Creating a Studio Legacy with Student Photo Boards

A Canva Tutorial [Video]

This is my current student photo board.

Students are not displayed from oldest to youngest, but by how long they’ve been studying with me – moving from left to right and top to bottom.

Every photo includes the student’s picture, their first name, and the month and year they started taking piano lessons at Studio 88.

The white spaces are inspiring quotes. I could have filled them all up individually if I had included my adults, but I assumed they would want anonymity. (After one of them asked why they weren’t on the photo board, I realized next time I should just ask if I could include them rather than assume!)

Today I want to show you how you can create a photo board like this using an online design studio called Canva.

First, I want to briefly share what got me started on having a student photo board.


Who’s the Team?

One of the hottest series here on Piano Pantry is called the Varsity Musician’s Playbook. Written by a good friend of mine, the series focuses on how we can develop thriving studios and students who are deeply committed using principles from team sports.

Continue reading

Fun Postcards for Marketing Your Studio

Do you want a simple and effective way to market your studio?

Here it is…


That’s it. Simple, right?

You’re probably putting the brakes on right now thinking…

“Now wait a minute, Amy, why in the world would I bother with snail mail? What do postcards have to do with me getting more students?”

It’s called in-studio marketing – building rapport with the families you have.

I’m not here to talk specifics about why you should send postcards to your students today (you can catch more details on the “why” in the post Marketing with Postcards: It’s Not What You Think!)

What I AM here to do is to share some fun postcard ideas I came across in my quest for this years postcards!


Colorful Mandala Postcard

The first few years of sending my student’s postcards, I just bought packs of postcards from Arts United Supply.

Last year though it was time to change things up, so I used Susan Hong’s beautiful Mandala Postcards. It’s a downloadable studio license for $10 and you get both the color version and the black and white version which would be fun for students to color.

Continue reading

A Picture Number is Worth a Thousand Words 

Studio Retention-Rate Marketing

It was happening – that moment independent music teachers (generally) dread…

It was nearing the end of the semester and a mom came in after the lesson to get her kids. As we were chatting, she brought up that they were thinking about going to another teacher next year – not because of this dissatisfaction with me, but because this teacher was a traveling teacher who would come to their home. With four kiddos under the age of 8, home life was feeling hectic and the thought of having piano come to them was highly appealing at the moment.

As she’s talking, my mind is simultaneously whirling. Continue reading

The Varsity Musician’s Playbook 

Part 3: Community Presence

This post is the third and final installment of The Varsity Musician’s Playbook written by my good friend and colleague, Christina Whitlock, NCTM. I asked her to write this series for you since, of all the conference sessions I attended last year,  it was the one that impacted me the most.

If you missed the first two posts in this series, I would recommend reading them first.

Part 1 – Studio Interdependence
Part 2 – Studio “Locker Room”



Be “The Piano Teacher.”

Consider this:  If a young man introduces himself and says he plays football, the next question is almost guaranteed to be, “for what team?”.

When I mention the fact that my daughter takes gymnastics, I can almost always count on the next question to be, “at which gym?”.

Why should our studios be any different?  Our communities should know us by name!

Continue reading

The Varsity Musician’s Playbook 

Part 2: Studio “Locker Room”

This post second in a three-part series written by my good friend and colleague, Christina Whitlock, NCTM. I asked her to write this series for you since, of all the conference sessions I attended last year,  it was the one that impacted me the most.

If you missed the first posts in this series, I would recommend reading it first.

Part 1 – Studio Interdependence


In part 1, we looked at a few ways to incorporate a sense of interdependence in your studio.  Today’s post is going to focus on your studio environment, or, in keeping with the theme of this series, your Studio “Locker Room!”

I realize we all have varying degrees of control over the physical space we teach in, but I hope this post will inspire you to seek out similar applications that work for you.


Creating Studio Legacy – Tradition

Let’s consider this picture of the Hofstra Ladies’ Lacrosse Team locker room.

The first thing I notice is the statement, “Tradition Never Graduates.”  Friends, we all know, sports are ALL about legacy!  Why should your studio be any different?

Continue reading

The Varsity Musician’s Playbook 

Part 1: Studio Interdependence

Once my piano students hit middle school, I often lose them to sports.

If this is a statement you’ve either said at least once in your career or heard a colleague say, raise your hand.

Me, me, me!

Yes, you over there, with your hand up – this post is for you!

At every conference I attend, while there are many excellent sessions, there are always one or two whose message sticks with me for good. At this past MTNA Conference (2016 San Antonio), my “sticky” session was by far:

The Varsity Musician’s Playbook: Commitment Building Strategies from Team Sports to the Studio.

Bam! Wow, the title hooked me. As someone who enjoys the business side of running my piano studio – this was my type of session.

Continue reading

Wild West of Marketing [Video Clip]

Back in March I presented a session on marketing at the 2016 MTNA National Conference in San Antonio Texas called The Wild West of Marketing: How Do You Know What Really Works?

Read more about my conference experience here and details on the sessionhere.

Yesterday this video popped up on Facebook and I thought I would share it. It’s a 10 minute clip from the session.

You’ll hear several things I did in my first year including Facebook tips.

Amy Chaplin on Marketing at MTNA 2016. #MTNA2016

Posted by Joy Morin on Sunday, April 3, 2016


If for some reason the video above won’t play, click here to view the video on Facebook.

For more marketing tips, check out the July 2016 edition of The Piano Bench Magazine where I wrote 32 Ways to Market Your Studio.



Parades: A Double-Marketing Whammy

Last week my studio families and I walked in our 5th annual parade since I opened in 2011. A 5-year anniversary is a perfect time for celebration, so I wanted to share a little more about it with you today.

Not only are you going to see photos from the last five years, but I’m going to share how a simple community event like a parade can become a core marketing tool to grow your music studio.


2011 – Year 1

The year I started my studio, I was living off only 10-15 students and needed to go on the cheap. My logo had not yet been designed, so I just cut a simple sign out of black poster board and borrowed my mother-in-law’s beautiful T-bird.


The keyboards I made from foam-core poster board I bought at Wal-Mart.


My hubby is a trooper. 🙂

Continue reading

School Music Teachers

A Marketing Gem

Recently a colleague, after hearing me share how I built my studio to 45 students in less than two years, sent me a message on Facebook inquiring about one of the specific tactics I mentioned which was marketing to music teachers in the schools.

I thought her questions were ones that many of you might enjoy hearing my answers to but first here was her inquiry:

I’ve heard you mention before that you had good luck meeting with school music teachers, letting them know about your services and asking them to refer students to you.

How did you find out which teachers to contact?
Did you call or email?
Did you meet with them in person?
What did you say to make them more likely to agree to the meeting, and what things did you bring up during the meeting?

One of the many marketing tactics I took in the first two years I was open for business included contacting and preferably meeting in person all the school teachers in the county and surrounding counties.

Psst…there’s a freebie at the end to help you organize your new marketing strategy so stick with me!


Why This is So Important

Who is it that parents go to when they look for lessons? They ask the kid’s music teacher. You should know who they are and what they look like so if you see them around town, especially if you’re in a small town, you can at least put a face with a name.

Building rapport with school music teachers is building your referral network.

Since I keep detailed records of every inquiry, conversation, and contact I have with potential students, I can announce for a fact, that 6% of my total inquiries thus far have come from school music teacher. This includes those who only inquired as well as those who ultimately registered. Even better, 8.7% of my total registrations have come from this marketing effort – nearly one in eleven.

Continue reading

Marketing with Postcards 

It’s Not What You Think!

One of my favorite articles in the MTNA American Music Teacher Magazine is “It’s None of all Your Business”e by fellow Indiana colleague Karen Thickstun.

Karen is not only an excellent teacher but she’s highly intelligent and business savvy. I am blessed to know and get to work with her on the Indiana MTA board of directors. (P.S. I also have to mention that she’s a nominee for President-Elect for MTNA in the upcoming election. Consider that my endorsement) 😉

In the current August/September 2016 issue, her article “Re-Defining Word-Of-Mouth” mentioned (with permission) some of my findings I presented in my 2016 MTNA conference session The Wild West of Marketing: How do you know what really works?

“When Amy Chaplin opened her studio in a small Indiana town a few years ago, she implemented 40 different marketing strategies. Two years later, she had a full studio and waiting list. She meticulously tracked every inquiry, every registration. Of those who inquired, but did not register, 35 percent came from traditional marketing (location near an ice cream store, fliers, print ads); 20 percent came from personal marketing (referrals, networking, personal connections); and 13 percent came from online marketing. However, when she analyzed who inquired and registered, she found that 54 percent of her students learned about her studio through personal marketing, 20 percent through traditional marketing and 6 percent through online marketing.

As evidenced by Amy’s research, word-of-mouth is a trusted, powerful method of sharing information and building a studio.”

It’s true. Word-of-mouth does still work, ESPECIALLY in a small community. (Just remember it can’t be your ONLY form of marketing – but that’s another topic!)

Lots of people inquire when they see you online, or they see your great location. When it comes down to making that commitment, however, it’s those who know you best–customers who refer you, teachers you network with who recommend you, and those you already have some connection or relationship with that ultimately drive your business.

So what does this mean for us? What else can we do besides be the best teacher we can be and hope people will recommend us to others?

Continue reading