Shedding Light on Effective Studio Policies Darlene Irwin     August 24, 2014

A lighthouse stands as a symbol of security and safety. It helps sailors to navigate through rough waters and avoid the rocks along the shore. Having solid and effective studio policies in place will help you, as a teacher, avoid many unnecessary problems and conflicts. It’s important that everyone knows where you stand. You will find that your parents and students will have more respect for you as a teacher if you have a set of clear, concise rules and procedures in place. And, more importantly, they need to know that you will stick by those rules. That can sometimes be very difficult. Some of the policies that I have in place are because I had a difficult situation with a parent or student and I needed to address it. And, of course, there are always exceptions. These situations can be dealt with individually, at your discretion. But it is so important to have studio policies written down.


Here are some simple ideas that you can use to formulate your own studio policies.

  • For teachers who are running their own business, collecting money can be one of the biggest problems. The first thing that I explain in my policies is how I expect the fees for lessons to be paid. There are many different ways to do this. After trying various approaches, I have come up with a system that works perfectly for me. 
  • I refer to the lesson fees for the year as tuition. After all, I am running a music school. I teach 35 weeks a year. I have divided those weeks into 5 terms with seven lessons for each term. 
  • In May, I e-mail the registration form to the parents along with a copy of my studio policies. I ask that this form be returned by the end of the June along with 5 post-dated checks for next year’s tuition. 
  • The date for the first check is always 2 weeks before I start teaching. That way, I know that all the funds will have cleared the bank before the first lessons in September.
  • I spread the dates for collecting the other 4 checks throughout the teaching year. One is cashed in early October, one in late November, one in late January and one mid-March. That way, all tuition is paid by mid-March.
  • It's not a good idea to have the 3rd check dated for mid-January. There are too many post-Christmas bills. It works much better to have it dated for the end of January or the beginning of February.
  • I always send a reminder to parents by e-mail the week before the check is cashed. I also write a reminder in the student’s Organizer. It’s easy for a parent to forget about a post-dated check.
  • I let parents know in the studio policies that all activities throughout the year are covered in the tuition. That includes Master Classes and Recitals. I include theory instruction in their lessons and I don’t charge extra to mark practice papers for theory exams. Parents appreciate knowing what they don’t have to pay for!
  • Once a check is cashed, I don’t give a refund. I also ask for one-months notice if they are stopping lessons. This will not always happen, but at least I have it written down.
  • I ask that attendance be regular and punctual. I let them know that if they arrive late, I will not make up the time. 
  • For illness, I ask for 24 hours notice if they have to cancel a lesson. I do charge for a lesson if it is cancelled at the last minute. I do not make up lessons if students are away on holidays. 
  • If parents know ahead of time that their child is going to miss a lesson for other reasons (sports games, school events, birthday parties etc), I will give them suggestions as to who they could switch with. It is their responsibility to arrange that switch and then let me know who they have switched with. Parents really appreciate this flexibility.
  • I have included a copy of My Studio Policies with this post. These policies are a result of years of experience and they have worked very well for me in my teaching. However, it’s important to stress that what works for me may not work for others. Every teacher and every area is different. If you wish, use this as a starting point to come up with policies and procedures that work for you. 

As private music teachers, we have the best job ever. I love what I do! I love working with my students and inspiring THEM to love music. It’s great to see the excitement in their eyes as they grow and progress. It’s music to MY ears when one of my students says to me “I LOVE that piece!” I consider it a privilege to nurture their love of music.

But it’s also important to remember that you are running a business. And in order for you to run your business effectively and professionally, it is imperative that you have written studio policies. May you have smooth waters as you sail into September this year. 

♥︎ Remember, Great Music Comes from the Heart ♥︎ 


Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis