Lindsey O'Connor is a Vandoren Regional Artist. The goal of the Vandoren Regional Artist program is to enhance the quality of the music experience in your school. This is made possible by Vandoren and a network of woodwind professionals around the country with a passion for music education and performance.
What are some of your strategies for teaching 70+ private students?
Lindsey O’Connor: For me, I have found that there are five important keys to building and maintaining a successful studio:
This seems simple enough, but scheduling can be very time consuming. Google calendar is my best friend! I offer makeup lessons as my schedule allows, which often means I have an ongoing waiting list for openings weeks ahead. I appreciate that my students are busy excelling in other areas in addition to music. Those experiences will make them better musicians, students, and citizens.
Not only is scheduling important to discuss, but so is progress (and the occasional hurdles, too). It is important to have these conversations with students and their parents. Weekly feedback, both successes and opportunities, is essential. I also send out reminders for upcoming deadlines and keep students up to date about events and opportunities both in and out of Las Vegas. Last year, I created a Facebook group for my studio to help keep students, parents, and even their band directors in the loop.
Goal setting, both short and long term, are essential. Some of my students are preparing for honor band auditions, auditioning for a high school arts academy, planning for a career in music, or working to move up another chair or band. Others are learning secondary instruments for jazz band, playing simply for personal enrichment, or using music as an outlet for dealing with conflicts and emotions at school or at home. ALL of their goals are equally important, and drive me to give them my 110% each lesson.
I try to find ways to celebrate their accomplishments, and also help them to deal with disappointments in constructive and encouraging ways. I decorate my studio with laminated signs of congratulations and hang up students' concert and recital programs with little notes of praise. As I rotate signs each academic year, I give students their old ones as a memento and inspiration for the future. My studio's Facebook group also serves as a way to recognize student achievements. These public accolades are not only a great way to recognize a student's hard work, but also aid to motivate other students (and their parents)! Healthy competition is important and a part of preparing students for the ups and downs of music, and life. Furthermore, it is my mission as a teacher that students are fundamentally and mentally prepared for auditions. I often record students during lessons and guide them through listening and positive self-critique, especially when they are struggling to overcome a hurdle in their playing. I also find every opportunity to take students out of the comfort of my studio to practice performing in different venues for different people. This may mean something as formalized as a recital with other students, or as casual as an impromptu performance in the storefront for retail customers where I teach lessons.