You are going to be a teacher. Even if all of your degrees are in music performance. Even if you are set on becoming the busiest performer on the planet, you are going to teach.
Let that sink in.
The extent to which you teach will vary, but know that you will find yourself in the role of teacher at some point in your career. Educating and inspiring others to explore music is one of the most important roles of a performer.
Let’s say that you’ve just finished school, and find yourself in a new city. You know that you want to build a private studio. How do you start? Where can you find students? How do you make your presence known?
Advertise through music shops: Visit every music shop in your city and introduce yourself to the staff and owners. Share your music background with them. Tell them you are eager to find new students. Most music shops provide private teacher contact sheets for interested students and parents. Ask if you can leave business cards and a printed bio at the shop. If they also advertise their private teachers online, make sure to email them all of your information (a teaching bio*, any pertinent contact info, and a headshot.).
Advertise through local schools: Most school music programs now provide private teacher contact sheets for students. You want to make sure that your name appears on as many of these lists as possible. Spend a few hours one afternoon compiling a list of every local public and private school in your area. Next, find each band and orchestra director’s contact information. Most teachers can be emailed through a direct link found on the school website. If their email is not listed, a quick visit to the front office of the school and an introduction to the staff will lead you to that information.
Your next step is to email each band director an introduction and resume and explain that you have space in your teaching studio for a few more students. Include all noteworthy teaching experience. While you’re at it, mention any other marketable services you can offer (i.e. running marching band sectionals, proficiency in music theory or piano, etc.) If you have the time to do so, schedule an in-person meeting with the teacher. A face-to-face meeting will always create a stronger connection than an email.
Teachers want the best students possible, so help them make an easy recommendation the next time a parent asks them for a teacher referral.
Create a Yelp business page: Yelp business pages are free to build. Make sure to include a headshot (and a few more photos if you’d like), your bio, and all contact info. If you have a website (which you should) have the link prominently displayed.
Advertise on Craigslist: Yes, people actually search Craigslist for things besides used Ikea futons and missed connections. Advertising on Craigslist is free. Include the same information you placed on your Yelp business page.
Advertise through local arts papers/periodicals: Many local periodicals will allow you to make a listing for free. (In the Bay Area, the San Francisco Classical Voice is one example.)
Following these steps will help you to establish yourself as a teacher and build your list of students. Starting to build a studio is never easy, but if you put in the work, you will see results.
*A note about your teaching bio: Every music student knows that a personal bio is a necessity. We know that a bio is a chance to show off all of our accomplishments as performers, so we pack them with details on every orchestra performance, solo recital, concerto competition, masterclass performance, and summer festival we ever participated in. This is all very useful for the bio found on, let’s say, your degree recital program. What you’re probably not told in school though, is that this information might not be enough to attract students. While performance credentials are impressive, all they do is validate you as a performer. They do not speak at all to your success as a teacher.
Parents want to know that you aren’t just a successful performer, but a successful teacher as well. For this reason, you should include all noteworthy teaching experience in a bio you are sending out with the end goal of attracting students. If you’ve had students participate in regional or statewide honor bands, summer music camps or workshops, let everyone know.
Also, make sure to include a sentence addressing the age range of your students. While most of your students will likely be kids, there are many adult beginners out there interested in private lessons as well. If they think that the only students you work with are children, they may be deterred from pursuing lessons. Stating that you’ve “worked with students of all skills levels and ages, from 8 - 80” might provide the assurance they need to get in touch with you.