Transcript Mini Interview: Scarlette Kerr on Professionalizing a Private Piano Studio
Transcript: Mini Interview: Scarlette Kerr on Professionalizing a Private Piano Studio
Let’s get started.
We are less than two weeks out from the deadline for the 2022 Studio Launch Grant Competition. This grant is for new and new-ish teachers who have been in business for fewer than three years. But I know a lot of my listeners don’t meet that criteria. So today I’m excited to announce an additional prize that anyone is eligible for.
We are doing a giveaway for a $500 gift card from Alamo Music. Simply follow Music Studio Startup on Instagram and tag a teacher in the post for this podcast episode, and you’ll be entered to win. Alamo Music is a huge supporter of music teachers and their online store carries a wide range of instrument. Band instruments, acoustic and digital pianos, guitars, or even ukuleles for that summer camp you’re planning. So much fun. And if you’re listening because someone shared this with you, let me tell you about the grand prize. This year’s grand prize includes a $1,000 cash grant from Music Studio Startup and Duet Studio Management Systems, a $500 gift card from Alamo Music for instruments, a $100 gift card for teaching supplies from Dynamic Doodle Co.. A one on one tech training session with Steve Hughes, of Virtual Piano Studio. A full year of access to the Cascade Method teacher training program and enrollment in our own Business Building 101 course.
I started my multi teacher studio with just $1,500. So I’m stoked to be able to get a teacher set with this prize package of cash, teaching supplies and guidance from these knowledgeable teachers. All the details and application can be found at musicstudiostartup.com/grant and the deadline is May 15. On the same theme of the grant competition, today’s interview is a re-broadcast of my interview with the 2020 grant winner Scarlette Kerr. Scarlette went from having a very part-time studio, long grad school to building a strong student roster within seven months. Even with COVID happening. In this mini interview, we talk about being a musician and a business owner, about time management, and about self-promotion. Here’s my chat with Scarlette.
Hi, Scarlette. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being here today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your studio?[00:02:43] Scarlette Kerr: Sure. Thanks for having me, Andrea. My name is Scarlet Kerr and I am the owner of Music at 906 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I’m a piano teacher. [00:02:51] Andrea: Awesome. So good to have you today. And you were a participant in the Business Building program this summer. Um, and so you’re here to do a mini interview with us about that and also just what you’ve learned in your six months of full time being a piano teacher. So can you describe what your studio looked like back in May before the course started? [00:03:12] Scarlette Kerr: Sure. So, um, of course 2020 was kind of a unique year where the studio looks different, but I was also in grad school finishing up my master’s degree in performance in pedagogy. And so I really didn’t have time to devote to a full time studio. So at that point I probably had two students. And throughout the course of my grad school time, I had three students, um, on average.
And so while I wanted to grow my studio, I knew that I feasibly couldn’t. So when I graduated, that’s when I decided to take the steps towards making a full time studio.[00:03:46] Andrea: All right. And then what made you sign up for the course at that time? [00:03:50] Scarlette Kerr: So I was the recipient of the music studio startup grant. Um, and so this was part of that winning package and so I got to take the class for free. And I’m so glad I got to take the class for free because as someone transitioning out of school and into the professional life, it’s really overwhelming to have to do a lot of paperwork, a lot of planning and just setting that foundation for a sustainable studio. And the business class was able to lay that out for me over the summer so I was ready to be able to have my studio open in the fall. [00:04:22] Andrea: Yeah. And I’d love to hear more about how you, um, there were other parts that grant competition. So if, if you, the listers are, have been following along for a while, they know that we give away a $500 studio grant kind of jumpstart things in a studio along with, uh, graphic design package and Fons studio subscription. And can you talk about some of those other things and like what’s happened with those since the grant competition? [00:04:46] Scarlette Kerr: Sure. So since the grant competition, I was able to meet with a graphic designer and come up with a logo for my studio Music at 906 which, working with her was amazing. She was able to encapsulate all my ideas that I wanted for a studio into one logo and color scheme and theme. And so I’ve been able to brand my studio and be able to use it for my Instagram, my Facebook, give out stickers with my brand on it , put it in my studio policy. And so it’s just been really nice to be able to have an image that represents what I do for a living. But in a very nice clean and designy way.
So that was just awesome and it was great to be able to work with a professional on it, just because I kind of have a good eye for design, but I just don’t know how to make things happen and make them look good. And so it was nice to be able to have someone help me with that and bring that to life in fruition.[00:05:41] Andrea: I remember talking to you like right around that time. And you had an, a concept for the logo. I think you wanted a door with like music notes behind it and so you had this like vision and it was really neat to see it come to life and all your Instagram posts and everything now just looks so polished and cohesive.
Like I can always tell when one is coming across my feed without it it’s just like the, the feeling around them is really consistent and professional. . Yeah, even though it’s a variety of content, like they all just feel connected. So that’s really great.[00:06:11] Scarlette Kerr: And then the Fons subscription has been super helpful. The scheduling aspect of it has been really nice because it can sync to my iPhone and any other device. So I know like what my schedule looks like for the day and being able to have a platform for people to be able to enroll and sign up on this nice clean website has been really and easy to use.
And even if I’m the one that’s scheduling the lessons, I can send them an email and they know their time and it, I just think it adds another level of professionalism and amount of how serious I take my business as a piano teacher. I’m not a like neighborhood teacher who’s just doing this for like, as a side gig. Like this is my career. And so everything that I do. From onboarding students to giving them a studio policy through my website, I think adds that extra level of professionalism. And so it’s been great using Fons for my studio in that way.[00:07:03] Andrea: Awesome. And then how did you use the cash? [00:07:05] Scarlette Kerr: Um, so I decided to incorporate my studio as in LLC in North Carolina.
And so there were fees associated with that. Um, I think I also used it for marketing for like a local mom’s newsletter. And then I think I’ve also used it for website development design. Adding like the extra things. And I think I have a little bit left over just for a rainy day. Yeah. So a lot of it was like mainly marketing and incorporating my business and opening accounts and stuff like that.[00:07:35] Andrea: Well, I love hearing that it usually like put to use in your business and invested it right away and you know. Sometimes the temptation is save save, save, save , but the investing in kickstarting, that’s awesome. And doing something that maybe you wouldn’t have done before. So happy to hear that. And then from the course, what was your biggest takeaway from going through that process? [00:07:56] Scarlette Kerr: I think that it’s, that it’s possible to be able to have a side of yourself that is a business person. That is an entrepreneur.
When you go through school, you’re mainly focusing on your craft. So you’re mainly focusing on performance, pedagogy, music theory, but never how to be an entrepreneur, how to market yourself, how to work with people. And so, or even have a financial plan for the future, how you’re gonna sustain yourself outside of school.
And so this course is able to break that down into , what do I want for myself as a teacher financially? What do I wish to get outta my studio? Um, either pedagogically and financially and how to make it sustainable. And how to make a living. And so I really appreciated that the course broke it down to different categories.
Like this is what it’s like to be an entrepreneur in the US. Like you have to know about taxes. You have to know about opening a bank account. You have to know about protecting yourself as an, as a business person. Um, but they’re through like an LLC or any type of other corporate title. I knew that prior to going to grad school at a very like basic level, but this was allowed me to be able to dig\ deep and be able to plan ahead and work myself into that plan.[00:09:12] Andrea: In the course, we had a variety students in a variety of, um, places on the spectrum of like teacher versus admin. And some people were really into the admin and wanted to be full-time administrators in their schools. And some were much more onto the teaching side and just wanna be as much teacher as possible and streamline the admin stuff. Where would you say you fall on that spectrum? [00:09:33] Scarlette Kerr: Oh, I love administrative stuff. I don’t know why. I just think there’s just some type of thrill in like typing in numbers and like doing logistics. But I also love teaching, so I’m kind of like right in the middle of that spectrum where like, I like to do both and I might spend a, like maybe a little bit more time and admin than I do teaching right now. But that’s just because I’m like consistently trying to plan for the future. And that’s okay. No, I, yeah, I definitely fall like right in the, I love to do both categories. It’s just a nice balance. [00:10:02] Andrea: I am with you. I enjoy both too. Were there any specific challenges that you were trying or questions you were trying to answer through the course? [00:10:11] Scarlette Kerr: I think it mainly was how to put myself out there in a way that I felt comfortable. Cause I really struggle with putting myself out there like marketing myself or advertising myself. I think just because I’m introverted in that way. usually I have like a buddy to do that with me. But I don’t live around my buddy anymore. so, and that was always there to like help me, you know, market myself and do that. But, learning how to use Google business, like basic like Instagram, Facebook, and even really devoting my time into having a really good website was really helpful. And being able and learning how to kind of put myself as a person in there and be authentic and not feel like I’m trying to, I don’t know, trick people to taking lessons a bit.
I don’t know. I just really wanted to be authentic, but also assertive. And I think the course was able to be very encouraging cause other people are in the same boat as well. And we’re all just kind of there supporting each other. And by the end of the course, I felt maybe more comfortable in taking on advertising my studio.[00:11:15] Andrea: I think a lot of teachers can relate to that. And you know, music kind of is almost like the introverts dream cause you get to do so much by yourself and then when it comes to promoting yourself, it, it can be a real challenge. Yeah. And then how has your studio evolved since the course over the last six months?
So we’re recording this now in January and the course ended in September.[00:11:35] Scarlette Kerr: Yeah. So by September I think I had three or four students. Now I’m at 16. So it has definitely grown a lot and I think it’ll continue to grow throughout this next year. And that is meeting essentially all of my goals on growth, cause I wanted to be at least by 10 by the end of the year.
And then hopefully like by 15, by like this year. So I’ve already hit that. yeah, so it’s definitely grown a lot and it’s been really nice to be able to accept students and just have that foundation of tuition, studio policies, enrollment systems all set up. So that way I can just seamlessly just start teaching them without having to worry about the logistics of setting things up with technology and other administrative stuff. Mm-hmm so that’s the part where I like to just focus on the teaching and not so much in the admin since the admin was all done ahead of time.[00:12:28] Andrea: Get the systems running and then just, yeah. Do your craft really well. [00:12:31] Scarlette Kerr: After taking the course, I also wanted to reevaluate my tuition and how I charged. So instead of doing like a per lesson rate, I decided to do a monthly flat rate over the course of the year. And then so it would be the same amount of tuition every month, regardless of how many weeks there are. So if there are 52 weeks in a year and I teach 40 that is built in throughout the year, if that makes sense.
So while it may seem less upfront per month per lesson, it actually evens out over the course of the year. And I think that makes it easier for parents to budget. And it’s also gives me the consistent income I need through like quieter months, like over the summer.[00:13:11] Andrea: Yeah, definitely. Did you have to make a transition with your existing students to that format? [00:13:16] Scarlette Kerr: Yeah. And because there’s like a couple students that I was making that transition with, it really didn’t make that much of a difference. it was like maybe a $10 a month difference so they were totally fine with that. And so, and it was nice being able to do this before I took on more students so there wasn’t as much of a learning curve for families.
So, it was nice that I made that decision early on. And of course I can revise it if it doesn’t work in the next year or so. But so far, I think it’s been pretty good.[00:13:40] Andrea: What motivated you to do that at this time? [00:13:43] Scarlette Kerr: When we were doing our budget expense sheets during the course, I wanted to make something that was really consistent. Not only for me, but also for students and their families. Especially now during a time where, economically, things are kind of up in the air. I wanted to make something that at least was consistent for families. That this way can prepare and be able to make that investment worthwhile and also make it doable for them. [00:14:08] Andrea: I like that mindset about it too, that it makes it consistent for families and easier for them to budget. And that’s something that’s really helpful to communicate if you’re making that change in your studio and you think students or parents might be a little bit apprehensive about it, but like pitching it from that angle. Cause I agree. It makes it just more consistent, easier. They never have to look up, oh, how many lessons do we have this month? They just know it’s always the same. [00:14:35] Scarlette Kerr: Right And for me too. Like I, if they’re asking me, oh, how many lessons was it? Was it this month? And I said, was it three, was it four? I don’t want to have to have that conversation over and over again with 16 students or, you know, 10 parents. So this just makes it easy.
We send the same thing every month and it evens out during the year and it works out[00:14:54] Andrea: Definitely, what’s been working for you in terms of marketing. [00:14:58] Scarlette Kerr: Um, it’s been kind of a mixture of things. So word of mouth has been one of one thing. So like fellow other teachers who I, I guess have full studios have recommend other students to me. So having a network has been really great in my area. And then also Google My Business actually helped a lot and I ran maybe a Google ad for a couple weeks and nothing came of that, but just using Google My Business like the free aspect of that was helpful, cause it at least gives me visibility online. [00:15:27] Andrea: Yeah. That’s been really valuable in my studios too. And so much free available with that. Yeah. Did you have an existing network with the teachers in your area or have you developed that too over the last school year? [00:15:38] Scarlette Kerr: So yes and no. So I had the network of fellow teachers that were also in school with me that were living in the area. Most of my students, a lot of them came from those teachers that I went to school with. And then a few others have come from teachers I’ve met through my local piano teachers association. And I was able to join this past fall. So now I’m also like starting to be more active in my community now that I’m not in school. And that’s been really helpful as well. [00:16:01] Andrea: All right. And then you’ve also in the last year, just made the transition from being full-time student to full-time teacher. What have you been learning and how have you been growing in that process? [00:16:12] Scarlette Kerr: It’s great because I have more time, but it’s also rough because I have more time. So it’s, for me, it’s a matter of how to use my time wisely and how to, I guess, use my energy during the day. So, I like to get things done in the morning like administrative things, but also teach in the afternoon until sometimes seven o’clock. So it’s like a matter of like when to take breaks, when to give myself time that I need to like rejuvenate and reboot before I go on the teaching.
And so sometimes it can get super focused into what I’m doing. That I’ll be going from like 9:00 AM to 7:00 AM without or 7:00 PM without stopping. So for me, it’s just learning how to be a good time manager and to learn how to take breaks.[00:16:57] Andrea: Do you have any advice that might help another teacher who can, is maybe feeling the same thing? [00:17:03] Scarlette Kerr: I would say like have a, like a scheduled plan. So like from like nine to 12, do any admin work or work on your website or social media or anything like that. And then take a break for lunch or something and then like give yourself time to do personal things between then and when you start teaching. Or you can start. I mean, depending on how you function, like some people are morning people. I’m not a 6:00 AM person. So if you wanna do your thing at 6:00 AM, go for it. But, um, just like give yourself time limits on what to do so that way you can make sure that you’re leading, living a balanced lifestyle. [00:17:38] Andrea: Yeah. It’s easy for things to take over and become all consuming. And you already mentioned that you blew some of your goals out outta the water already for the year. So what, what are your new revised goals for 2021? [00:17:49] Scarlette Kerr: Providing more opportunities for students to get together. One of the philosophies of my teaching is that I love the idea of teaching in groups and, and learning with others. Because of the pandemic, I’m not able to host groups in my studio. And so I’m trying to be able to incorporate more group lessons online. And so, so far I don’t have any weekly group lessons started so far. And so I’m hopefully going to start marketing that and pushing for that more so people could sign up their kids for group as well as do studio classes at least once a month throughout the year. [00:18:21] Andrea: All right. And where can listeners get in touch with you and follow your studio? [00:18:25] Scarlette Kerr: So I have an Instagram account and you can follow me at Musicat906. And then my website is musicat906.com [00:18:31] Andrea: Alright, Scarlette. Thank you so much. [00:18:33] Scarlette Kerr: Thank you so much, Andrea. [00:18:45] Andrea: Scarlette really focused on getting her systems in place this summer. And it’s cool to see how having all of that set up has made her onboarding process for new students super smooth. I thought her comment was spot on about how having these things in place distinguishes her as a professional who’s teaching as a career, as opposed to just someone who decided to set up shop as a piano teacher to earn some extra cash.
If you’re struggling to be taken seriously by students or studio families it may be that you need to take yourself more seriously first. And side note, you can be a serious business owner and still be a fun goofy teacher if that’s your vibe. Scarlette talked about the challenge to put herself out there and market her studio, which so many musicians can relate to.
I know she spent a lot of time developing her website this summer, particularly around the language she uses to describe her unique teaching style. Scarlette has a really strong pedagogy, background and specialized training. It would be easy for her to just talk about all her training and skills, because there’s so much to say there, but she does an exceptional job making her communication student focused.
Her Instagram feed is also a great example of showing what happens in lessons rather than telling. And at the same time, it demonstrates her expertise as a teacher. Scarlette might share a picture of a student’s first lesson, which is adorable and attention grabbing, of course, and her caption will celebrate the student while simultaneously slipping in some educational content about her methodology that demonstrates in a very non pompous way that she knows what she’s talking about. She doesn’t have to tell me she has training because I can see how it’s at work in her teaching. It’s quite effective and I highly recommend you checking out Scarlette’s Instagram.
No pressure, Scarlette. You rock. It was so cool to hear how Scarlette used the prize package from the 2020 grant competition to launch her studio. I’m so grateful to our supportive sponsors and the opportunity to do it all again for another teacher. To apply for the grant, visit musicstudiostartup.com/grant.
And don’t forget to head over to Instagram to share this podcast episode and to be entered in the drawing for the $500 Alamo Music gift card. That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week.