How One $0 Marketing Effort Yielded Over $5,000 Tuition

In the summer of 2013, two years into my studio, I decided to start offering classes through our city’s Parks and Recreation Department to help grow and market my studio. Several people had mentioned it to me when I first opened but I pushed the idea aside – silly me. I don’t remember what made me decide to finally try it, but I haven’t regretted it since.

I’m going to share with you first a little about the logistics of holding these classes and then will share my lesson plan, materials, and photos from one of the classes, Tot Music Time.

Next week I will post information and photos on the other classes.


The Low-Down

Our city’s Parks Department offers programming throughout the summer. Anyone can offer a class. All you have to do is send in the class title, description, date, time, and if there will be any charge. They do all the advertising, and registrations and simply send me a class list a few days prior. I send them the offerings in January so they are ready for the printing of publicity.

I run the classes either the week of Memorial Day (if I know schools will be out early), or the very first week of June to allow for student sign-ups for any summer classes I might hold. I hold two classes a day, 11:00 am and 10:00 am. (I have them fill up the 11:00 first in case there aren’t enough sigh-ups for the second class then I don’t have to come in as early!)

Each class has a set minimum and maximum. This is based on the “move-around” space in my studio, the number of keyboards I have, and lastly, the amount that I need to stay sane (I don’t do large groups well!) 🙂

The classes are broken down into ages:

  • Day 1 – “Tot Music Time” (ages 3-4) – 40 min – min 4/max 6
  • Day 2 – “Preschool Play & Discovery” (ages 5-6) – 50 min – min 3/max 5
  • Day 3 – “Meet the Piano” Class (ages 7-8) – 50 min – min 3/max 5
  • Day 3 – “Meet the Piano” Class (ages 9-10) – 50 min – min 3/max 5

I tried 2-3 year olds the first year for the tot time and they were too young. 40 minutes is perfect as they’re usually just starting to get antsy, even with changing activities every few minutes. Sometimes even 3 years olds are too young but it works. Parents are required to stay with the 3-6 year old students.

The first year I also opened up to age 11 or 12 but never had any sign ups so I keep the ages tight and I find they work well together. I never have a lot of 9-10 year olds so I always just offer one time for that class and do it on the same day as the 7-8 year olds.

Holding all the classes in the morning allows them to not conflict with my afternoon teaching schedule.

I used to charge $5 per student for the two older classes, but decided last year to just make them all free. At first I thought it would “keep out” those who just wanted a free activity but making it free didn’t change the number of students that registered at all and it just keeps it simple.

I tried offering a one-week teen summer piano boot camp for $150 but there were no takers so I dropped the offering.


What’s the Benefit?

The Parks Department has over 5,000 people who follow their Facebook Page. That’s a much bigger reach than I will ever have through my Studio Page without paying for a Facebook Ad. Even if you only have four students attend each class, imagine how many moms they know!?

Sometimes visibility isn’t about being in front of your customers but in front of someone who will recommend you to your customer’s!

On average I see around 25 different students each summer for this short week of classes and have had five students register for lessons since starting. I estimate these five students cumulative tuition to be around $5,800! Three of them took for 1 year, one of them has taken for 3 years, and the last one just started.

My advertising investment was $0.

Initial cost of materials $200. (Descriptions on what I use below)

Even if you were to consider the cost of my time (8 hours each year) teaching the classes, even at $50 / hour for my time that’s $1,600.

+$5,800 Cumulative tuition
-$200 Initial Expenses
-$1,600 Cost of my time
=$4,000 Return on my investment

Holding these classes doesn’t keep me from the summer hours I would normally teach so I don’t even consider the cost of my time because it’s not taking me away from making more actually teaching during those hours. Does that make sense?

So really, we’re talking $200 in materials and a few hours each year made me $5,600 in tuition.


Tot Music Time

Today I held two Tot Music Time classes. Sometimes I get classes that are more active than others. The first class was very responsive and engaged and the second class not quite as much. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take photos in the first class so all the photos are from the second. Thanks to the mom who took these – she got some great shots!

Since these classes are a one-off experience, my objective is simply to give them a good music experience and to represent my teaching and my studio well.

When I was exploring the possibility of offering piano lessons  for preschoolers several years ago, I researched a lot of methods out there including several general music curriculum’s. Being that I have a music education background, the possibility of teaching early childhood music classes was something I explored. I decided not to pursue doing these classes but found materials that have been very useful not only for these classes but even for preschool piano lessons.

I spent one summer observing a local music teacher teach music classes using John Feierabend’s First Steps in Music curriculum and fell in love immediately. I think it’s the best publication out there and am using a lot of his materials. (B.T.W. observing her was one other way of marketing myself as she announced my presence to the parents in the classes and what I did – Score!)

Download my lesson plan.


Welcome – Movement for Form and Expression – Song tales

Students enter and choose a Piano Made Fun Rug Time Piano Dot to sit on. (www.Piano Made >Click on “Other Printables”)

We start with something they’re familiar with – Eensey Weensy Spider (Feierabend)


Chop Chop Chippity Chop – taking turns adding vegetables to the pot and “chopping” each one using arm motions (Feierabend)

Download my Cutouts


Had a Little Rooster using my Art Posters. (Feierabend)


Aiken Drum “There was  a man lived in the moon and his name was Aiken Drum.” Students sing along and pat each part of the body they’re singing about. In this one we’re singing his “mouth was made of a rainbow.” (Feierabend)

Download my Art Posters for  Aiken Drum


Constructing our own Aiken Drum using all the fruits and vegetable pictures. (Feierabend)

Download my Aiken Drum Cutouts


Vocal Exploration

Slide whistle with body movement. This and the next one got lots of giggles! (Feierabend)


Vocal exploration with scarves (Feierabend)


Pitch Exploration Story – Ice Cream Sundae (Feierabend)


Potato Head assembly – Who knows the alphabet? Any student who sings it gets to put a piece on Mr. Potato Head. Repeat full alphabet for each student. If shy ones, double up.


Piano Exporation

Piano uses the alphabet! Art posters from Theory Made Fun Sing-Along Book

Have students stand in front of piano in half circle

Point to each letter on the art poster and have them say the musical alphabet

Sing The Musical Alphabet song (Theory Made Fun)


Take each of their hands and play along with song as you move up the piano – one octave or two per student

What color are the keys? What animal is black and white?

The Black Keys song with Art Poster (Theory Made Fun)

Help each student play on black keys same as before one or two octaves each.

Students get to play on grand piano freely (don’t do prior to the alphabet song-hard to get them to stop playing)

Open up piano and show them strings

Students get to play on grand piano freely (again)



Movement Exploration

Move It! Video #1 (Feierabend) These videos are excellent even for group classes for young students! Kids love them.



Rhythm / Instrument EXPLORATION

Demonstrate instruments and pass around one at a time. I just have small Band in a Box instruments.

Beat song, each student with an instrument; Repeat to allow all students to play each instrument – pass to the left. Use Art Poster from Theory Made Fun.



Song Tale

Oh My Aunt Came Back. (Feierabend) These books are absolutely beautiful!



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