music teachers’ helper vs any other online websites/support?

Lisa Hansen said: Jul 31, 2011
Lisa Hansen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
21 posts

Does anybody use this website— www.musicteachershelper.com ? If so, what has been your experience with it? Is it worth the money? Do you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to use it? Is it reliable? I’ve been trying to access parts of the website, but it’s not working, which makes me hesitate to use it. The main feature I’m interested in is the ability for parents to access my schedule and swap lessons with other students when conflicts arise, along with possibly the billing aspect. If you use this, do you find the parents make use of the website instead of calling or emailing you?

Are there any other online services that help facilitate scheduling, that allow the parents access to your regularly updated calendar (that isn’t just open to the public)?

A side question—Do you send monthly statements to all of your students, or just leave it up to the parents to pay you at the beginning of the month (or semester, as it may be)?

Ruth Brons said: Jul 31, 2011
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

I have been thrilled using MTH for several years now.
The bookkeeping is very clear to everyone, and accurate and reliable.
I do spend time prior to the school year entering in all the regular weekly lessons for the year, and prior to the summer entering in lessons to be booked online.
You will also need to spend some time initially getting familiar with MTH, but it is well worth it.

The online Calendar may be viewed only after login. In today’s world of heightened awareness of the importance of privacy, I have it set up so students will only see events on the calendar that are either their own lesson or lessons created as Global Events visible to all, such as recitals, lesson slots available to be booked, or announcements.
How I offer a limited measure of scheduling flexibility to my full studio, using MTH, is as follows: whenever a student cancels a lesson online, MTH sends me an email alert. I then go online and create an “Available” lesson slot during that newly available time. Any student logging on and looking for an additional lesson or rescheduling option will then be able to book that slot. If a student cancels a lesson and also books an alternate lesson [and I know if this happens because MTH sends an email if a lesson is booked online], then I delete the charges for the cancelled lesson. Otherwise the charge for the cancelled lesson will remain on the student’s account.
I take advantage of the automatic monthly invoice option, and online PayPal payments too—such a time saver. Before I deposit any student payments I enter it into MTH, and the parent is emailed a receipt and their online account is automatically updated. If a parent has a question about their account, they just log in to MTH. After a lesson time has passed, I like to used the Reconcile feature and quickly mark the lesson as Attended, Missed or Cancelled—details that will show up on any invoices MTH generates.

Overall advice—MTH is a bargain, hands down.
The time spent setting everything up will be saved many times over.
Thanks to MTH I now spend zero time on the phone with students over scheduling or billing issues.
Zero.

Barb said: Jul 31, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I am a Music Teacher’s Helper user! They have different levels of subscription including a free trial or free for a small number of students. For me with 14 students on it, it works out to about $1/student/month. Definitely worth the money. It’s too bad you were looking when it wasn’t working. It may have been during an upgrade. I have found it VERY reliable (they usually warn in advance when it will be down for a few hours for upgrades), and the support is AWESOME!!! Any time a little bug comes up or you have a question they are on it right away, and they are always looking for ways to make it better. Good video tutorials on how to use it, too.

I think the only downfall I have found is that the student page is less intuitive than it should be, but they are looking at updating it.

I don’t think that your students can swap lessons on the online calendar without your help. They will only see their own lessons and anything else like “open” times or group things that you make visible to all. They can book events like open lesson times, and cancel lessons on their own. You are notified immediately via email, and the calendar does work in sync with other device calendars. ah—I see Ruth has just beat me to the punch explaining that! I do the same with making open times when someone cancels a lesson. It also can be used to keep track of make-up lessons.

One way you can facilitate swapping using the site is to post a document in the files area with phone/email/schedule of other students (who have agreed to you sharing their info) on the area only available to students/parents after they log in. But as an extra measure of security, I just email that out at the beginning of the year. I do love that I can share files online and choose which students see what, though, after they log in.

Since I charge by term, I set the student’s per lesson fee to $0, and simply manually bill them for the term and any supplies they purchase from me. Even this “manual” way is a simple matter of filling in a few fields on a form and hitting send. I also use it to track my expenses and it keeps a running total of my finances.

The free website they offer is great, too, and very easy to use, and they have a monthly teacher’s newsletter too, with some great ideas. Two thumbs up for MTH!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Lisa Hansen said: Jul 31, 2011
Lisa Hansen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
21 posts

Thanks for the information. Perhaps I will consider using the website.

If you don’t mind my asking both of you, how would you handle the situation if a parent comes to you and says that their kid’s sport schedule changed, and they have a conflict with 8-12 lessons in the term? This is the sort of thing that drives me crazy, and I’m looking for a way for THEM to take it upon themselves to find someone to switch with instead of my having to deal with it. Do you just have a blanket policy that violin comes first and sports comes second? I want my students to be well rounded, so I acknowledge that they have other activities in their lives, but I HATE the hassle of trying to reschedule for them. That is the main reason I’m looking to change the way I do things, and am looking for an online solution.

Barb said: Jul 31, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi asiln28,

It doesn’t cost anything to give MTH a try!

Once the year’s lesson times are set, it is up to my students to try to arrange a trade if necessary. That is why I started sharing their info (with their permission). Trying to arrange them yourself is too time consuming and there’s no extra pay for that (or maybe one COULD charge a fee?). I may suggest someone who I know to be more flexible for them to check with. At the start of a new year a returning student is guaranteed their same time, though they may request a change. If there are changes requested I may put out an email to the group to let them know of the request, and ask them to let me know if they are available at any alternative times.

Do you know of any sports activities that rearrange their schedule to accommodate music lessons? I agree, it is good for the students to be well-rounded and attend some other activities, but sometimes they will have to choose. :-(

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Ruth Brons said: Jul 31, 2011
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

One thing I have learned in terms of scheduling is to not do it too soon.
About a month before fall lessons start I ask all students to send me via email any requests for changes from last year, any limitations and at least a few additional times/days that would work, any sports conflicts, etc.
I might send that out a few times over a few weeks, to be sure to catch the attention of those on vacation, etc.
Many parents do not have all that information until the first week of school—so I never start my term until at least the second or third week.
As tempting as it is to start right away, it is better to wait a bit before setting the regular weekly times.
I still see some students that first week or two of school, but they are still self-booked summer “by appointment” lessons.
Then, one week before lessons start I collate all that info and shuffle things around a spread sheet until it works.
Then I notify the parents and plug everything into MTH.
Soccer seems to be the most unpredictable, but the online calendar of MTH has really helped my soccer players handle those conflicts without involving phone time with me.

Henry Flurry said: Aug 24, 2011
Henry FlurryInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Prescott, AZ
22 posts

My wife is starting up a studio where she only teaches group lessons. Would MTH be able to handle the billing and scheduling for that?

Thanks!
Henry

PS I too am trying to access info on the site at 10pm MT, but it is not responding….

Ruth Brons said: Aug 25, 2011
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Yes, MTH can handle that.

Zach Pearce said: Jan 31, 2013
Zach PearcePiano
3 posts

Sorry, I know this is an old topic. I’ve just started my own take on private music studio management at http://privio.net. We offer pretty much the same features with better ease of use and at a lower price. Please come check us out!

I made this: http://privio.net—Private music studio management made easy.

Barb said: Jan 31, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi Zach,
By chance are you related to Brandon Pearce, the founder of Music Teacher’s Helper? Thanks for the link—always good to have more choices.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Zach Pearce said: Feb 1, 2013
Zach PearcePiano
3 posts

Hi Barb,
No, we’re not related, but I have known Brandon personally for a very long time. He’s a really great guy and he’s done amazing work with MTH.

You’re right, it’s always good to have more choices, and I think we have the makings of a really great service to the music teaching community.

I made this: http://privio.net—Private music studio management made easy.

Barb said: Feb 3, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I set up a trial with your new site to see what it is like, but I’ll be staying with Music Teacher’s Helper. Thanks for the trial!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Sophia said: Feb 15, 2013
Sophia Kim
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Vancouver, BC
16 posts

Parents and students alike need to understand that our time as teachers is valuable. Sometimes, they don’t realize how much work is involved in organizing something that appears so simple to them. Changes do occur, and often they do. Having an online source is always a good way to communicate effectively and streamline billing and scheduling matters. However, take every opportunity when it arises, to instill each parent and child that you care for them and that you want the best for their child’s musical development.

George Howie said: Jul 17, 2013
 1 posts

Yes it’s great I have used it for years. If any of you want first month free and 20% off. You can use my discount code 5C339B. Cheers.

Community Youth Orchestra said: Jul 18, 2013
Community Youth OrchestraViolin, Viola
70 posts

My wife and I started using MTH when we combined our teaching studios. It’s been very effective, and well worth the cost.

Zach, we are demo-ing Privio, as the interface is very attractive. :)

Zach Pearce said: Jul 19, 2013
Zach PearcePiano
3 posts

Gene—that’s great! And thanks for the compliment. ;) Please don’t hesitate to let me know what you think. My email is zpearce at privio dot net.

I made this: http://privio.net—Private music studio management made easy.

Meghan Coil said: Jul 23, 2013
Meghan Coil
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Portland, OR
16 posts

Lisa,
I was just about to post the exact same question you did. Thanks for jump-starting the discussion!

I am very tempted by all the services MTH offers, but I am turned off by the fact that a website through them would have the clunky “…musicteachershelper.com” tacked on to the end of the address. I think it detracts from perceived professionalism, and it makes it harder to verbally tell someone and for them to remember.
I will check privio.net…maybe they offer an alternative?

Anyway, I just want to ask once more before the discussion winds down—can anyone recommend any other website building service (other than MTH or privio)?

Thanks!
Meghan Coil

Jenny said: Jul 23, 2013
 98 posts

Meghan,

One thing you can always do for any web service that gives you a subdomain like xyz.example.com is to set up your own website address that just redirects to the longer address.

For example, if you type in suzukimethod.com it will send you to suzukiassociation.org . I could also have set it so suzukimethod.com redirected to somereallylongsubdomain.suzukiassociation.org ;)

You can buy a website domain for something like $12 or less per year. Depending on the domain registrar you choose, having the redirect may be free, or may be another $10-12 per year. Namecheap, Dreamhost, and Go Daddy are a few places to buy a domain name—a quick search for “domain names” will find you many more.

Barb said: Jul 23, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I agree, that is a downfall of MTH. Our local music festival has a clunky name, too, and I noted in their advertising they now say “Google Shuswap Music Festival”. I’m not sure how long it takes before Google (or other search engines) picks you up, but I’ve had several referrals via internet search reaching my MTH site. (I made sure “cello lessons” and the name of my town as well as my own name are all on the home page.) I could just tell people to google my name—they will find my website.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Nicole said: Jul 23, 2013
Nicole Ballinger
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Vero Beach, FL
9 posts

Yes we use MTH but use a seperate domain ( www.weebly.com ) to cover our studio and 2 performance ensembles. There is then a link to the studio which connects to our MTH studio website thus avoiding the long website name. There is an annual website fee of $39. Love the support and how easy it is to customize anything you want. You’re welcome to check out our website:
www.oceanstrings.net
(would love constructive feedback)
Thanks and hope that was helpful ;)

Meghan Coil said: Jul 25, 2013
Meghan Coil
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Portland, OR
16 posts

Thanks for the separate domain/auto redirect idea. Perfect. As obvious as it seems now, I would never have come up with that solution by myself.
So grateful for everyone’s helpfulness!
Meghan

Gretchen said: Jul 26, 2013
Gretchen Lee
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
State College, PA
28 posts

I’ve been using google calendar and google docs for some time now, and I have no complaints. I also have a spreadsheet with several pages where I keep track of income, expenses, etc. It really doesn’t take much technical know-how, and it’s free.

If you want people to be able to change their lesson times without you being involved, you can create a separate calendar, change the share settings, and put some controls on it.

Gretchen said: Jul 26, 2013
Gretchen Lee
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
State College, PA
28 posts

You can also use this url shortener:

http://goo.gl/

Karen Zethmayr said: Jul 26, 2013
Karen ZethmayrViolin
15 posts

Thanks for all the website to be aware of, everyone :)
I’ve used Google calendar (embedded in my website) for some time. Initially I had it set so that students could make their own changes, but that system had built-in recipes for confusion. What they do now is go to my calendar, check what’s available, and email me so I can make changes & confirm.

When people need makeups or have to reschedule for some reason, they do all the legwork and save me hours of emailing or phoning. I also keep my lesson notes in that calendar so they can access them to compare with their own.

I don’t put students’ last names in the calendar.

Our nonprofit neighborhood school now uses Google spreadsheets for taking attendance, and our marvelous ground support guru sets up the formulas, and all we have to do is put in names of students. I “code” the students to fall into chronological order by having a column next the names with, e.g., b1630 means Tuesday 4:30. Then I can sort either alpha by name, or by schedule, by clicking the appropriate column.

Karen

Lisa Hansen said: Jul 26, 2013
Lisa Hansen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
21 posts

Hello everyone! Thanks for your input. I’m amazed this thread has lasted this long!
As it happened, I decided to not to use MTH. I created my own website, registering a domain name and hosting it with two separate companies.
Regarding scheduling changes, I make contact information sheets (three different lists) for all those with 30/45/60 min lessons with the schedule for the individual slots for those who are open to swapping with others as needed, and then let the parents handle it themselves as necessary. If a parent has exhausted that list and still can’t figure something out, then I get involved, but it was rare this past year. I didn’t end up using something like the Google calendar, because I don’t want parents to know my whole schedule.
For now, this is working for me.
Thanks for everyone’s input!

Charmian Stewart said: Aug 15, 2013
Charmian Stewart
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
4 posts

Try groupcafes.com
It is free and I use it for my studio, you can check my site out.
The calendar can be public (no password needed) or private.

http://charmianstewart.groupcafes.com/

Charmian

Colleen said: Aug 16, 2013
Colleen McGary-Smith
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
1 posts

Thank you for sharing your website, Charmian. It looks fabulous. I had no idea such free sites were available.
I am moving to a new city soon and this will be just the thing to get my new studio started!

Cheers,
Colleen

Charmian Stewart said: Aug 16, 2013
Charmian Stewart
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
4 posts

Yeah, I love it. You can add and subtract the pages you want and can make some of them public or private depending on what you want.
Good luck with it and the move!
Charmian

Emily Morgan said: Sep 24, 2013
Emily Morgan
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Wilmington, NC
14 posts

Thanks everyone for the great information!

Stuart Gelin said: Sep 14, 2014
 1 posts

I’m stuck between privio.net and mymusicstaff.com. Privio is a little cheaper, but I like mymusicstaff because it has a flat rate and a practice log built in. I’m also looking at musicteachersoffice.com/ which doesn’t seem as good as the others, but is free which would be great for me since I’m just starting out. I’ve ruled out musicteachershelper due to the price. Also, I have a website, so I’m not too concerned about that, but if I did use mymusicstaff, I’d probably move my website to their system since it’s included and there’s no reason to pay for a website separately. Does anyone know how the mymusicstaff websites are?

Barb said: Sep 18, 2014
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I’m sorry I can’t answer your question re the other sites, Stuart, but just wanted to mention a few things….

I did a trial with Privio, but didn’t find it as good for me as Music Teacher’s Helper. But still being on their email list, was notified that it was being sold to Music Teacher’s Helper. As far as I know it’s still a separate program, but has the same owner.

Music Teacher’s Helper has a discussion area for suggestions, and recently I’ve had a lot of notifications about implementing a lot of these ideas, so it sounds like some good additions are coming soon! I love that Brandon and crew are open to growing and changing to suit our needs!

Thanks everyone for sharing all the options!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

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