Transcript 092 – Judy Naillon on Starting a Ukulele Program [REBROADCAST]
Transcript: 092 – Judy Naillon on Starting a Ukulele Program [REBROADCAST]
[00:00:00] Andrea: Hey, it’s Andrea with Music Studio Startup, the podcast about the business of teaching music. Learn from the startup stories of music teachers who are doing incredible things with their studios. Be inspired by creating musicians who are branching out and thriving. Be empowered by the insights of experts who will help you grow your own studio.
Let’s get started.
Here in St. Louis we still have snow and ice on the ground from a winter storm a couple of weeks ago. So I feel pretty far removed from anything remotely summer. But if we’re thinking about having camps or programs in our studios this summer now is the time to get them on the calendar. And my experience that parents generally start making summer plans as early as December and enrollments trickle in for awhile, and really pick up as we near spring break. The earlier you can announce a program calendar the better, but it’s definitely not too late to put something together for this summer. Today, I’m, rebroadcasting a conversation I had two years ago about how a violin teacher introduced recreational group ukulele classes to boost her studio income during the summer and expand her network for private students. Anyone who struggles with the summer slump or who just wants to try something new will be sure to enjoy what Judy has to share.
Here’s my conversation with Judy. Hi, Judy, welcome back to the podcast. You’ve been on before, but I’m happy to have you back today to talk about a different topic. Can you tell us a little bit about your studio?
[00:01:37] JudyNaillon: Sure. I give mostly piano and violin lessons in Wichita, Kansas, but a few years ago I was having some students drop off in the summer and I was looking for a way to kind of increase my revenue in the summer. And then my daughter had this genius idea. She wanted to learn the ukulele. So I looked into taking her for ukulele lessons at our local music store, which was about 20 minutes away from our house. And I looked up the teachers online and quickly realized that the ukulele was not their first instrument.
I know these teachers and I thought, wow, I didn’t even know they played the ukulele. I looked into it a little bit and realized quickly that the ukulele is not a difficult instrument to learn. And I myself learned it in just a few weeks, you know, a few days, a few weeks of little, little chunks of practicing.
And I immediately decided to offer it for my studio. I first, you know, kind of tested it out on my current students. And of course she was thrilled because she was getting the one on the ukulele. And I was thrilled because suddenly I had students who were excited about music again and who were taking an additional offering for me and my, you know, my revenue went up in the summer, which was great.
[00:02:56] Andrea: Do you offer ukulele lessons year round or is it something that’s just in the summer for your studio?
[00:03:01] JudyNaillon: In my studio, we do offer group classes year round, as well as private classes. Now with the COVID we have stopped the group classes. We at first were continuing, we were finishing out the groups that existed in March and April online in zoom. And now we’re just doing private one-on-one lessons. Because we had in our groups, um, multi-level of students. So it really works better to do online lessons, virtual only lessons with private lessons. Okay. And then we really hope to have those group lessons back when the social distancing can be over.
[00:03:36] Andrea: Yeah, I’m sure. Yeah. You clearly just seems like the instrument that’s I dunno, designed to be enjoyed in community with a bunch of people around a circle strumming along. Can you talk to us about the very first time you introduced it to your studio? What you go through to introduce it?
[00:03:53] JudyNaillon: Well, I needed to have a curriculum. And I needed to have instruments. I have had an experience where, you know, all of the parents in my studio are working parents. So we don’t have a, you know, Suzuki teachers want a perfect Suzuki triangle with parent teacher child. And we don’t always have that in my studio. And I’m okay with that. So for ukulele I didn’t expect these busy working parents, which I am one too, to have time to go research and purchase the appropriate ukulele for their student. So I started just asking other teachers who offer ukulele, you know, what kind of instruments do you like your students to have? I also talked to elementary classroom teachers and I said, what kind of curriculum are you using for a group? What instruments really hold up well over time? I’m willing to pay a little bit more for an instrument that will stay in tune, because we all know if you teach a string instrument, the biggest barrier between a kid practicing is the instrument being in tune. So if you teach the piano or the keyboard, you don’t really think about that.
But when Johnny goes home and it’s so out of tune he can’t practice and he’s too little to tune it. You know, the practicing doesn’t happen. So I was willing to spend a little bit more time and money finding the great ukuleles. And that’s what happened.
[00:05:13] Andrea: So were you purchasing the instruments for the entire class and they just use them or borrow them for the duration of class, how did that work?
[00:05:21] JudyNaillon: Right. So I kind of have a sneaky trick that whenever, I want to give something to my students, I just put my logo on it. And I include it in the price of the class as a free promotional giveaway. So if I have any kind of resources I want to give them, I just let them know that this is part of my music library or, and then they would need to return it.
Or I let them know that this is a free product that is included in the price of the class. So in my classes the ukuleles come with a group class purchase. It’s a larger fee. It covers about two months worth of classes and includes the instructional materials, the books. We give our students a few accessories too, like a strap and some pics, things like that.
[00:06:18] Andrea: And you do something fun, don’t you? With like choosing your color of ukulele? Don’t you make kind of a big deal about that?
[00:06:23] JudyNaillon: It’s a great advertising tool. Let’s say, you know, jump into our classes today. You know, you can join any time and choose your color. So what I did is I went ahead and purchased just about every color under the sun of these little ukuleles. And they come in solid colors and I include those in the base price for no additional charge. I have some beautiful glitter ukuleles. Like the one I’m holding in my hand is a glitter ukulele. And this isn’t like glitter that’s gonna flake off or be achy or as rough. This is a really smooth glitter like car finished. And so since these costs about $20 more for me to purchase. I just ask that students, if they really want a glitter ukulele to just, you know, give me an extra $20, just tack that onto the price of the class. And no one really complaints, because if you want a glitter ukulele, it’s worth it. It’s really worth it. And these little ukuleles are great. They stay in tune. We haven’t had very many problems with them breaking, you know, we don’t know what happened with one family. They went through quite a few ukulele, but they shipped well. They hold up over time. This ukulele I’ve had in my hand, I’ve had about three years and I’m pleased with the quality for the low price.
[00:07:45] Andrea: All right. And what’s the brand name that you like to use?
[00:07:47] JudyNaillon: The ones that we like the most are the Diamond Head ukuleles.
[00:07:51] Andrea: All right. We’ll put that in the show. So you did the research on what curriculum you’re going to use and what ukuleles would best fit the needs of your students. And then how did you pitch it to parents the first time?
[00:08:03] JudyNaillon: I was honest. I said, Hey, you know you wanted to learn to ukulele and I don’t have time to take her to the music store. So I just learned how to play the ukulele. And I wondered if your kids would like to come and take a ukulele class. I found some great ukuleles, you don’t have to buy anything. I found some great books. I can send your kid home with a book. You don’t have to go buy a book. You know, I mean, as a parent who has gone through the soccer rigamarole of, oh, all they need is a Jersey, it’s soccer Jersey. And then you show up and the coach says, well, they really should have cleans. And then the next week the coach says, oh, well they need green socks. The color of the team’s green socks. So go buy green socks, and then you buy the wrong color green. I mean, this is like the third or fourth trip to the sports store that you never need to go to otherwise. I, I really appreciate an activity that really is everything included. So that’s a big selling point in my studio and you know, my studio parents already know. They’re familiar with that.
You know, quality is important to me and that I’m not just going to be like, you know, babysitting their kids. I’m going to really be teaching them ukulele. The other thing that was really important to me was that if I was going to have group, I really, and they, you know, they’re all beginners. I really wanted to have two teachers. So I went ahead and got a second teacher to help me teach these groups.
[00:09:16] Andrea: And what’s that teacher’s role?
[00:09:18] JudyNaillon: The second teacher really, she would help mark the ukuleles with the little colored dots that we use for finger placement. You know, in the first class we are measuring them for the strap. We’d have like a little homemade strap we do. And that really helped me be able to focus on teaching them content while she was doing that little busy work stuff. So we didn’t have to waste a whole class with just, you know. Walking around, making sure everyone was holding the ukulele in their left hand and not their right hand. You know, the sound hole is facing out and not up or down or sideways.
[00:09:58] Andrea: So she’s more of an assistant and support person, as opposed to a leading teacher checking what you have maybe just instructed the kids to do. Is that accurate?
[00:10:07] JudyNaillon: Yes. So I would say that if you’re going to hire an assistant, it doesn’t need to be someone necessarily who, you know, is the world’s best ukulele player. You can hire someone who, you know, in my example, who’s just younger than you. And you know, it can get up and down really easily and has lots of patience and always a smile and that’s something that’s really helpful. It doesn’t even, I would say it wouldn’t even have to be a qualified music teacher. You could get an older student to help you in this role if this is something you’re wanting to start now. I’m lucky in that my assistant is also a qualified music teacher. Some weeks if I had a gig to play or a rehearsal or, you know, something else I needed to do, or I just needed a mental break because I do teach from nine to five on Saturdays, private lessons. And we were having our ukulele classes in the beginning after 5:00 PM. Sometimes I would just need a break. Then she could go ahead and start the class. I could take a little breather, have a cup of coffee and then come back down and be that fun, exciting teacher again with a smile. So that really was a great break for me too.
[00:11:12] Andrea: Yeah. Wow. Sounds like an experienced teacher to bring in someone else to help. You know what you’re doing there. How many years have you been offering these classes?
[00:11:22] JudyNaillon: Let’s see probably three years.
[00:11:26] Andrea: Okay. And is it mostly kids? Is it adults? Is it a mix? What do you know?
[00:11:30] JudyNaillon: No, I would say it’s mostly kids, but I’ve had a surprising number of adults take this class. And when I first started offering it, my friends all were great. They jumped on board. I mean, I didn’t pressure them or anything. They just all volunteer to take these classes. And I was so pleased and it was a lot of fun. So as soon as we learned some chords, we could have some fun playing, you know, songs we all like. And we were reminiscing and, you know, telling stories and those adult classes with my friends sometimes would be, you know, longer than the assigned time, but we were having a blast in those classes.
And then, you know, those friends told other friends, Hey, you know, if you want to learn that ukulele and have a lot of fun, you should go talk to my friend, Judy. So that was great. I mean, the adults really took off without my having to do much. I’ll say now later we did have classes that were multi-level multi-generational. And so we had a grandma who really wanted her grandkids and her husband to kind of like go and do something fun and musical. And she knew me from, you know, I play in a symphony here. And so she’s more of a classical music fan, but knowing that her husband is not the classical music type, she thought ukulele would be perfect for all of them.
So she signed them up and then grandpa and the grandkids came, and then my dad joined and we had another dad and a daughter joined. So it was just kind of like, oh, Hey, I have a family class. And would you like to learn the ukulele with your child? Well, here’s a family class. And so then I would, you know, just make a little post about that and people would sign up.
[00:13:11] Andrea: That sounds super fun. What do you notice? What are people looking for when they sign up for ukulele lessons? Like, do they typically have any music background? Is it they’re just coming up this new? What’s different maybe about a ukulele student versus a Suzuki violin student?
[00:13:28] JudyNaillon: Oh, sure. Well, you know, I have a new student meeting and interview for someone who’s interested in serious lessons, because I want to have a relationship with this student, you know, for the next decade. And you know, I’m looking for someone who’s going to be able to consistently practice either with or without a parent. Now for ukulele in the summer time, we have students who come back every summer who don’t take any other offering in our studio. So these are people that don’t take piano or violin. These are casual learners, you know, they’re not ever going to be very good, excellent music readers, but they’re going to enjoy music. And I think that’s something that, you know, it makes me feel better about what I’ve done in my life. It’s notonly teaching violin and piano to people who are very serious and have a career of music in mind. Right? I mean, it’s been a change, I will say.
Now for ukulele, I do not do a new student interview. If someone wants to take the ukulele, I just have them fill out a little form. I do ask on the form if their child has any attention issues that might need just some extra forethought on my part or the assistant teachers part. You know, like we just might have the assistant teacher sit next to that child or in between two kids who would, you know, consistently need a little bit more redirection. But on the whole and being, you know, that I live in a smaller town and I know a lot of people it’s worked out well in our classes to just have kids show up for ukulele. And not have a new student orientation or meeting before, or kind of, you know, vetting process.
[00:15:08] Andrea: And what are they looking for? Are they typically just wanting a fun summer activity or is it something they plan to come back to year after year? Do you have a sense of that?
[00:15:16] JudyNaillon: I have students who come for six weeks and we never see them again. Now we do include them on our mailing list. So they, you know, they want to keep getting those emails in the future that have all the fun things we’re offering. So we do have students that come back again in the next summer. And I also have students who take these group classes. And they really, you know, you learn the ukulele quickly and you can see, oh, this is really easy. Then they’ll transition into private lessons.
[00:15:45] Andrea: Private ukulele lessons or other instruments?
[00:15:47] JudyNaillon: Private ukulele lessons. And then they’re learning at a faster rate and they’re playing exactly what they want to play. Some kids, you know, really enjoy the group. It’s like a camp experience, you know. Make some friends hang out. It’s not like you have to practice every day at home. But in the private lessons, you know, students really take it more seriously, like any student who takes a private lesson. Which is kind of funny because it’s still a ukulele.
[00:16:14] Andrea: Well, I like it kind of provides an on-ramp for a student who might just want some exposure to music or an adult. I think I would like to be able to sign up for a swing dancing class for six weeks and enjoy it for six weeks and not commit my whole life to swing dancing and the way I have committed to piano, you know. Not everything has to be that high level of committment. So, yeah, I think ukulele is an awesome instrument for that because it’s accessible. You can learn to play things that sound like music really quickly and have that rewarding experience. And it doesn’t have to be more than a summer if that’s what you’ve got time for in your life. Can you talk to us about the lesson formats? How long are the lessons? How frequently, how long do your sessions last?
[00:16:56] JudyNaillon: At first we started with group classes that were 45 minutes for six weeks. We kind of transitioned. So it’s the same thing, but now we just call it a two month class. And because of our, you know, gig schedules or vacation schedules, we just give people the calendar and it shows that we don’t have classes on two weeks. We do offer a lower rate for students who after they take the class and they have the book and they have the instrument and they have the basic skills. We invite them to come back and participate in our classes for a much, much lower fee. And this is when the parent is willing to put a card on file. So we would encourage these students to, you know, drop in any time into our group classes.
It’s not like, you know, attendance is mandatory. And then the parent is paying us a very low fee every month. It’s kind of like everything else I do in my studio where it’s a membership mentality. So the parent thinks, oh, we’ve bought a membership into ukulele and you can just go whenever we have time. And if you have a birthday party, it’s no big deal.
[00:18:08] Andrea: Okay. So it’s kind of like a gym, like they’ve got a membership to the gym and they can pop into whatever class fits their schedule whenever they’re. That’s interesting.
[00:18:17] JudyNaillon: Where we have really had some success with revenue. So people just want, and this is pre COVID of course, but people would be taking our initial class and the fee was high because it did include, you know that more intense instruction where you have to, you know, we really have to focus on this student learning the ukulele well. We have to provide them an instrument. We have to get them all the accessories and the books. But after that, it’s really easy for us because we’ve already taught this child how to play the ukulele and they are just going to show up and actually help other people in the class by putting their little fingers in the right place and paying attention and having fun. And so those students are an asset to us. So that’s why I’m happy to have them back at, you know, just a fraction of the original course cost if you will. And as a parent, I think that would be really appealing is if I had paid a lot of money for something and my child had learned it pretty well. But then knowing that they probably forget it all to just buy into a very low cost membership where they can go and, you know, kind of just check in when we had time. I love things like that. For example, if I had charged initially $200 for a two months introduction course with books, materials, and a ukulele included in their choice of color, then the months coming after, where they would be buying the membership and have that card on file, that would be billed monthly. That would be maybe $40. So you can see as a parent who just spent $200 for two months, $40 seems like an amazing deal. And for $40, if you go two or three times a month, you feel like you’ve gotten a value. If you have a birthday party and you’re not going to be losing over $20, it’s not a big stressor.
[00:20:23] Andrea: Yeah. All right. That’s a really neat way to structure that. And then do you have these sessions recurring throughout the year? Like every two months does a new session start?
[00:20:31] JudyNaillon: Yes. So every two months a new session would start. And this is how we did it the first year solid. You know, in the second year we would have somebody who wanted to start in the months in between. And so that’s when we started adding a, you know, more classes. So we would have classes at a different time or a different day. The first year, I will say it was so popular. We had classes. I want to say group classes, two or three times a week, full group classes, two or three times a week. And this is without marketing it beyond our studio, but just, you know, just the normal good sized studio filled up two or three classes and they were all kids.
So studio kids and a few friends of studio kids, you know, a few siblings of studio kids. I remember I had a, an adult student who had grandchildren visiting and she thought this would just be fantastic for them. They all learned piano where they lived in Texas. So she had four grandkids. She sent them over. I mean, it was fantastic.
[00:21:37] Andrea: And how big are your classes generally?
[00:21:39] JudyNaillon: I advertise that our classes have no more than eight students per class. So that’s two teachers, eight kids. I feel like I’m not just running a music man scheme over here where, you know, we’re, we’re trying to make money. This is not a for-profit thing. This is a for learning thing. So, you know, I’m making it clear that in comparison to other studios, we actually are focusing on the students’ learning in that short period of time. There are other studios in our area. One offers the free ukulele course once a month. I think actually two offer a free ukulele course once a month. But what does free scream out to you? Are you going to be coming home with a huge knowledge of ukulele from a once monthly free course, right?
[00:22:28] Andrea: Yeah. It’s like that the drop in cardio class or something, it’s just kind of a teaser for the big thing.
[00:22:34] JudyNaillon: It’s like a sales pitch.
[00:22:36] Andrea: How do you schedule the classes? Do you have any tips on, like, if I’m a teacher wanting to set my first class, should I put it on a Saturday morning, on a weekday afternoon? What do you think about there?
[00:22:49] JudyNaillon: First year when we had just children, we ended up doing Thursday night, saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoon. Now these are largely because these times are largely because that’s the only time I had room in my studio. I want to say we also had a Wednesday afternoon class, like a Wednesday daytime afternoon class for students who had, you know, those softball T-ball games in the evenings soccer games. Here our sports teams in the summer have a lot of evening and early morning games on the weekends. And almost every student does a sport as well as lessons where I live. So I’m trying to always find those times. I try to just offer things at a noncompeting time.
[00:23:40] Andrea: And then what role do these groups play in your studio as a whole? Is it mostly supplemental income? Is it a feeder program to other instruments?
[00:23:51] JudyNaillon: I just feel like it’s excellent advertising. If someone has come in my studio. And they’ve taken a ukulele class and I’ve made a small profit. That’s fine. You know, I’ve given that other teacher some, some time, some money, that’s fine. But they also walk in here and they see the piano and they see the array of small to large size violin. And that person is going to go back out. Their family is going to go back out into the community. And when they’re talking to someone else about piano or violin lessons, they’re going to say, oh, you know, we actually know someone who gives excellent lessons.
[00:24:28] Andrea: So it’s a way of getting a more broad student base.
[00:24:31] JudyNaillon: I just feel it’s more like, you know, yeah. Just kind of like good advertising, good community engagement.
[00:24:38] Andrea: Yeah. Interesting. Okay. And then how else are you advertising those classes? Beyond your studio.
[00:24:44] JudyNaillon: Well before, this is all pre COVID of course. I did a Facebook ads and I just consistently posted into my studio Facebook page. We also have these wonderful mailing lists of students who have all taken ukulele. And I have a separate monthly newsletter that I send to just ukulele student. If students use those ukulele students have expressed an interest in taking future piano or violin lessons, I go ahead and also stick them on my general studio mailer. But if you’re a parent who just took ukulele lessons and your student is never going to be a serious, you know, musical student, you don’t really want to get all this intense stuff about youth symphony. Piano competitions.
[00:25:32] Andrea: So it’s specialized. Interesting. Okay. That’s really interesting. What is the content of that monthly newsletter?
[00:25:38] JudyNaillon: So I try to always promote that we do have those memberships after they’ve completed the first course. They can come back and jump into that monthly membership and participate in our classes and keep up those skills that they already learned. Continue with the new skills, continue having fun, and then also be able to participate in our concert in the park every summer.
At the end of the summer, we would have a little concert in the park and because these are accoustic instruments, it was really easy for us to just go to a local park that had a gazebo. So some, you know, shade and shelter. And I would bring a cooler of popsicles to enjoy afterwards. And we have the cutest photos of some of our little students participating in these little classes.
[00:26:28] Andrea: That sounds amazing. What percentage of students do come back in that membership model?
[00:26:33] JudyNaillon: I would say about 30% from the class that we had immediately just held. And of course we have students that are still coming from the previous two months of students that are coming from that last previous two months course. So we did change the way that we offered the courses. And in the second year we said, instead of joining every other month, a certain class, we said, you know, we have this one big class and you can jump in any time and you can be a total beginner and jumping into this class. And that’s because I realized what that second teacher that really allows me to work with students who are more advanced on a song and then give that beginner student who just started an option of, okay, we know you don’t know all these chords yet, but when you get to this C chord, you can play that C chord you just learned. Right. And that’s a way for them to still have fun and be participating in the class and also be motivated to learn those next chords even quicker.
So that’s what we ended up doing with the group classes. We didn’t offer as many courses after the first year. We kind of scaled back. But it was a lot easier for my scheduling too.
[00:27:50] Andrea: Okay. That seems like great retention for going from the group class to the membership model.
[00:27:57] JudyNaillon: Yes. I’m pleased. I’m pleased.
[00:27:59] Andrea: If a teacher is considering starting ukulele program, what kind of investment are they making for themselves in terms of learning the instrument themselves, purchasing their own instrument, that sort of thing.
[00:28:11] JudyNaillon: Monetary wise, I would say, a couple hundred dollars is all you need to get started teaching ukulele and learning ukulele. So when I bought my first ukulele, I bought a nicer ukulele than I probably needed to. I bought an electric, acoustic ukulele and a tiny amp. And my thought was that if I had all these loud ukuleles in my studio and I just taught from nine to five, I wouldn’t really want to be raising my voice to get them to hear me or playing loudly. I’d be tired. I could just turn up the amp a little bit. What ended up happening is I mostly just use the same ukulele that my students are using and it’s just because it’s, you know, it’s handy and I don’t have to grab that one particular ukulele. And the other thing you need is a little time. You need that time investment to really learn it well yourself. And it doesn’t, I mean, it just depends on how much time you have and you know, your attention span and your passion for it. I have to say my passion was zero, right? My, I was driven by not wanting to drive my daughter across town. For 20 minutes, wait for 30 minutes and then drive 20 minutes back home.
I don’t have that kind of time in my life. So that was my motivation. And with the apps that exist and the curriculum, it really, it really broke it down to be very easy. So I would say if you have two weeks, $200, you can start this, you know, in a months time. If you really want to do this, your motivation can be start advertising it now. And then you’ll be really motivated to learn that ukulele. And stay one quarter ahead of the kids.
[00:29:57] Andrea: And what curriculum do you recommend for teachers who are willing to learn?
[00:30:01] JudyNaillon: So for teachers and for students, I really highly recommend The Rainbow Ukulele Curriculum. So this is available on Teachers Pay Teachers. And it’s kind of like if you’re a piano teacher and you’re already familiar with Piano Pronto books, you can buy a studio license. And so that’s what I have purchased for me. Rainbow Ukulele is a studio license, so I can reprint these books for my students and the books are wonderful. The books also come with a PowerPoint presentation, so I can be showing this PowerPoint presentation, or we could be looking at the matching page in the book and the PowerPoint’s a little bit different and it has really wonderful things, YouTube links.
And I just can’t speak highly enough about how easy she makes it. She also includes a color coded dot system so that you can label each student’s ukulele. And this is not designed for a private independent music teacher. This is designed for a classroom teacher. So this really is designed to get a group familiar with basics of music and playing ukulele.
I’ll say at the beginning of the book, there is a lot of information and you don’t have to teach all of that music theory information to your students. We generally dive right in to the first beginning songs and then go back and look at that learning information as time goes by. It includes tab. So your students are learning note reading and tab. If you have a student who doesn’t know anything about music, this book covers basic concepts. It also includes the history of the ukulele, which is so interesting. Did you know that the name ukulele translates roughly to jumping flea? Came to Hawaii. And the Hawaiians looked at these immigrants playing the ukulele so fast and their fingers were just jumping all around, like a bouncing flea, like a jumping flea.
The first ukuleles looked like they were small guitars. They called the machetes, but they changed the name to ukulele. Jumping flea. I learned all this from Rainbow Ukulele.
[00:32:19] Andrea: Well, I will probably forget that before my next trivia night, but…
[00:32:24] JudyNaillon: Well, if you teach it in a class 400 times, it really ingrained right there in your brain forever. I’ll probably never forget that with all the ukulele classes I’ve taught.
[00:32:37] Andrea: Are there any other resources that you’d like to share for teachers or for ukulele students?
[00:32:42] JudyNaillon: Sure. There’s some great apps out there. I know Fender has one. I’m not as familiar with it just because it’s newer and I already know how to play the ukulele. But the ones that we use the most in our class are Yousician. And we also have Uki Oki, which is a karaoke ukulele. Yeah, both of these apps have a free version that have plenty of content to get you started. And I will say that in the Yousician app, we do not use any of their paid services, so that we want our students to be able to come in and go home and practice what we’ve learned. The Yousician app is great because there are just some ads you have to watch about every 20 minutes, but the ads are not for anything sketchy. They’re just for the Yousician app. So it’s still a perfectly kid friendly way to learn the ukulele. And then the Uki Oki app, we do go ahead and purchase for our studio, the $5 a month membership. They’re always adding new songs, new content. And I mean, it has a really huge selection. I mean, anything from kids songs, country music, church music, popular music, oldies. So these are things there’s always, you know, something that students want to play. And sometimes I’m learning the music, thanks to my students.
And if you don’t like to sing, you don’t have to, but that app also shares the words, just like karaoke. So you can sing along. And we have a lot, especially in my adult classes, have a lot of fun doing that. Another cool thing that we have in my studio is we have a huge TV in our studio and we connect the iPads to that huge screen so that all the students can see what’s going on. And this is how we show those PowerPoint presentations. It’s how we show the Yousician app and the Yuki Oki app.
[00:34:41] Andrea: All right. That’s that’s awesome. Is there any other technology that you use in lessons besides iPad, TV, things like that?
[00:34:48] JudyNaillon: So if you’re going to do it, you know, I mean, if you don’t have another way, like a projector screen or something that you already have that exists. You know, just a TV that has that HDMI input. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, you know, TV. I honestly don’t use this TV in my studio for anything else, other than teaching. So I didn’t even buy a TV that has the ability to actually like receive TV channels. It’s basically just a screen, but you would need that lightning connector to HDMI. Now that’s a little bit of money, and these are things that we did not start out with. We just started out with our iPad pro and we put it up on a music stands and we all looked at that. And I quickly realized if I was going to have these older adults enjoying my class, they were going to need to have a bigger visual. So that’s what I made that TV investment. But by then, I’d already had many, many classes that we’re helping to pay for these things.
[00:35:44] Andrea: Okay. Great tips there. Thank you.
[00:35:46] JudyNaillon: And I want to say the Rainbow Ukulele curriculum is around 50. I’m not sure exactly, but I think it’s 40 or 50 and that was, you know, one of the best investments I’ve made in my studio.
[00:35:57] Andrea: Yeah. It sounds like it. And I love the studio licenses that you can just know you’re not breaking any copyrights and share freely. Before we go, are there any other parting words of wisdom that you have for teachers who might want to take on a ukulele program?
[00:36:09] JudyNaillon: Sure this one may be a little odd, but as a violinist, I did not expect that playing the ukulele would bother my fingers. I swear it hurts my little, my little fingers. So one of my best tips is they sell ukulele or guitar finger guards. And these are just little rubber covers. You put on your fingers and then I can play the ukulele all day. So I would say if you want to grab some of these, they’re really inexpensive thing. And I buy them in a variety of sizes and I always have some for myself and my students. It’s just a little thing, but it makes such a big difference.
[00:36:48] Andrea: And is there a book that has had a strong influence on you as a music teacher or business owner?
[00:36:54] JudyNaillon: Well, I actually wrote a book because there wasn’t a book. I’m writing another book right now, but the one that I already have out is called 60 Day Make-Over: Music Teacher Edition. I read many books, but a lot of them were like, Hey, get a book and write down your expenses, write down all your students’ information or put it on the computer. No, I would say what really helped me more than any books, where these Facebook groups and being able to connect with other teachers and see what works for them and find those teachers who have the similarities.
You know, don’t, don’t get advice from the teacher who lives in Texas if you live in Canada. If you live in Canada, none of your students are going to come in the summer for lessons, no matter what, right. If you live in Texas, a high high percentage of people take lessons. So I would say go to these Facebook groups and connect with teachers who have similarities because that’s, what’s really going to help you grow your business in your climate is to really find those niches, you know, those, that little niche.
[00:37:59] Andrea: Is there a particular Facebook group you recommend for music teachers interested in ukulele?
[00:38:04] JudyNaillon: Sure. I actually created one specifically for independent music teachers who are looking to learn and teach ukulele. And this is the Ukulele Teacher Chat Facebook group.
[00:38:16] Andrea: Okay. We’ll put that in the show notes as well. Thank you. And where can listeners get in touch with you?
[00:38:21] JudyNaillon: You can find all of my information by searching Violin Judy. That’s my website, violinjudy.com and my Facebook, Instagram, everything. My studio Facebook is Violin Judy Studio.
[00:38:33] Andrea: All right, Judy. Thank you so much.
[00:38:35] JudyNaillon: Thanks for having me.
[00:38:42] Andrea: All right. Show of hands. Who is already surfing Amazon for a ukulele? I will say I got a uke for my birthday last year and it has been just plain fun to learn a new instrument. It’s so accessible. I love that. Even as a beginner, I can sit down for just five minutes and play something that sounds like music. And they just have such a happy, cheerful sound. I love it. Okay. Let’s talk about Judy’s studio. Judy gave us a lot of information and inspiration for starting a ukulele program. Whether it’s to boost income or just to change things up. I’m not going to dig into those details too much, but I would like to tease out how ukulele seems to fit into Judy’s studio as a whole and what we can learn from that. We only heard a bit about her violin and piano students, but it seems like Judy studio has two distinct segments of students. She has her private students and her group ukulele students. Her private lessons serve students who are in it for the long haul. There are welcome meetings, rigorous practice expectations, and additional activities like orchestra and competitions outside of regular lesson. These lessons are for the students who put music lessons in their calendars first and arrange the rest of their lives around that. The ukulele groups on the other hand serve a more recreational music student. They’re low cost and low commitment class sessions are just a couple of months. And after that, the drop in membership model, which brilliant means students can participate when it’s convenient and skip when there’s a birthday. I think it’s important to say that neither of these groups is better or more desirable than the other. They just have different goals and priorities for music lessons.
It doesn’t matter who we choose to serve, but it is important that we recognize our own priorities and lessons and those of our students. If you’re experiencing issues with retention, it’s very likely there’s a mismatch in priorities between you and your students. Judy has really attuned to what each of these segments, once in a music lesson, And those insights inform the way she does things in her studio.
They inform the content of her email newsletters, how she structures her lesson packages and even events like her concert in the park. There’s so much food for thought in this conversation. I’d love to hear about your summer plans. As you announced them on social media go ahead and tag me @musicstudiostartup on Instagram or Facebook so we can share program ideas with other teachers in the music studio startup.
I’m also excited to announce that the Music Studio Startup Grant Competition will be back this year. We held this competition in 2020 to help launch a new studio. Prizes include a cash grant and services and products every new teacher can use. If you’re interested in applying or becoming a sponsor, visit musicstudiostartup.com/grant.
I’ll also put a link to that page and all the resources mentioned in this episode at musicstudiostartup.com/episode092. That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week. .