Episode 027 – Tim Topham on Building a Specialized Teaching Studio
When Tim Topham was trying to make a living as a music producer and it wasn’t going well, he started taking on piano students as an additional source of income. In our interview, he talked about how little he knew about teaching at that stage.
Over time, Tim discovered his unique teaching style lent itself particularly well to teaching teens and students who were feeling dejected by their current music lesson experience.
His studio has now become known for his creative teaching techniques and attracts students who are looking for something different. Tim is known worldwide as a thought leader on creative piano teaching and the host of the Creative Piano Teaching podcast.
- Tim started out, like most new teachers, taking every student who came his way.
- Over time, he noticed a need in the market for students who were feeling dejected by their current music lesson experience.
- Tim encourages teachers not to dismiss opportunities that seem less than ideal during their early teaching careers (like travel teaching or teaching young students, even if you’d rather be teaching more advanced students) because these experiences give valuable perspective. (And you may just need the money!) Specialization can happen over time.
- Tim’s focus on teaching teens and transfer students happened organically at first and he gradually started being more selective as his studio filled.
- He discovered passion for teaching kids who were on the verge of quitting when a prospective studio parent found his videos online and asked him to try teaching her daughter as a last resort.
- Tim credits blogging and teaching videos as the primary marketing tools for his studio. He urges teachers that blogging and putting your ideas online can help build your reputation as a teacher with expertise in a certain area.
- When Tim was trying to build his studio, he made sure he was putting videos of himself teaching teen students on his website in order to attract more teen students.
- Tim encourages teachers to pay attention to the students they most enjoy teaching and learn to identify when a student isn’t a great fit.
- Part of being a more specialized teacher, means not doing everything in lessons. Even though he lives and teaches in an area where there is a big emphasis on music exams, Tim doesn’t let students participate in exams for at least the first year of lessons because sometimes the pressure of exams often conflicts with his primary goal of fostering lifelong music lovers.
- Each of Tim’s 45-min lessons has three elements:
- Technique (scales, aural work, etc.)
- Written repertoire
- Creativity (improvisation, playing from lead sheets, etc.)
- As a “creative teacher,” Tim has embraced the idea that he won’t always know all the answers, and that’s OK.
- Tim’s blog and YouTube channel have been the primary marketing tools for his studio
- Blogging helps your website show up in search results
- With student and parent permission, publish videos of you in action – having lessons with students so potential students can experience how the content of your lessons or teaching style is unique
- Collect contact information of prospective students through your website and follow up with them
- Being more specialized has made it more fun for Tim as a teacher which, in turn, makes lessons more enjoyable for his students.
- Being specialized and doing things a little differently than “everyone else” is doing them can help a studio stand out, especially in a market with a lot of teachers.
- Tim encourages teachers to 1) pay attention to what students and topics you most enjoy teaching and then 2) learn as much as you can about teaching that particular age group or subject and 3) figure out a way to do teach uniquely.
- Gain the skills to be the BEST teacher for your niche and then promote yourself as a specialist in this area.
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Previous episode: Episode 026 – Nicole Riccardo on Defining Your Niche
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