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!

I get SUCH a kick out of life when I’m being introduced to someone, and they say, “Oh!  You’re the piano teacher!”  If people know about you, chances are, you’re doing something right.

So, obviously, we must address marketing.  Mind you, I’m merely a guest poster here, and Amy is really your go-to-girl for studio marketing.  The idea of ME giving you much advice in this area feels a bit laughable, compared to what she’s already shared.  That said, I do have a few perspectives you may not have considered.

I’ve been blessed to maintain a healthy waiting list for many years now.  For many years, I mistakenly thought that meant I did not have to advertise. In fact, I purposely avoided it because I’m infamously terrible at turning people away.

Wendy Stevens (, always advises teachers to continue marketing to their families because parents are continually evaluating the value of services for which they are paying, and she’s right.  Marketing can certainly serve as an important reminder to your families they are receiving a top-notch service that is in public demand!

However, I’d like to take this a step further and remind you that students – maybe even more than parents – benefit from knowing you are a publicly-recognized entity.   Anytime you give your students a chance to say, “Hey!  THAT’S my teacher!” (flashback to Post #1) This serves as a reminder to students they are part of something. Just as a young lady might find pride in her affiliation with a state champion volleyball team, YOUR students should feel pride in their place on your “roster.”


Have a Presence in Your Community

In addition to Amy’s marketing advice already here on Piano Pantry, consider the following:

  • Can you score an article in your local paper, homeschool newsletter, or other regional publications?
  • Consider carefully-planned financial donations. For example, by making a contribution to your local community theater, you could receive an annual listing in their event programs.  In this case, not only are you assisting a worthy cause, but you are also gaining public recognition as a teacher who helps support other arts groups.
  • Never underestimate the power of “Studio Swag” (stationary, magnets, folders, t-shirts, hats, tote bags, you name it)! Look at it this way:  if you’re feeling bitter about your student’s commitment to baseball, it might make you smile to know he’s at least wearing a studio t-shirt to practice!  Seriously, the more you can get your name out to the general public, the more recognized you will be.  Remember – even if your phone doesn’t start ringing immediately, staying “on radar” in your community is quite likely to benefit you in the future!

Examples from Amy

I love “studio swag” and starting incoporating it from day one as every student who registers receives a studio t-shirt. Students come to lessons wearing them quite often (especially the younger ones) and I’m always sure to comment how much I like their shirt which gets me a smile. My studio walks in an annual community parade in the fall sporting our shirts. Read more on how parades are a great marketing opportunity in the post Parades: A Double-Marketing Whammy 

I also offer all families willing and interested, a free car-window decal.

Rather than give a discount for semester or year payments, this year I started giving a special “gift.” The first was a studio throw blanket. (I’m thinking it’s the perfect size for a fall football game lap blanket a.k.a. sporting it in public!)

An idea I’ve had but not yet done is to get a half dozen yard signs that say something along the lines of “We study piano at Studio 88” and ask any families willing to display them in their front yard for a couple of months, rotated between families.

One thing I tout in most of my marketing posts is that it’s not about one marketing effort but about keeping a continued presence in your community.


Your Online Community

Of course, it must be said – some of the most prominent communities today are found online.  Infiltrating the social media world may involve some soul-searching on your part, and will certainly require discretion.

Before you spend oodles of time setting up your website and numerous social media accounts, be sure to consider your objectives.  Navigating the online world can take a lot of time, and it’s easy to work extremely hard for very little effect.  Consider the overall goal of your social media accounts.

Do you wish to:

  • Publicize your studio, in hopes of attracting new students?
  • Create a community where current students can ask questions and share progress and/or frustrations?
  • Build relationships with students and their families?
  • Provide information to current families, in hopes of reducing the amount of time you spend responding to calls, texts, and emails?
  • Maintain more of an online “scrapbook,” recording your studio’s history?

While all above options have their advantages, I would strongly suggest focusing on one objective.   To be fair, I am still a bit conflicted of my goals in this online world as well.

Some general tips related to online studio interactions:

  • While social media accounts can be helpful for reminders, avoid making exclusive announcements via these outlets, as they are often missed by parents.
  • My teenage students assure me: Facebook is now for “old people.”  Snapchat and Instagram are “where it’s at.”
  • Prepare yourself. If you begin “following” and “friending” students, it is possible you may see sides of them you’d rather not see!
  • Whatever accounts you choose to utilize, market them shamelessly! Include a note in recital programs directing attendees to all accounts.  When applicable, remember to publicize a new hashtag for each event so students can include it in their posts.

Examples from Amy

My studio Facebook page was alive and active before I even had students! As soon as I started moving in, I was sharing photos of the remodel to build excitement. While I maintain an active Facebook page, I’ve come to realize that, first of all, only about half my parents are even on Facebook believe it or not and two, my students don’t use Facebook. Thus, I now view my Facebook studio page as a marketing tool for prospective families to get a glimpse into what I do, not necessarily to connect with my current families.

After Christina shared that she uses Instagram (whitlockpianostudio) as a way to build community within her studio and students, I finally got more involved on Instagram (amystudio88) and now wish I had sooner. I’m connected to a lot of my teenagers who then connect to each other. I’m seeing my students now engage with each other (even those from different schools). Also, I have some parents that do more on Instagram than Facebook. If they’re parents that I don’t see much during the year in person, I now feel much more “connected” to them and they engage with me on Instagram.

Here’s a recent clip from my studio newsletter urging families to follow. I just included a screenshot of my Instagram page in the hopes that if they’re not already on there, they’ll see the kinds of studio activity posts they’re missing.


It’s been my pleasure to share these ideas with you!  I hope my posts have helped you think in new directions and given you at least a few useful ideas.

Please share any success stories in the comments below!


Update (October 2022)

Do you want more of where this came from? Listen to episode #95 of The Beyond Measure Podcast: Cheers to Rethinking Team Sports.

christina-whitlock-headshotChristina Whitlock, M.M., N.C.T.M., operates a vibrant independent studio in Muncie, Indiana.  Celebrating twenty years of teaching at age 34, Christina serves as President of Indiana Music Teachers Association (IMTA) and enjoys a lively assortment of performance, instructional, and volunteer commitments throughout the state.   Christina is a grateful wife and mother of two daughters.  

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