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 https://www.canva.com/)
  • Contact local public school teachers to
    • Distribute advertising materials
    • Offer a free workshop to their students
  • Join an online matchmaking site like lessonface.com or TakeLessons.com
  • Join local or state teaching groups
    • MTNA local affiliate (https://www.mtna.org/)
    • NAfME local affiliate (https://nafme.org/)
    • 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!)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Make this your summer of piccolo!

Looking for a summer project to keep you motivated over the next few months? Might I suggest piccolo?  This oft-unloved tiny flute has a sweet sound and some awesome repertoire (more all the time!), and I truly believe that it's only due to lack of instruction and practice time that it strikes fear in the hearts of so many. If you learn it in a hurry because your band director shoves it at you, you're starting out behind and will constantly be in a position of jury trying to survive each rehearsal. So, get a great book, snuggle up with some inspiring recordings, visit my friend Dr. Christine Beard's amazing piccolo website, and get to work!

Here are some tips I share every year with my Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive participants in our optional :Learning to Love Piccolo" workshop!:

1. Play a little bit higher on the lip (especially if you have no lip plate).

The blow hole is smaller, so it stands to reason that your normal flute-playing position will have you covering too much of it with your bottom lip. Experiment by placing the headjoint on your bottom lip, rather than under it, in different positions until you feel that you have control over all registers without making big adjustments.

2. Learn your pitch tendencies.

Get out the tuner and play every single note individually. What does the tuner tell you—how many cents flat or sharp are you? Write it down, as well as taking notes on what you have ot do to eventually get each note in tune (change vowel shape, air directions, etc.)

3. Practice all the same tone you do on flute, from D1-B3.

Long tones, harmonics, “diamonds”, and everything else you do on flute are equally valuable on piccolo.

4. Get used to practicing with ear plugs.

Piccolo really does cause nerve damage when played in the upper register. If you hate the muffled sound of cheap foam ear plugs, you can invest in more expensive, equally attenuating plugs like Earasers, Ear Peace, or MusicSafe by Alpine. Or you can learn to translate the sound you’re hearing with the foam plugs from the drugstore. All will protect your ears and should be worn every time you play.

5. Learn alternate fingerings.

The piccolo tends to get flatter, not sharper, in the third register, so for some instruments, alternate fingerings are the best way to control pitch and volume. This fingering chart from John Krell's notes is a great start.

6. Buy a good instrument.

Not all piccolos are created equally, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive one in the store. Like flute, stick with trusted brands from trustworthy merchants: Burkhart, Emerson, Pearl, Powell, Yamaha are good to try. A wood or plastic piccolo without a lip plate will be easier to blend in a concert band situation, while hybrids like Yamaha’s YPC-32, which has a plastic body and metal head joint with a lip plate, will work equally well in marching band and concert band. Always try before you buy!

7. Know your place.

The piccolo is not a shrinking violet, and you can’t be, either! Play in tune, with a beautiful sound, and know that you are serving as a special color in the ensemble. If you try to hide by playing ppp, you’ll only be flat, airy, and paranoid. Love your piccolo and know it well, and you will be rewarded.

8. Reward yourself with a great solo! (These are appropriate for junior high through high school)

I (easiest)
Barone Learning the Piccolo (Little Piper)
Trott Bird Fanciers Delight (Alry)

Laufer Scars and Scrapes (Laufer Jazzical)
Michal Four Dances (Alry)
Tchiakovsky/Kennedy March Miniature (Alry)

III (hardest)
Jacob March to the River Weser from The Pied Piper (Oxford)
Liebermann Concerto (Theodor Presser)
Persichetti Parable (Elkan Vogel)
Vivaldi Concerto in C Major, P. 79 and Concerto in A minor, P. 83 (International)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Join me at Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive this June!



Noon: Check in and registration begins
1pm: Welcome, Establishing a Breathing and Stretching Routine
2pm: Building a Better Tone 3pm: Conquering Performance Anxiety 4pm: Flute choir sight-reading
5:30pm: Dinner
7:30pm: Faculty Recital


8am: Breakfast
9am: Stretches/breathing/tone
10:30pm: Option: Piccolo Basics OR supervised practice 
12pm: Lunch
1:30: How to Practice
2pm: Articulation Class
3pm: Master Class
5:30pm: Dinner
7pm: Open Mic Night: everyone plays!


8am: Breakfast
9am: Stretches/breathing/tone
10:30pm: Supervised practice
12pm: Lunch
1pm: Summer Music Camp registration opens

Register here through May 30, or contact me with questions.  I hope to see you this summer in beautiful Laramie, Wyoming!