The first lesson

I teach a lot of beginner students and I teach a lot of first lessons. I have taught so many first lessons that I came up with a sort of dialogue depending on the level of the student. Here are some of the things that I make sure to cover in the beginning of every first lesson.


I do like to spend a little bit of time talking about what I have done and my teaching credentials. This can be a little boring for the student if they are young, but I like to invite the parent into the first lesson so they can see what happens during the lesson and I can go over expectations. With the parent there, I find they like to know that they are dealing with a professional and that they are going to get their money’s worth during the lessons.


I will review the lesson policies during this time. Things like payment terms, attendance policy, make up policy, etc. Again, with the parent there, they can get to know what they are getting into, how the business will be conducted. I usually have some sort of bullet pointed list that goes over all of these policies and this will act as their contract. This is handed off to the parent or student at this time.


I will then go into what the student knows about the instrument. Since I mainly teach trumpet students, I will ask them what they know about the trumpet, who famous plays the trumpet, where they have heard the trumpet before, if they listen to any music with trumpet in it, how the trumpet works and if they have played the trumpet for any period of time. From here, I can build a lot of what comes next.


This is where the lesson usually starts to be less consistent. Depending on the level of the student we will cover basic playing techniques to advanced fundamentals.

What are some things that you start each first lesson with? Why are those things important in the first lesson?

A Diamond in the Rough

Tonight I stopped by Star Records in Carlsbad CA. It is refreshing to see  record store still stands in the land of media downloads. They have all the good stuff too. Concert t’s from shows 40 years ago, rare posters of all the greats, out of print recordings, and these big black discs that apparently were used back in the day to play music, lots of them.

Teach your students about these rare stores and their purpose.

Share with everyone where your local record store is. Zia Records is the biggest one in the Phoenix area. A few locations. Just wish they had better posters and fewer movies.

Scott Coriell

Social Media in the Studio

I don’t think I have to say this, but in case you missed it, social media is a pretty big deal. In fact, you are probably accessing this blog through a social media site. So, I don’t need to tell you how to use social media. However, let’s talk about how to use social media to help boost your studio.


This is the obvious self employed use of social media. Build your studio a profile on the social media site of choice and start reaching out to others that do what you do. Music stores, other musicians that play your instrument, others that play other instruments, band directors, choir directors, orchestra directors, university/community college faculty, etc. Next, join groups and communities of musicians. Also, join local community groups. This is where you will advertise. Just putting an ad on your page won’t get many results. Find the city or town Facebook page, make sure you can advertise there (they might have a different page for that) and go to town (yes, that was a pun). I would advise that you don’t go nuts on the community pages and advertise everyday, maybe once a week. Make a poster that will get noticed, that helps.

Teaching tool

I like to use YouTube to send “how to” videos to my students. I will record myself playing something and send it to them. If you have a YouTube account, you can set up your videos to only be accessed by someone that has the direct link. That is what I do. Then I take the video down when the student is done. I am also going to start using it as an advertising tool. I am currently working on a 10 minute “beginning trumpet” video that will go to all of the students that rent an instrument from the store I teach out of. In this video, I will basically give a first lesson then encourage them to contact me for more.

Event Planner

A studio social media page should be one where your students, parents and colleagues can access. This makes it the perfect event planner! You can invite everyone to recitals, lectures, master classes, concerts, summer camps, etc. All you have to do is click a button and everyone is invited. You can also post event pictures or videos so more people can be involved.

I know all of you use social media in some way, otherwise you would not be reading this blog. How do uou utilize social media to build your studio? Share your comments!

Follow me for more articles on how to build your studio or just to get ideas and share ideas.

Thanks for reading! Check out my other posts!

Scott Coriell

Technology to move your studio into 2015

wpid-2015-02-20-00.48.18.jpg.jpeg                              Technology to move your studio into 2015

I see a lot of blogs here that suggest different apps that you can use to help with teaching. I find that a lot of these are super helpful. However, I don’t see many blogs on what to use to keep current technology-wise.

This is a short post to hopefully get your semi-set up to be the tech savvy teacher. These technologies will not only look cool, they will streamline what you do and make you more efficient in your studio. This is not a complete list, but these are pieces of technology that I have found to be effective and have changed the way that I teach in some ways. Resources are literally at my fingertips with these devices and apps. I have added links in case you would like to check them out for yourself. Enjoy!

  • Tablet­- I list this first because it was THE BEST investment that I have made into my studio beyond my practice time and possibly the purchase of my instrument. If you do not have a tablet in your studio, you should get one immediately. They can be a little pricey, but they will change your world. Every piece of technology that you previously had in your studio will be replaced with a tablet. Sure, your smart phone CAN do what a tablet can do, but there is more storage, more visual space, more storage, faster processors, louder speakers, more storage, no text messages or phone calls coming through while listening to something, did I mention more storage? Currently, I am using a Samsung Tab 3 7inch. It is last year’s model, but it works great! The Tab 4 had a quad core processor, but the dual core of the Tab 3 still gets it done! I run all my book keeping apps, calendars, assignment lists, PDF files, store music, mp3’s, videos, metronome app, tuner app, iReal Pro, everything happens through this tablet. Get one, it will change your life. The only downside I have to my tablet…I wish I would have bought the 10 inch instead of the 7 inch. Reading music is a little difficult on a 7 inch screen. Doable, but it is much easier on a 10 inch screen. Plus, the battery life on my Samsung can last 3 or 4 days of 4 hours of lessons a day before having to recharge in some cases.
  • JBL Flip Bluetooth Speaker– To be honest, I do not own one of these. However, one of my fellow teachers has one and I borrowed it. I can’t tell you how much easier it was to listen to music or have a play along mp3 or iReal Pro running through my tablet, through the Bluetooth connection, through that speaker. It was loud, crisp, and more sound than I could have asked for. Currently, I am using some old computer speakers that have long wires that I have to connect to the tablet, that are dangling from the stand to the speakers, can get in the way of my horn, I have to step over the wires to get anywhere in my studio. Once Easter hits and I get those gig checks, I know what I am investing in! You should too.
  • Bluetooth Keyboard– I do have one of these and it is just nice to connect this to the tablet and type with the keyboard instead of typing on the screen. Supper simple, basically like having a laptop, but better. I type up lesson plans, assignments, emails, etc. I got a cheap one at a Black Friday sale last year. It has lived up to everything that I expected it to be.
  • A recording device– I have an old school, hook up the mic and play type device. Tascam Pocketstudio DP-004. It is a little old (in fact it has been discontinued), but it has external mics, a mic hookup and a USB out to transfer all that I record to my computer. There are much newer devices out there that you can pick up for a decent price. I use this to record lessons, record college audition practices, and record group performances. It’s portable and it works.
  • One business app that I have found super useful is Expensify. It tracks mileage 3 different ways, 2 manual and 1 through GPS. It allows you to take a picture of receipts and it will input the information into a form, it lets you manually input expenses, then it adds it all up for you. All of this on my tablet! It’s a pretty solid app.

Again, I know there are many things out there that make your teaching life easier. I encourage you to share those things in the comments so others can benefit from them. I’m excited to see what 2016 has to offer in the technology department.

Also, if you like the things that I am posting, follow my blog!

Thanks for reading!

How to stop getting called for gigs

How to stop getting called for gigs

I know I said I would keep this blog to the business side to teaching music lessons and teaching ideas, but I think that an occasional business side for the gigging musician is appropriate. That being said, some of these topics might be uncomfortable for some to read because they might realize that they have done these things before. There is time to repent! In the words of the great Nat King Cole, you need to “Straighten up and fly right”.

Being a musician and a business savvy person can sometimes not go hand in hand. All of us have made blunders in the past that seemed to be ok at the time. In hindsight, we realize that we made a major mistake.

The follow list is here for those of you that don’t ever want to play a gig again. Follow the things on this list and you will be delivering pizza for the rest of your life. (In other words, don’t do these things if you like to play your instrument for money)

  1. You are God’s gift to your instrument. Everyone should bow down to you and play their instrument the same way you do. You have the right to treat anyone below you anyway that you feel right. Like the stage hand that is patiently trying to set up a microphone near your instrument, how dare he invade your space and put that microphone near you? That stage hand that has done his job for decades has no clue what they are doing. It doesn’t matter that they have a job to do, you are the most important one on stage at all times (even if you are playing 3rd violin).
  2. Point out the mistakes your neighbor is making on the gig. This is everyone’s favorite part of the gig! I know that I love it when other’s point out the mistakes that I obviously didn’t realize that I made.
  3. Show up 10 minutes late to sound check. The rest of the band can wait for you. Again, you are the most important person on stage. The saying “on time is late and 10 minutes early is on time” does not apply to you.
  4. Don’t respond to emails or voicemails. They should know that no response means that you will be there. They should also know that when you don’t respond means that you can’t make the gig. Geez, why can’t they figure that out?
  5. Show up to the gig with your mad accordion skills even though you were hired to play trumpet. The contractor doesn’t know how far your talent goes! You need to show them.
  6. Make adjustments to the arrangements on the gig. That music written for this gig is just not good enough for you, you need to make sure that you make it better.
  7. Don’t pay the people you hired for a couple of months. The payment arrangements were not in the contract that means you don’t have to follow a timeline. You can get around to it, they can wait.
  8. Don’t come prepared to play the music on the gig. You are the best sight reader on the planet! You don’t need to practice your part.

Unfortunately, I have encountered all of these specific events on a gig or two. Most of these people wonder why they don’t get called for gigs anymore… Musicians talk to each other…. A LOT!!! Show up early, play your part, and be grateful to have a gig.

Comment with your horror stories. No names…

What do you do when they don’t practice?

Imagine this scenario:

Student walks into your studio. Puts their stuff down and immediately starts telling you a story about some project they were working on for science class. They had to power a clock with a potato. By the amount of detail they are going into and how fast they are speaking, you know what is coming. They didn’t practice.

You wait for them to wrap up, then you drop the question that they were trying to avoid:

“Did you get a chance to practice this week?”

“Well,… I…” (looking sheepish) “I played in band!”

“Did you get to practice at home? The material I gave you to practice?”

“Well, a little bit…”

“How many days did you practice?”

“1 or 2”

“What happened? Why didn’t you get to practice?”

This is when the “dog ate my homework” excuses come, just with tied into music.

“I had a science project…”

“We went to California…”

“My parents won’t let me practice when Law and Order is on…” (When is Law and Order not on?)

“My brother beats me up if I practice…”

“I left my trumpet at school…”

“My teacher won’t let me take my instrument home unless I am taking a lesson that night…”

I am pretty sure that I have heard everything under the sun when it comes to excuses of why they don’t practice. There are some legitimate excuses that are unavoidable. I try to understand homework coming first and school projects get in the way, however, some of the other excuses are a little tough to swallow. I take my trumpet on vacation, why can’t kids? Honestly, I say that jokingly to my students, but it’s not an expectation, but I tell them to take their books and/or their mouthpiece. That never happens either. They are usually forgotten or the parents don’t want them to lose them so they don’t pack them. Maybe I should create a vacation practice kit…

So what do you do? How can you possibly progress in a lesson where they are no further than they were last week? I think that this can be a tough question and if you are not prepared with something to do, the lesson will seem like a waste and there is a lot of respect that will be lost from the student.

Here is a list of possible solutions to this situation with pro’s and con’s so you can make an educated decision and understand the impact that you will make on the student with each solution.

  1. Send them home. This is possibly the most drastic, but I have done it before. It is usually after weeks of no practicing at home, so it has to be a pretty drastic circumstance. Honestly, before this step happens, the student has been showing signs of losing interest for quite a while. So, there can be some pro’s to this solution.
    • Pro: This solution does a lot of good things. It teaches the student tough love. You are not going to accept work that is not complete. This idea approaches a life lesson that is taught quite frequently in private lessons. You have to explain this to the student before you send them away so they understand that you are not rejecting them but that you are rejecting their lack of effort and that you hold a higher standard and expectation for them because you know that they can do better. It can teach them what it feels like to have someone that they look up to be disappointed in them. This is tough, but it is something that will happen to them as they enter the workforce and they need to know how to respond and bounce back. Finally, it can make a hard decision for the student. If they are already one foot out of the door with lessons, sending them home for not practicing will put the nail in the coffin. Most likely, you will receive a call before the next lesson saying that lessons are just not for them. None of us want to lose students, but we have all come to a point where we need to let some of them go. I am all about teaching music and spreading the music gospel, but I also believe that people have a calling in life and music is not everyone’s calling. I can only hope that they pick it up again later.
    • Con: Did I say that you will probably lose this student? The possibility of this happening is very high, unless you set it up right. Like I said in the Pro’s, let them know that you know they can do so much better and that you believe in them. The parents will be mad. Parents don’t like to pay for things that they don’t get. Set the expectation up in your lesson policies, something like this “Student’s that don’t practice will be sent home and still charged for the lesson”. Finally, some students can’t emotionally take this rejection no matter how much you set it up. You need to read that in your student, so again this needs to be a last ditch effort.
  2. Play through the material with them. Now that we got the harsh one out of the way, let’s get a little less intense. However, you still need to hold the student accountable to what they didn’t do. If you let practicing slip the student will walk all over you during every lesson and know that they can get away with anything. This being said, I will do this with them and be a little more critical than normal, just to show them that I want their material practiced. This might be a good lesson to bring the parent into as well. Then they can see what their child is missing out on as well and they might understand that Law and Order will be back on during the next hour.
    • Pro: You can take this as an opportunity to teach the correct way to practice to your student. Sometimes students don’t practice because they don’t know how. Golden opportunity right here. This also gives you a chance to set expectations with your student. Let them know what you are looking for to pass of exercises. I don’t think that this is communicated all the time. We give the assignment, teach them a little about the fundamental, then send them off. Let them know what you are looking for to pass of the exercise.
    • Con: If this practice happens a lot, they will know that they don’t actually have to learn it on their own and that they can just go to the lesson to learn the material. They will build up a dependency on you. They need to learn how to do it themselves.
  3. Do something else. Always have an alternative lesson, or something in your back pocket for this situation or when they forget their music.
    • Pro: This gives you a chance to introduce new material. I have many students that are getting into the jazz programs at their middles school or high school and we haven’t had a chance to look at any jazz in the lesson. I like to take this time to start looking at new styles and genres of music. It is also a great time to practice sight reading. As much as it seems like a cop out, sight reading needs to be practiced.
    • Con: You don’t pass off the material that was assigned and you end up adding more to their plate. This is both good and bad. You are adding more depth to their learning but you might run out of time to hit everything during the next lesson.
  4. Listen to Music. It is a music lesson, right? Listening should always be part of the lesson. However, you can take this time to do a lot of things with listening.
    • Pro: Again, introduce new styles of music. Some of my trumpet students never hear about Miles Davis until we start talking about him. This is a great time to listen to things that they don’t normally listen to on the radio or their MP3 players.
    • Con: Parents listen to the lessons and if they don’t hear playing, they wonder what is going on. Sure, you can explain what you were doing but sometimes they don’t understand the importance of listening. It is something the student can do at home. But then again, so is practicing, and we know how that went…
  5. Discuss Goals and Motivation. Discussing with students what they want to do in life can give you a great insight into their goals and what they want to do. It also allows you to connect on a different level and focus your teaching a little bit more to their wants and needs.
    • Pro: This is a good one for your older students, those about ready to go into college. You can even tie in practicing habits. This is also a great time to identify the life lessons that they are learning by taking lessons. Show them how far they have gone. This can be just the boost that they need to get back on the horse with practicing.
    • Con: Again, we could talk about the parents. Also, this doesn’t work for your younger students, they might not be to the point where they are ready to start talking about life lessons and motivation. They are just enjoying the instrument for the instrument.

Hopefully this list gives you a good foundation into what you will do the next time Timmy Trumpet didn’t practice last week. Take a little time to think about what would be the best approach and decide what will be the effective for each student.

Feel free to comment below with some of your ideas.


As a private lesson teacher, you will need to fill your studio with students. If you are a smart teacher you will run your studio like it is a business. However, many of you received your degrees in music performance or music education, therefore, you never took any business classes while you were in college. Many times musicians are already fairly business savvy however, this can be a part of the job that can remain a mystery.

What is networking?

Networking can be something that many of you already know how to do pretty well. You have already used this tool while trying to get gigs or setup your student teaching assignments. However, many of us miss important networking opportunities and forget the important steps it takes to network effectively.

Just the other night I went to a concert that one of my students was playing in. It was an allstate jazz concert so there are many band directors there that I could network  with. I went there planning on only seeing my student play however I ran into a few band directors that I  know very well and decided to talk shop with them. I also had the opportunity to position myself in a way where I was introduced to other band directors I didn’t already know.  This proved to be very beneficial. I was able to network effectively because I followed a few very simple steps. And here they are :

I. Be professional! This one point might be another whole blog post by itself. For the sake of this post here are a few short reminders. Always dress professional. Always act professional. Don’t talk in slang. Always shake hands when you meet someone, even if you already know them. Introduce yourself, with both your first and last name. You are not only representing yourself, you are representing your company. You have decided to start your own small business, you have to act like a small business owner. Your business is always on the showroom floor.

2. Work the room. Find the people that you already know and get them to introduce you to people you don’t know. This can be very beneficial as it will build your lead base of contacts. The more people you know and the better first impression you make, the more work you will get. This means you need to be on your best behavior at all times. Make a goal for yourself to meet everyone in the room. This might not happen right away, but be persistent, it will pay off.

3. Be confident in your ability. Have you ever met someone for the first time that gave off the vibe that they were really shy and not personable? Maybe they seemed very wishy washy? What was your first impression of that person?  Don’t be that person.  Don’t be arrogant or conceited either, just be sure of yourself. Be confident that what you do will make a difference.

4. It’s not just a business transaction. Networking is not just to schedule new students, networking is a tool to meet people and get them to know you…the real you. Taking into account everything that has been said previously, you still need to be you. A successful network is full of people that trust you and know what you are all about. You don’t gain trust by starting with “Hello, my name is Scott Coriell and I want to teach your students.” This will not get you any students. They need to know that you are not psycho and that you will be teaching their students things that are in line with the things they are covering in class. Talk to them like you are a real person. Talk about other things than just shop, find out what gets them excited and talk about that for a while. Ask questions about them and their programs. When you feel that you have enough information about them to carry on a conversation, then start talking about yourself. Tie what you do into what they do, this will help you make connections. However, don’t go too far off track, stay professional. One thing to ask yourself after meeting anyone, “What did they take away from that encounter about me?” Really think about that, and adjust if needed for the next person you meet. This happened to me just recently. I was on a gig where I felt that everything was going well with the other person I was playing with, then things seemed to change. I started getting the cold shoulder and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought back on the gig and started to realize that there were a couple of points where my “non-professional” side came out, and that is where the temperature changed with that individual. Fortunately, this was a multiple day gig with the same people, I made sure on the second day that I straightened up and did not break the professional barrier. It looks like I might have saved some of myself, but I can tell there is still some work that needs to be done with that individual before they hire me again. Lesson learned.

5. Follow up. Before you leave this person you have just met, make sure they have a business card, or a way to contact you. Make sure that you have a way to contact them. Let them know that you will reach out to them by a specific time. Then DO IT!!! Nothing is worse than a broken promise in business. You will be marked as flaky and unreliable. Even if it is a follow up with no news, follow up, let them know that you are still around and that you are still interested. If you are not on their mind the phone won’t ring.

Networking is such a huge topic and something that we could do a whole blog series on. Just remember, when you own your own business, you always have to be on. People are judging your business by the way that you act 24 hours a day. There is no “off” time. The market for teaching lessons is small, don’t mess up your opportunities because you can’t act like a professional.

Good luck out there!

Chime in! Share some good networking stories in the comments.

My Teaching Philosophy

As a private lesson teacher, I have the freedom to create my own curriculum and continually change it. I love the fact that I can teach each student a little different yet keep true to the fundamentals of the instrument and the music that is being taught. This being said, I have my own teaching/coaching style. I have taught this way for many, many years and I find that I am very successful.

I call my teaching style “Associative Teaching”. It is basically a classical teaching style where I will build on what the student already knows and teach the material from there. This takes a lot of knowledge of many different things and the flexibility to associate the lesson to any topic.

For example, I currently have a student that is also in cross country. Knowing this I am able to build my lessons on what I know about running, building muscle, breathing, individual growth and reaching goals. Taking all of this into account, I can teach this kid anything about music by relating it to cross country. When I introduce breathing techniques, I start by asking how he breathes when he is running. Then I ask how it is different that breathing while just walking down the street. Then we talk about how he controls the air so he never falls short of breath. I take the answers he gives and start talking about air control when playing the trumpet. We then do breathing exercises that seem familiar to him because they are similar to what he might do when running. The lesson is then learned in a way where the student understands on many different levels and is more engaged with the lesson because we are tying in something that he already loves to something that he is newly learning.

I learned this lesson during my 20th century music theory course in my undergrad. I couldn’t do college algebra to save my life, then I took 20th century theory where we had to build matrices and analyze atonal music in a very mathematically way. I thrived in this course, just like I always did in theory, and it helped me understand math on a different level. I then took college algebra (for the 4th time) and passed.

This is my teaching style. What is yours? Share in the comments below.