Private Teacher Networking - A Practical Example
by John Ruka,

In a previous issue of Vic Firth Education, I championed the general advantages of private drum instructor networking. Networking with a "competitor" was suggested as one possibility. I would like to give a concrete example of how this can be well worth the effort.

The holiday season is unusually hectic for the private instructor. Students and their parents often request lesson time shifts or even "cut backs" on lessons. The demand for the instructor's playing services goes up, throwing further conflicts into a full teaching schedule. A recital might even be in the mix. On top of this, the holidays place increased demands on personal time - shopping, church services, family get-togethers, etc. This supposed period of good cheer and reflection on the past year is often a private teacher's juggling tournament to see if, after all the rearranging and bustle, the wallet and the mind are still intact when January hits. Happy Holidays?

The Drum Instructors' Guild network decided to try to find a solution which would benefit all teachers, parents and students. Teachers needed income constancy plus scheduling flexibility to meet the aforementioned seasonal factors. Parents needed less demands put on their valuable time for the month of December - fewer trips to the studio. And students, above all, needed to continue to learn even though their schedules were as crazy as everybody else's! What we came up with was a concept we call the "Team-Taught, 4-in-1 Lesson," which provides students with all four December lessons in one 2-hour session.

We needed topics of interest to all levels of students, beginner to pro. We needed a neutral, more-or-less central location to run our 2-hour sessions to avoid the perception of "turf wars" among the retail establishments our collective students came from. We needed more than one session to provide several time choices. We also wanted to capitalize on the "group dynamic" afforded by our relationships as teachers and students. Above all, the decision to do the 4-in-1 needed to be an option for each student, not an "only recourse" for December. After all, some people would not wish - or would be unable to - participate for any number of reasons.

We did an informational survey before doing any of this to see just how the 4-in-1concept would be received. The response to our survey was very positive! Not only did the parents and students express interest, some of the really time-pressed wrote little side notes practically demanding that we carry through with the project. We proceeded.

Our chosen topic was "Drum Sticks - The Complete Story." Vic Firth and others kindly provided information and materials, allowing us to do a thorough presentation. A band director colleague arranged for use of his band room. We chose 3 dates and times - early, mid and late month; a morning, an afternoon and an evening. We had a Guild friend bring in an array of hand drums to offer group exposure to our mostly stick-oriented students.

Thirty-eight of my private students and about a dozen of my networking partners' students signed on, earning 100 hours of free time between us with no loss of income. Three other Guild instructors came to help out, adding even more value to the team-taught approach. Our presentation was so intently received that about an hour into the first session when I announced a "potty break", every single student refused, preferring that we continue with our study.

The hand drum portion was a hit! The facilitator remarked that this was the first time he had a chance to work with "real" drummers - drummers whose background made them unafraid to play and jam. The release of pent-up energy was amazing!

The parents? They were all smiles - not only because their young drummers were so eager, but because they regained precious time during the holidays. In fact, I met one mom at a concert in mid-December who, at first, hadn't been sure about abandoning regular lessons in December. However, she was so glad they chose the 4-in-1 because "things are turning out nuts and Mark's time was much better spent at the 4-in-1. He learned some valuable things and I maintained my sanity!" A fitting testimonial, don't you think?

This is just one example of the power of a network. The motto of our Drum Instructors' Guild is, "Together We Achieve the Extraordinary." As you can see, it can happen. Consider networking with a fellow private teacher. It works!

Questions, Comments? Let's get the discussion going!