Teaching ITM--how do you get students?

Teaching ITM--how do you get students?

Hi everyone,

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who helped with my paper. It’s now finished and I’m off school for a month!!!

Next question: I have a couple of friends who are looking to teach fiddle and bodhran. The fiddler already has some students but would like to teach more, and the bodhran player is new to the area. They asked me for advice since I always seem to be getting calls to teach, but I don’t even know how that happens--I’ve been here for 5 yrs or so, and apparently my name is out there somehow. Any ideas on how to let people know you exist, or attracting students general? Is there anywhere on this site ( or on the Net, for that matter) that is considered an acceptable forum for posting one’s teaching “ad”? I told them to take out an ad in one of the Irish-American newspapers but that can be kind of expensive. One would think in such a small world the word of mouth would be pretty good…

Re: Teaching ITM--how do you get students?

Hi Ostritchfeathers, glad I (we) could help you with your paper!

I have one harp student. She found me when I played in the cafe of the health food market where I work. Also, I keep business cards on the community (arts and alternative health-related) bulletin board of where I work.

Another student I’ve had in the past found me from a card I had left at a coffee shop where I had played. When the time comes and I am ready and willing to take on more students, my approach will be to hit music shops and other shops similar to the one I currently work in and put up cards/flyers on their bulletin boards. Also, the other way I have gotten prospective students is when my own teacher is just too booked up with students and can’t take on any more. Then she refers them to me. I definitely would consider local Irish-American newspapers, too. I don’t think it would cost all that much. Also, leaving your card at Irish bars, and gift shops would be a good idea, too. More often than that though, it’s when I’ve been playing that I am approached by people who say they’ve always wanted to learn the harp, then they take my card. Whether they call me or not is another story….

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Re: Teaching ITM--how do you get students?

I just re-read your post and realize that I read it too quickly. I thought it was you that wanted to teach (a fellow harper) and now see it’s your bodhran and fiddle playing friends.

But I guess my experience may still count for something. Also I got to thinking, maybe they could get involved in the local Comhaltas or other Irish type organization--lots of families and kids. That way they will be circulating and getting to know people in the community who would actually be interested in learning this stuff.
When the teacher is ready, the student will appear. Or something like that….

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Re: Teaching ITM--how do you get students?

Yeah, I think the best way is to get out there and play and be active in the local session life. Word of mouth and exposure are probably the best two ways to go about getting students. I’m not really even close to ready to teach and I’m always getting inquiries about lessons. But it’s nice being able to pass on students to friends who do teach. 🙂 Which brings me to the third way -- have all your friends keep a lookout for you. I refer lots of people to my friends who teach, and I’d say a good 10% to 20% actually take lessons, which isn’t too bad compared to other marketing methods…

Re: Teaching ITM--how do you get students?

I’ve taught different musics over the years, but Irtrad almost exclusively for about the past 10. Some general suggestions, equally valid for promoting one’s self as player, band-member, or teacher:

Being out there playing, as people have said, is the most important thing. Work on your chops, be approachable and friendly as far as humanly possible to everyone who speaks to you at the gig, play in different situations and with different people.

Do schools programs. Particularly in the US (and Ireland), primary and secondary-school teachers are almost always desperate to enhance the arts offerings they are given too little money to teach. Schools presentations not only attract interest from students attending but also from parents and siblings with whom they share information.

Run a regular session. Most of the people I teach anymore are people who’ve heard me at gigs or sessions, but it’s at the latter that they are more likely to approach me--because they see me playing with other people of variant skills, and the possibility of themselves learning the music strikes them as a little more real.

Run a teaching session. I’ve run “slow sessions” (really teaching sessions) since about 1993 in the US Midwest and Southwest. Though I teach my slow sessions without fee (as a community service, because I was taught the tradition mostly for free, and because, quite frankly, most people can’t pay what my time is worth one-on-one), they are a very good way of developing dedicated students who will cough up additional quid for one-on-one individual lessons.

Develop a partnership with a local dance teacher or dance school, and play for classes and feiseanna. This gets your name and skills out amongst the community of dancers, players, and parents who are an important pool for potential students.

Play on the radio. Many public, college, or community radio stations have time slots dedicated to/available for local music. 15 minutes on the local NPR station can do a lot to get your name out.

Develop a web site, even a very simple one: in this day and age, many people find teachers by running Google searches for “irish AND fiddle AND [home town]”; even a simple web site with your contact info will come up in such a search.

Start, develop, and maintain an electronic mailing list. Have a signup sheet for same at every one of your gigs. Use this list to distribute news of your gigs.

When making such an announcement, always include, as an attachment, a simple .RTF poster with the gig, your name, and your contact info, and add in the text message the statement “Please download, forward, and post. Apologies for any cross-postings.”

Get business cards and throw ’em around like confetti. Any solid object like a business card or handbill can be passed from hand-to-hand.

Make up handbills and have your friends at local music shops leave them on the counter near the cash register. If you haven’t made friends with the local music shop staff, do it now, if not sooner.

Post handbills on local university or college bulletin boards, especially in the dormitories.

Recruit friends, session mates, relations, and current students to pass the word and the handbills.

Make a banner, containing band/your name and contact information, that can be hung behind the stage at gigs or sessions.

Develop a logo and use it on business cards, banners, posters, press kits, etc.

chris smith

Re: Teaching ITM--how do you get students?

Ostritchfeathers--I just submitted the link for Janet Harbison’s harp school, (Remember, I mentioned it in your last discussion on harps) though you may already know about it.

Chris, there is a lot of invaluable information and great suggestions in your reply!

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