube over traditional TV. With these parents depending on web based content for recommendations and reviews, the influential use of video becomes clear. When promoting childhood music programs to Millennial parents, short video testimonials can be a very effective way to inform and build trust. But be careful, Millennials understand what is marketing, and are suspicious of something that does not come across as genuine.

Music studio owners who understand where to find Millennial parents, what format is best suited to reach them, and how to craft a message that is meaningful to them will be able to reach millions of potential new early childhood music students each and every year.