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May 28, 07

Lesson sharks?

Who would've thought that the music lesson listing business would get lucrative enough to attract sharks?

According to a commenter on the Music Teachers Helper blog, (a fascinating site, btw - i want to take some time to explore their music studio management program!), two sites - ClickforLessons.com and relative newcomer GetLessonsNow.com ***- seem to be engaged in deceptive Google ad practices, where they list the names and addresses of their client teachers but substitute their own website phone numbers, making for a real runaround for the teachers and bad business siphoning from the potential pool of students.

It should be noted that from the Music Teachers Helper article, PrivateLessons.com holds the top spot by quite a wide margin with regard to Google searches for music lessons. Given that they've been in business since 1996, their longevity speaks volumes about the loyalty they seem to garner from their client teachers and students.

If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that good business practices will win out in the long term. It's also quite encouraging to see that the private music pedagogy business is thriving so well!

***Note: Brian Gilman, co-founder of GetLessonsNow.com, has posted a comment below stating that his website no longer creates the Google Local Listings that were the source of the complaints. Many thanks for that clarification and positive policy change!


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March 20, 07

Scheduling 101, or 6 Steps to becoming a Time Lord

A large portion of my 'day job' at Curtis is serving as its Director of Student Recitals and Outside Concerts ("gigs", in the music world vernacular). That involves setting up new venues for our students to perform in, hiring the students, administrating logistics and invoices between presenters and performers, putting the actual programs together, and making sure I-20 Visa records for the international students are properly updated (among other things). Fortunately, i have a fantastic database that i've custom designed to handle pretty much everything in the workflow from hiring to concert to paychecks. UN-fortunately, i still have to deal with students who - despite their phenomenal musical talent - more often than not are seriously lacking in good communication or organizational skills.

A recent snafu involving a student who accidentally double-booked himself for two concerts on the same day had me scrambling to find a replacement at the last minute (a role i find myself playing far more often than i'd like) and stewing to post this 'rant':

  • RELIABILITY = HIRE-ABILITY - you can be the most brilliant musician student in the world, but if you don't show up on time or fulfill basic obligations you will quickly find yourself shuffled to the back of the consideration list.


  • OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND = OUT OF JOB - too often, conservatory students think that presenters (and administrators) possess super-human powers of clairvoyance and that we will be able to peer into the cloistered workings of the practice room to count all the drops of sweat over that Scriabin etude. Hate to admit this, but despite our amazing tools of technology, if you don't communicate and make yourself heard and responsive, you will quickly be forgotten


  • THE HILL IS CROWDED WITH KINGS AND QUEENS - Conservatory students tend to spend so much time focusing on their art, it's almost natural to think that they will rise to recognition by the sheer greatness of what they do. A quick survey of the membership lists of sites like MySpace.com, ClassicalLounge.com, and even the rosters of major managements everywhere will quickly reveal that the music world is crowded with top talent vying for attention. Art and Dedication without Professionalism is like trying to sit on a 2-legged stool...


  • Well, this article could go on and on, but i need to get back to my desk job - so if you're a music student struggling to bring some order into your life of chaos, wanting to pacify the dragons of your school's administration or the vexing rants of your teachers and colleagues, here are some steps to becoming a Time Lord by way of one of the most basic tools of professionalism, SCHEDULING:

  • 1. Choose your weapon and be consistent - i once met a student who carried around 3 schedule books, one for personal appointments, another for school-related things, the third for musical activities. Little wonder that she was ALWAYS running into conflicts and double booking herself! Being a fan of technology, i'm most comfortable with digital PDA's (personal digital assistants, ie: devices like Pocket PC's or Palm Pilots) and have my schedule book built into my Samsung i-730 Pocket PC phone, but it's really a matter of personal preference and comfort level. The important thing is - whether digital or paper, Franklin Paper Planner or Blackberry device - to make sure EVERYTHING goes into that chosen scheduling medium. The nice thing about Pocket PC's of course is the fact that my schedule gets automatically backed up each time i dock the device and recharge, so if i lose my PDA i still have a record of everything...unlike paper...


  • 2. Keep your schedule medium on your person at all times - paper or digital PDA, cell phone applet or a full-blown program like Microsoft Outlook, your powers of scheduling will avail you naught if you don't have your scheduling medium with you at all times! Calls for that amazing last-minute opportunity can arrive at any moment - lessons may need to be moved around - the ability to see if any event is possible will only work if you can instantly access your schedule for reference and input. The worst thing i hear from students is, "I think I can do that - but i left my schedule book at home...", because nine times out of ten i can be assured that i will receive a call or an email containing mortified apologies...


  • 3. Know NOW - the fanciest DayTimer will serve you no purpose if you don't make a habit of checking your availability for incoming events immediately. Waiting to input items into your schedule later is a certain recipe for disaster. I really like the GTD (Getting Things Done by David Allen) principle of getting things off of your mind and into your memory devices as quickly as possible (memory devices being things like schedule books, journals, file folders, etc.). The less you have swimming in your head, the more stress-free you can be. Schedule books can be amazing receptacles to keep our daily data in order, but they're only useful if you don't delay in putting information in and immediately checking what's there against incoming events.


  • 4. Pencil in the Maybe's - i have a confession to make: i hate voicemails. My preferred medium of communication is email. That being said, there is an inherent delay from sending a message to receiving a response. Sometimes, when multiple people are looking for available times in my schedule to rehearse, it can get confusing to remember which person i offered time slot A or B to. One useful trick i've adopted is to pencil in all the "maybe's" into my schedule - for instance, if i'm asking student John Doe for his availability on Wednesday at 3 pm, instead of waiting for his response, i'll immediately mark into my schedule "Rehearsal with John Doe?" - the "?" is my tag for unconfirmed appointments. As they respond and i double check the event, i can remove the "?" as confirmed. This helps enormously to avoid confusion and double bookings among simultaneous pending responses.


  • 5. Schedule To-Do's - "To-Do" lists are only as useful as they are reviewed and acted on to "Get Done". Too many times my TD lists are left wilting in the dark recesses of my Pocket PC phone. That may be ok for long-term goals, but for immediate tasks i try to keep them away from the TD list and place them directly into my schedule book. Amazing how much more gets done that way...


  • 6. Review in the Morning, Preview at Night - i need to take this advice more to heart, but it's still good to flesh out. Too often i head out the door without so much as glancing at my schedule, relying on the faulty neurons in my head to remind me of the day's events. A good habit to get into would be to review the day's upcoming events at breakfast, then to preview the NEXT day's events at dinner. That way you can plan your sleep and wake times accordingly and minimize the last minute 'surprises'.


  • I'm sure there are tons of other good scheduling advice, but these are the items that immediately come to mind in light of the behavior i see among too many students. Well, that's my rant for the day, and...oops, time for lunch! Gotta go!




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    August 31, 06

    Finding Jobs for Musicians: NEC's Bridge Worlwide Music Connection

    One of the premier online databases for job opportunities for musicians is provided by the New England Conservatory of Music. Bridge Worldwide Music Connections is a free service for NEC's students and alumni; annual subscriptions for individuals runs $55, $75 for institutions. This is a must-visit resource for exploring a wide range of opportunities, ranging from performance-based organizations to administrative job openings across every imaginable music-related field. I would highly recommend this not only for professionals and soon-to-be professionals (ie, doe-eyed seniors quivering in their final-school-year headlights), but particularly for those just beginning to explore their undergrad and post-grad education options. You may run across "non-typical" job opportunities that might otherwise elude the radar of the typical conservatory practice-room hermit!

    If you have any stories of unusual musical employment detours, please send them to me and i would be happy to pass them along to our readers!

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    Welcome!

    Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!

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