Sunday, August 5, 2018

National Flute Association preview!

It's almost that time of year again, that heady mix of excitement, neurosis, and classmate reunion that is the National Flute Association convention. It's in sultry Orlando this year, but I am thrilled to see that next year we'll be in beautiful, dry Salt Lake City. Whether you're going this year or not, I encourage you to make it happen at least occasionally (I know it's expensive, but it's also life-altering!). If you've never been, some words of wisdom:

  • Explore alternative housing.  The NFA discount is never that great when you see how expensive the room are to begin with.  Air BnB has been a lifesaver at these things!
  • Bring (healthy) snacks that can act as meal substitutes to save money and avoid missing out over the lunch hour. 
  • Bring layers. Sitting in a heavily air conditioned convention center all day for four days is painfully cold! 
  • Don't be shy.  Approach performers to congratulate them.  We like that, and we won't bite. 
  • Make new friends. Check our prospective teachers in performance and see if you can take a lesson. This is a great networking opportunity.
  • Maybe don't buy a new instrument there?  The exhibit hall is too chaotic to really get to know anything. But do try instruments and gather a list of what you'd like to try in the calm and quiet of your living room after you get home. (Students: play everything for your teacher before purchasing!!) 
  • It is most customary to arrive late and leave early for events because everything is always double- and triple-booked.  Anywhere else it's rude, but at NFA it's mandatory to breeze in and out for maximum exposure. Don't worry, we won't get mad. 
  • You cannot possible see/hear everything, so don't stress about what you're missing out.  Just go to the things that compel you most.But do go to something every hour if possible!

I'll be doing some performing and some talking again this year, and here are the details:

August 10-11: National Flute Association Convention at Hyatt Regency Orlando
August 10 @ 8:30 a.m.: Kay HE's On the Pivot of an Abandoned Carousel for flute and electronics (Concert: "The Future is Now!"; location: Celebration 5)
August 11 @ 8:30 a.m.: panel discussion: "Adventures in Adjuncting" (Location: Celebration 8)
August 12 @ 3pm: world premiere of a new quartet by Herman Beeftink, performed by ALTUSsimo (Concert: "Flute Chamber Ensemble Concert 2"; Location: Regency Q)

And if you're partial to the contemporary world of flute repertoire, come see me at Flute New Music Consortium's annual NFA dinner Friday at 6:30pm. We'll meet at the volunteer desk and walk to Cuba Libre for some tasty rum and small plates from there! Add yourself to the list here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Is it time for an audit of your private studio? Part 2

If your private studio is thriving, you may not need any advice on how to set yourself apart from area colleagues (or you may find yourself coming back to this advice when the market becomes more flooded and your numbers are decreasing, which can always happen in the future!). But if you're new to a region, and/or struggling to maintain the numbers you would like in your studio, it's probably time to up your game. Here are some ideas to visit, or revisit if it's been a while.

Creating your Mission Statement (pedagogical philosophy) [Here’s mine.]
  • Who do you teach? Age, ability levels
  • What’s your style? Strict, laid back, nurturing environment, college prep…
  • Goals for your students
  • Teaching methods: special certifications, techniques, genres…
Creating a Calendar (what will you offer, and when?)

  • Lessons
    • How many per term
    • How many terms
  • Recitals
  • Ensembles
  • Group Classes
Studio Policies (essentials for your syllabus/contract) [Here’s mine.]
  • Make-up / no-show policy
  • Required supplies (music, instrument in working order, etc.)
    • Recommended places to obtain said supplies
  • How do you define preparation, and what do you do when a student hasn’t done it?
  • Required performances
    • Participating
    • Attending
Developing Something Special / Distinguishing Yourself
  • What do other area teachers offer? What’s missing that you could offer?
  • What are your particular interests and specialties? How could you incorporate them?
    • Create a “complete curriculum” based on your mission statement.
    • Emphasize your special certifications
  • Offer a finite set of coachings for specific purposes (All-State preparation, chamber music coaching…)
  • Ensembles/group classes
  • Community outreach
  • Guest artist series with local friends/colleagues
  • Branding: logo, comprehensive website with areas for use by current students, social media presence…
  • Help students stay motivated
    • Scheduling musical activities/challenges
    • Competitions
    • Creating a sense of community: parties, small ensembles…
    • How does your mission statement reflect this?
  • Parental involvement
    • What level of involvement do you prefer?
    • Presence (or not) in lessons
    • Help with recitals and other activities
    • Producing results that they can see and appreciate (this can also be stated clearly in your mission statement)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Is it time for an audit of your private studio? Part 1

Whether you're starting from scratch, seeing a decline in returning students, or are currently at the helm of a robust studio, we all benefit from an occasional audit of our business model. And the end of summer is the best time to try out some new techniques to help your studio thrive in any market!

There's so much to cover that I'm going to break this up into two posts, but today's outline covers the basics--no matter where you are, you need a teaching space, students, and a way to collect payment. And if you haven't thought about this stuff in a while, it's worth a quick glance to see what a fresh approach might do to revitalize your studio!
Recruiting Students
  • Make flyers and business cards advertising your studio (I like
  • Contact local public school teachers to
    • Distribute advertising materials
    • Offer a free workshop to their students
  • Join an online matchmaking site like or
  • Join local or state teaching groups
    • MTNA local affiliate (
    • NAfME local affiliate (
    • Instrument-specific organization (like flute club, etc.)
  • Perform and adjudicate locally

Creating a Studio Space
  • Considerations for home space
    • Waiting area
    • Parking
    • Creating a professional-looking space that is always set up for lessons
    • Issues with sound mitigation / interruptions
    • Liability insurance? [Read more here.]
  • Other possible spaces: must explore financial and other obligations with each
    • Local church
    • Local school (after school or pull-out lessons during ensemble rehearsals)
    • Music store (independently rent a room or work as teaching staff)

  • What to charge?
    • Consider level of education and expertise when setting a price
    • Ask area colleagues
    • Consult with local private teachers’ organizations or public school teachers
    • Do a Google search in your area
    • If using an outside space (see above), consult with your contact about rules
  • Accepting payment
    • Credit card with a reader (like SquareUp)
    • PayPal (business vs. personal account)
    • Cash (offer discount or other perk if you prefer?)
    • Personal check
  • Payment schedule
    • Options include per lesson, beginning of the month, end of the month for previous services…
    • Late policy
    • Keep records with dates, check numbers, etc.

My next post will cover more creative ways to set your studio apart, as well as giving advice on creating a cohesive curriculum and promo materials.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Are your practice habits healthy?

I'm so excited for our upcoming Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive this weekend, and am in the throes of updating material for our workshops. We start every day with a not-rushed stretching session, some breathing exercises, and then warm-ups played as a group.  Not only does this bring a group of strangers together quickly, I hope it will also serve as a basis for healthy, well-rounded practice after participants leave. Here are some favorites from last year's sessions:

Breathing Exercises (which is heavily inspired by Breathing Gym)

Explore the Spaces: Isolate the different chambers you can fill with air—lower abdomen, chest, back/sides. Place one hand on your abdomen, the other on your chest, and work to push out each hand (meaning you are filling up) as much as possible.  Try this sequence: fill up for four beats each in 1. Lower abs 2. Back/sides 3. Chest. Add one beat of “slurp” breath to see how much more you can pack in, then exhale steadily. Experiment with shorter inhalation times and longer exhalation times as you develop this exercise. 
Suck-n-Pop: Resistance training for your abs! Create extreme resistance through suction by placing the back of the hand against your mouth, in the way of proper inhalation. Then quickly remove the hand, creating a “pop” sound and allowing for a quick, deep inhale.  Then exhale smoothly.  Experiment with shorter inhalation times and longer exhalation times as you develop this exercise.  (from Breathing Gym)
Time is Running Out: Breathe in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts.  Repeat once.  Breathe in for 3 counts and out for 3 counts.  Repeat once.  Breathe in for 2 counts and out for 2 counts.  Repeat once. Breathe in for 1 count and out for 1 count.  Repeat the 1-to-1 pattern as comfort allows. Quarter note = 60-88.

And although what we do is a bit more involved, this Mayo Clinic slide show has some pretty great stretches that you can easily personalize with your own variations to target specific points of tension! So here's to a summer of healthy practicing... 😊

Thursday, June 7, 2018

An Introduction to Career Coaching

What is Career Coaching, anyway?

Career Coaching has been around for decades in the business world, and it's finally starting to gain a foothold among creatives in this hyper-competitive market. And it's about time! Just as musicians spend thousands of hours in private lessons over the years to become better on their instruments, people across many career fields invest in career coaching, which may take the form of individualized counseling, group classes, specialized conferences, or a combination of all three, to hone their business skills and advance in their careers. Career coaches give advice on their topic of expertise with counseling techniques that support their clients in making complex career decisions and facing difficult challenges.

In the past, such practical advice might have been doled out sparingly in private lessons just before applying to graduate schools or taking orchestra auditions, but this advice was often limited in scope and depth. In our current, hyper-competitive musical climate, we are now seeing the emergence of a new, music-specific career coach.

I started Nicole Riner Career Coaching for Musicians in March of 2018 out of a desire to provide affordable, timely advice to help musicians take the next step in creating their unique portfolio careers. It stemmed from my experience working in academia, orchestras and recording studios; developing and promoting a private studio; founding and managing a chamber group and booking national concert tours; performing internationally as a soloist and chamber musician with corporate sponsorship; and leading non-profit groups in the arts, all just to survive in this business! (And along the way I realized this kind of flexibility was exactly what I wanted most in my life.) After doling out advice on the side for years to friends, friends of friends, and students, I realized there is still a need for more artists acting as official guides in our field.


Top 10 ways you can benefit from career coaching

  • Finding passion and purpose: who are you going to be?
  • Introduction to financial planning: how to get yourself ready to quit your day job
  • Creating your personal brand
  • Fight your fear: overcoming performance anxiety, shyness, and hushing your inner critic
  • Grant writing for the uninitiated
  • Painless networking strategies
  • Time management strategies
  • Getting started: promoting your group and booking tours
  • Developing a winning job application
  • Practicing your killer interview skills (mock interview experience)

(Psst, if this blogpost spoke to you, you can Claim your free 45-minute coaching session here and/or sign up for my free newsletter here to see what career coaching is all about!)