Teachers, do you rent or loan instruments out?

Barb said: Mar 21, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Are any of you renting or loaning instruments to your students? Do you make a contract? How do you deal with insuring? Other details?

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

Paula Bird said: Mar 21, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Over the years I have been purchasing some of my student’s instruments that I thought had a wonderful sound. And now I have a small inventory of instruments available to rent out to students. Although I am an attorney, I have not written out a contract. Of course, I only rent out to my current students, and I wouldn’t rent an instrument to someone that I didn’t trust. I self-insure which means if something happens to the instrument, I take care of it although I would expect to be reimbursed for any damage caused by my students. I pay for the general maintenance.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Barb said: Mar 21, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thanks, Paula. I found out today that my insurance won’t cover an instrument which is rented out. A loaned instrument would be still covered under my insurance, however. It will be up to a student to insure the rented cello.

Since I am renting to new students, I would feel most comfortable with a contract. Anyone have examples to share?

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

Robin Lohse said: Mar 22, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
Souderton, PA
29 posts

As years of frustration and lack of service, I launched my own rent to own instrument plan with the help of my violin teacher. After a very bad experience with a local music store, I know we could do better. And I did. This plan really works and save s the parent from wasting there money. Its sensible for the first time parent of a string student and I am a great matchmaker when it comes to finding the right instrument for the child. I think ownership is very important to the success of the lessons and that has been over looked. Not everyone can afford the best. I could comment more on this matter….but its works very well for my studio.

Robin Lohse

Barb said: Mar 22, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi Robin,

You are probably right about ownership, but even buying an inexpensive cello is a bit of an outlay, and it’s not a bad idea to rent for the first few months to make sure this is an investment you want to make, especially for adult beginners. I usually do recommend rent-to-own or buying from a store which will allow trade-ups as the student grows (physically or in ability), but even that requires a weekend trip or paying shipping here. So when I had the opportunity to buy, I purchased a couple used cellos to rent to beginners. I don’t have the space or capital to actually provide a full service for my students, unfortunately, and there isn’t that much demand for cellos in this area, anyway. Nice that you are able to do that for your students!

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

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Mar 22, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

Just wanted to share some of my thoughts on this; just “flush it” if you don’t agree. I know some teachers do this, and I know of professional instrument dealers who also teach on the side. However, selling or renting to students as a regular practice would seem to me to present a few prickly problems. It’s just how it feels to me.

Maybe you’re running a large music school, a facility with enough extra space for storage, with a shop out front to handle rentals etc. In that case you can have a person running the shop, and handling all the business, and that part of the school will feel like a music store, and less like a school of music. But if you are part of a smaller studio, or are running your own, you’d need an expendable, secure, climate-controlled storeroom in your home to keep all those instruments where they will not crack, warp, or get worm-eaten—or otherwise ruined or stolen! One also needs expendable capital, which will be tied up in instruments that for a time might not sell or rent. One needs to make repairs to instruments and cases, and then where does it stop? Will you also provide strings, shoulder rests, bows, cases, cleaning cloths and polishing liquids, chin rests, metronomes, music stands, …. where does it end! … (hard to imagine the headache to restock all this!) Contracts and rental agreements, insurance, risk and liability, damaged goods, returns, refunds, time expended, etc. Aside from all this, I also wonder whether renting and selling instruments to one’s students doesn’t present a conflict of interest, and somewhat muddy the waters of the professional teacher/student relationship. Perhaps you are offering instruments to your students on a charitable basis, taking the risk upon yourself and caring for all the repairs, (But that is not a way to earn a living!) If you are renting or selling, you will either break even or want to make a profit, For all the trouble involved, I imagine a profit must be made. That’s where I wonder about conflicts of interest.

I let my students know when they need to move up to a larger or better sounding instrument. They generally bring me what they’re considering, either for rent or for purchase. I check over the instrument for cracks or other problems, and have a say in whether I think it is a good value for money. Personally, I think I’d feel uncomfortable if it were my instrument I was trying to sell them. I like to leave the final decision on any purchase to the parents and/or the student. I keep catalogues in my studio of several major stores, dealers, and outlets, as well as Strings Magazine which is full of ads, so the families can look, compare, contact on their own, and choose, with my help.

That being said, I am lucky to live in a town where there are several dealers in my local area including an excellent, prominent catalogue store and showroom a few blocks away. There is good competition and lots of choice. We are truly lucky. Aside from this, I’ve had some experience with a number of shops across the country that are willing to send out multiple instruments and bows for trying out in the teacher’s studio, for purchase within a specified length of time, the balance to be returned safely in the prepared shipping box, or return all of them. And it’s all for free (except maybe covering shipping in one direction). In this economy, every shop is trying hard to do better than the competitors in sales, and there is plenty of good choices of instruments. There are terrific deals to be found for students.

For those who are renting and selling to students, how are you doing it? I’d be interested to hear your feelings about my thoughts, and how you are handling this business aspect. Hopefully everyone can find the way that works best to help your students acquire the best instrument possible, and keep your studio professional.

Wendy Caron Zohar

Paula Bird said: Mar 23, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Wendy, this isn’t a conflict of interest anymore than teaching 2 instruments. Just to clear that up.

I live in a rural community. There are fine shops over an hour’s drive either direction, and we patronize these places. Having a small inventory (less than 10) is no biggie and is handy when we want to check sizing. I am responsible for maintenance, but a new set of strings on occasion is my tax deduction. Not a huge deal. Basically we use the rentals for those folks who have more than 1 child, or in the beginning when some folks are more comfortable renting before buying.

Seriously, I did this as a convenience for my students not as a way to make money, although a little extra each month seems like a wise expenditure of my capital to me.

We order accessories like shoulder rests. We get together and look for bargains on Amazon or ebay for accessories. I do keep small bag of student rosin. It seems kids break it often and I don’t want them to go without for too long.

So think a much smaller concern than the one you write about. It’s not a “shop,” conflict of interest, or a slippery slope thing. In my case it’s tiny, a convenience, and helpful to me when it’s time to size.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Mar 25, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

Reading and thinking over these posts has helped me reevaluate my thinking. I can certainly see the purpose and effectiveness of your rental program, Paula, and others offering a similar service in your studios, especially if you are not in close proximity to a showroom with a rich selection of good buys and rental deals.

To find and acquire great sounding smaller or full size instruments that are gems, and to have the convenience of offering these to one’s studio to provide a superior playing experience, is surely one of the ways teachers can help maximize the aesthetic experience of students who are growing and developing. We all know that finding such instruments can be a chore, requires a well tuned ear and discerning eye, is time consuming and often costly. It is a service and not necessarily a conflict of interest. Thank you for opening my mind.

Wendy Caron Zohar

Barb said: Mar 25, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

We have “fine shops” within a six hour drive! :-) So yes, it really is only as a service that I have purchased a few instruments to rent out, and the other benefit is, as Paula says, help in sizing… though I don’t have all sizes.

I found some music store contracts online and more or less copied the simplest one for my use.

I was in the closest general music store (almost two hours away) last week and found that they aren’t even displaying cellos anymore, though because they are a chain, I know they can bring one in from another location.

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

Gretchen said: Mar 29, 2013
Gretchen Lee
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
State College, PA
28 posts

I happen to have some fractional size instruments (as well as a few student-quality full sizes) and loan them out whenever a student’s family cannot afford one. There have been times in my life that I have needed to borrow instruments, and I would like to extend the favor to students in need.

I don’t do a contract, but I don’t loan instruments out to kids/families that I feel will not take care of them. They are responsible for any expenses incurred while the instrument is on their watch.

Aaron Waltersdorfer Mendoza said: Mar 29, 2013
Aaron Waltersdorfer MendozaViolin, Cello
Deposito Lambayeque, Peru
1 posts

Te felicito por esta labor, que creo, debe ser imitada por todos nosotros. En mi ciudad Chiclayo—Perú, hay muchos niños que desean estudiar el violín pero que no tienen el dinero para comparar uno. Tengo un programa de violinistas sin recursos y, para iniciarlo, tuve que comprar 15 violines de diferentes tamaños (1/8, 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4) de los cuales ya he prestado 10. Es difícil confiar en las personas, más aún en estos tiempos tan duros, pero te aseguro que si les brindas confianza ellos serán recíprocos. Seguro perderás algunos de tus violines, pero eso es necesario. Te recomiendo motivar a los padres y estudiantes a realizar presentaciones públicas de beneficio, con ellos puedes obtener los instrumentos y otorgarlos sin necesidad que sean comprados con tu dinero.

Otra recomendación, puedes trabajar con colegios o instituciones donde los estudiantes o inscritos sean conocidos e inscritos, de manera que sepas sus direcciones, teléfonos y otros datos. La firma de un compromiso o recepción del instrumento no siempre te garantiza su recuperación.

Felicitaciones otra vez

Barb said: Mar 29, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thank you Aaron. I don’t remember all the Spanish I learned 30 years ago, so I used Google translate. It wasn’t totally accurate, but close enough for me to figure out your message!

That is wonderful that you are able to provide violins for those who cannot afford to buy them. I like your idea to hold benefit performances to pay for the violins to be loaned out.

Here, for a time we had a Violin Society—a non-profit group which managed violins on loan and even awarded scholarships for music lessons. They did benefit concerts and coffee houses. It was started by a violin teacher, but eventually, sadly, there were not enough people to be on the board, so it is no longer operating. Ah! I see they donated the instruments to another arts group in the area (too bad they didn’t name the group, because I hadn’t heard that before!). http://www.fiddleheads.ca/svs.htm

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

Sue Hunt said: Mar 30, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

Because I teach viola, I rent out tiny instruments. My biggest difficulty is remembering to tell parents that damage must be paid for in such a way that feelings don’t get hurt. Any advice would be appreciated.

Community Youth Orchestra said: May 13, 2013
Community Youth OrchestraViolin, Viola
70 posts

Just be upfront.

My wife and I loan out instruments to students in need, sometimes not even our own private students but ones who play in our youth orchestra, and we tell them and their parents, “you don’t have to pay anything to use this instrument and we’re happy to perform the basic maintenance, but you are fully responsible for all damage, accidental or not.”

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