Archive for the ‘Performing’ Category

Growing Your Studio…

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

By Rachel Velarde

Trying something new…

I’ve been working on promoting and building my studio for the past month.  I got MANY great ideas at the Classical Singer Convention in Chicago at the end of May, thanks to Cynthia Vaughn at Magnolia Music Studio in Fort Collins, CO.  Cynthia has SO many amazing ideas and she worked with several other voice teachers to try to get as many as possible so that we could benefit from all this experience.

Several points were made:

  • Attract & Retain students
    • Show progress with
    • Quantifiable advances
    • Awards/competitions
    • Roles/solos – community based|
    • Technical goals achieved
    • Have a Student Achievement Page on the studio website

* Relevance – non-quantifiable advances in:

* enjoyment

* validation

* feedback/applause – studio class BEFORE a recital!

* Added Value:

* Options in scheduling and payment (check/credit card)

* bonuses – register early, get 10% off, register for summer & get free lesson

* performance opportunities – find out who has space you can use!

* Gain New Students
o Word of mouth through different circles
o teach styles OTHER than Classical/Musical Theater
* Marketing:
o Bold, creative, SELECTIVE (no mass emails!)
o Distinctive logo (see my new logo here!) & business cards



* Online Business Links

* Facebook, LinkedIn

* ($49/yr)

* (free listing)

* GOOGLE yourself & find out where you are listed – you might be surprised at what’s there AND what’s not! (I have an OLD listing that I’m trying to modify – the web address leads nowhere)

o   Advertising??

* Facebook Advertising – can limit yourself to a small daily $$ & focus the market

* Facebook Fan Page

* I’ve tried Craigslist & gotten several spam emails and one VERY rude call from a potential student (she decided I was too far away – but by the 3rdword I’d decided I didn’t want to teach her)

o   EASY website address

o   Ask friends from around the country to come in & do special classes.  Just ask, “What would it take to get you here?”

o   Sight-reading workshops, songwriters, ticketed events => benefits? (get tickets at

o   Making Music Magazine – they’ll send a free subscription for you to hand out to your students

o   Logo products and merchandise – it’s free marketing!! $15/ea or $25/2, tote bags & t-shirts

o   advertise in an opera/community/young people’s theater program (maybe not as expensive as you might think)

“Voice Lessons may be your students’ hobby, but you can never treat it like a hobby.  It’s a BUSINESS and maybe, even a calling.”                                                                — Cynthia Vaughn

You must let your students know:

* I am reliable, I almost never cancel lessons
* I attend my students’ concerts & other performances
* I appreciate the personality that makes them unique

You are the CEO of your own business.

Show you are a community asset.

* support/join other arts organizations
* collaborate with other teachers
* join the local business organizations – often musicians are “foreign” to them!! J
* Chamber of Commerce?
* Get a state sales tax license for selling the logo merchandise (even if it’s just for pennies)
* MTNA (Music Teachers National Association)
* Federation of Music Clubs

Other ideas I’ve gotten from friends who’ve responded to the Facebook postings I’ve done are:

Get the book by Philip Johnston Promoting your Teaching Studio.
In late summer connect with music teachers in the local schools. Offer to do a fall workshop to kick start the choral programs. Advertise in the programs of any events your students are performing in (concerts, musicals, etc.)
Advertise in Christmas & year-end concerts at local schools

Discount summer rates/gift certificate if current students refer a new student who signs up for a minimum number of lessons (6 or so)
Attend as many performances as possible and congratulate students & the director in person. Directors and parents will consider you highly when asked for a referral if you support their program. If need to reschedule students, offer to take those students with you to see other studio mates in action!
WHAT I’VE DONE to promote my own studio:

  • New Studio Logo
  • Easy website name.  My studio website hosted & designed by  My website adress with them, which is extremely long & awkward when telling a prospective student your website over the phone.  You can purchase a short domain name for about $10/yr which will then FORWARD to your chosen site.  I’ve now chosen, which I got fromGoDaddy.  It also came with one free email, so my studio email is now  Consistency is the name of the game (plus, I have all of my email addresses dumped into where I have the option of replying using the address the email was sent to – no one knows that I’m really using one email client to manage my mail, but I have everything in one place).
  • Advertising on Facebook (I’ve set a $1.50/day limit, but I’ve gotten interest & I can track how many clicks people use on the ad)
  • Advertising in the Family Market programs in the Phoenix Area – turns out most of the bigger Children’s Theater companies (there are 4 major ones here) use the same company to produce their programs. The programs are paid for solely from advertising & then are provided free to the community. So, I’m supporting the arts & advertising at the same time. Those will begin running in October. (Thanks, Dad, for that small business loan!)
  • Signing up for websites:,Facebook Fan page for the studio,
  • Going to my social media websites every day to click on the links – the more “cross-linking” you have the higher up in the search engines they’ll show. This takes about 10 minutes daily, but I think it’s worth it!  Put links for your teaching site on your solo site, and vice versa.  I also have a “button” for my Facebook Fan Page on the front of my studio Home Page.   It’s not that hard to do.
  • Consistent branding with my logo – I have business cards, a promotional flyer, car door magnets & a downloaded logo to use on anything I do (including throughout my web presence) thanks for (if you even MIGHT be in the market for any of these things, go to Vistaprint & sign up for the promotional emails – they give GREAT deals & then when you check out they always offer you more, so under order!)
  • Free Google local business listing – choose your keywords wisely
  • I’m looking into forming an LLC that will cover my voice studio, my solo performing & anything else I do that is music – that will most likely have to wait until fall, but I think it’s a good idea to create that kind of umbrella.

Good luck with your own studio promotions!  People ARE looking to get lessons, they just need to know where to go & how to go about it.  Let me know what you end up doing by commenting here on the blog.  I’m posting this AND at blogs.  This is good information for everyone.

Any more ideas???

The Art of the Audition

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

The Art of Audition

By Damien Bracken
Republished with permission from Artists House Music

To this day, I will never forget my first audition experience. I was studying at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, a very fine institution with an outstanding reputation for classical music instruction. I had practiced for about six months to compete for scholarship to attend my next semester. I was 12 years old and I was very serious about my music, practicing every chance I could get. I had started piano instruction at the age of 10 (equivalent to being a senior citizen in a city where most children begin their music instruction at the age of 3 or 4) and was told by my instructor at the time that I had a lot of catching up to do if I was thinking of pursuing music as a possible career. I was and did. But on this day my 12-year old self walked into the audition room and realized almost immediately that I was not ready. A very distinguished gentleman had been flown in from London to adjudicate. It was just he and I in the room with the beautiful 9-foot Steinway grand piano. The Brahms piece that had been selected for the competition was just a tad beyond my technical reach. I was shaking with nerves. When we got to the sight-reading he asked me to play through a Bach chorale. I struggled with sight-reading. He might as well have put a full symphonic score in front of me and asked me to reduce it on sight (oh yes…it can be done). As I plodded through Bach’s exquisite chords the adjudicator stopped me. “Is this your first audition?” “Yes,” I confessed (my cover was blown!). “Well, you are clearly musical but you are not yet ready for this level of competition. I would encourage you to keep at it and perhaps I will see you next year.” I was dismissed. I was so upset. “What am I doing? Maybe I should throw in the towel. My mother is paying a fortune for these piano lessons.”

So, what went wrong in that room? Perhaps the gentleman was right. It probably was too soon for me to compete although at the time I boiled it down to my nerves getting the better of me and I needed to learn to control my nerves when I play. And oh yeah, there was the reading part.

An audition does not have to be a ego crushing, world crashing experience. There are some fundamentals to the art of auditioning (and it is an art) that will give you more control in the audition room, and giving a good audition is all about that – control.

Choosing the right prepared piece is a critical first step. At Berklee College of Music where I work, we audition thousands of students each year in consideration of both admission to the college and possible scholarship. We do not provide a list of pieces to choose from. Why? Because we want to hear what the student does best. For some, that might be Brahms. For others it might be Coltrane, or Zappa, or Sting or Van Halen or Ellington, or….well, you see my point. One of Berklee’s incredible strengths is the rich diversity of styles of music that we teach and play. We look for that diversity in our applicant pool each year as we select out of thousands of applicants who will join our next entering class. But for a young college-bound student applying to Berklee, it is difficult to absorb the idea that they should not select the most technically challenging piece of music they can find to impress the adjudicators. Don’t do it. Find a piece that you know is within your technical range while still demonstrating your level of musicianship.

Listen to what you are playing. Internalize the music so that when you perform you can focus solely on the music and not what the adjudicator is writing in their evaluation of your playing! Seek out opportunities to play your prepared piece with other musicians or perform it for family and friends so that you can get used to being in that moment. If you do not have access to other musicians, there are several “music-minus-one” play-along resources on the Internet and at music stores. It is important to practice playing with other musicians, even if they are virtual. This will also help you to control your nerves, not that you would ever eliminate being nervous. I don’t think anyone ever does. Some people just get better at turning that nervous energy into something that gives their performance a personal edge. It is important also to practice your prepared piece away from your instrument. (Excuse me? Away from my instrument? What kind of practice is that?) This is part of the process that all musicians use to help internalize the music. Practice running through the piece in your inner ear and visualize the music with your eyes closed. This will feel awkward and perhaps even silly at first. However, it is a powerful technique that will ultimately help you be in that moment when it is time for you to perform. You may have witnessed this yourself at a concert or a show, where the musician transforms once they begin to play. They are in total control. They can fully anticipate how they will articulate the next phrase because they have learned to internalize the music.

No, this does not mean you don’t have to practice your scales and arpeggios. Great performances come about through a combination of tactile, visual, and aural practice and preparation. You must become comfortable with the fingering and instrumental geography of the piece. But that is only step one.

As I continued to study piano and compete and audition, I realized that this process of internalizing the music, hearing themusic internally before actually playing my first note, gave me a powerful sense of control. I was no longer blurting out the music so to speak. I was making an artistic decision prior to every phrase and then articulating that phrase exactly as I heard it. Control. Once you master this technique nothing can stop you.

Years after my 12-year old maiden voyage into the world of auditioning, I am waiting back stage to perform a Scriabin study that happens to be in Eb minor. I am now 17. As I begin to step onto the stage, the monitor whispers to me “The Eb below middle C does not sound.” Un-phased (I was already performing the music internally) I managed to perform this technical behemoth in Eb minor without the Eb below middle C ever sounding. My performance earned me a 2nd place medal in the competition. The winner chose a piece in a more suitable key for that particular instrument, no doubt.

Damien Bracken is the Director of Admissions, Scholarships and Student Employment at Berklee College of Music.