Summer Lessons

Grace said: May 2, 2011
110 posts

I’m just wondering how different teachers handle summer lessons. I am making a sign-up schedule for each week during the summer, but sometimes I have less than half of my students who sign up for lessons.

How do you schedule them? Do you charge by the lesson? Do you budget for and just plan that summer = less income? Do you require some minimum number of lessons for your own financial “survival”?

Leslie said: May 2, 2011
Leslie ThackerayInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Taylorsville, UT
26 posts

I tell my students that they will get 9 lessons from June-August (I usually count the first week of june part of the Spring semester and the last week of August part of the Fall Semester so those weeks don’t count.) I hang up my schedule for each week on my bulletin board and my students can move their lessons around in the summer to days and times that suit them as long as it’s available. If I have a student who is gone for several weeks, they’ll have to have two lessons per week some weeks. If they can’t come to all 9 lessons they still must pay the full tuition. I charge the same as I do the rest of the year. All changes must be made a week in advance so there are no last minute changes (that drives me crazy!) So far it’s worked great!

Leslie Thackeray
Make Practicing Fun!

Barb said: May 3, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

I am not dependent on my teaching income, and because the rest of my family’s work schedules are very irregular, I don’t teach on a regular basis. It also gives me more of a break to teach limited days. As a young violin student, I think one reason I quit private lessons was because I wasn’t getting a break in the summer at all, so I keep that in mind, too. On the other hand, it does bother me when some of the kids don’t pick up their instrument at all for two months, and they regress in their playing. I might change my policies a little due to that and require some summer lessons.

But the last two summers (as long as I’ve been teaching) I have posted available days on my Music Teacher’s Helper website calendar at the beginning of July and August (after my husband learns his schedule). The students/parents book their own lessons on the calendar on days/times that work for them. Some get six lessons, some choose none, some two or three. I usually charge by the term, but in the summer it’s by the lesson.

I just had a thought yesterday, that I could offer my trio a multi-day workshop like a 1/2 day day camp, and offer others the chance to do chamber music, too, if they wanted to do something similar. Not a lot of time to do that during the school year.

It’s also been an idea in the back of my head to enlist another teacher and offer a week-long music history day camp for ages 8—12 or so, to our students as well as others in the area.

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

said: May 25, 2011
SummerViolin2 posts

I offer Summer Enrichment Classes—theory, aural skills, fiddling, jazz improv, chamber, etc. Students are often ready for a change of pace and welcome the enrichment classes. If you offer something that is different or special for the summer, students will respond and you won’t have a drop in income or practicing! Some students end up taking multiple classes or even classes and lessons.

Happy teaching and enjoy your summer~

[color=#4040BF:1qw89zp4]Helping Musicians Live Well[/color:1qw89zp4]

Irene said: May 25, 2011
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

I dont understand.. Why different arrangement during summer and not weekly lesson as usual?

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

Summer IS different than the school year for most kids and families.

In my studio, we do summer lessons by appointment, as opposed to a regular weekly slot during the school year.
Flexibility is key; however, it is made clear that lessons booked by students will be charged whether or not they remember to come!

Parents of young beginners often want to keep as regular a schedule as possible to maintain progress,
while other families appreciate a break in the schedule [and the tuition!].
Some students need weeks off to attend summer camps, Suzuki Institutes or music camps, or just to de-compress.
Some students like to intensify their studies by having a week or two of daily lessons.
Summers are also a good time to take on new students.

Also, summer lessons feel different too, because there is a often break from recital and audition pressures.
It’s a wonderful time to follow a student’s interest to charge ahead with new repertoire, read duets, or simply concentrate on a specific technique.

Have a great summer!

Barb said: May 27, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts


I dont understand.. Why different arrangement during summer and not weekly lesson as usual?

I see you are in Hong Kong. The North American culture is different, of course. I heard somewhere about how different the “rice paddy” culture is where year-round hard work is expected and required in being successful in growing rice. In North America (and Europe?) our agriculture is different, with shorter working seasons and longer periods of rest. Was this in the Suzuki Parents as Partners talks? I think a reference from Gladwell’s The Outliers.

Our school years developed around agriculture, too. Originally this was time off for working in agriculture, I believe, but now that is not really a factor in most people’s lives. Many people still expect the months of summer to be “time off” as there is no school during that time. It is expected that the kids need that break from school. As a parent, I sometimes felt I needed a break from taking the kids from activity to activity!

I think offering something different in the summer in the way of enrichment is a great idea!

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

Lisa Hansen said: Jul 20, 2011
Lisa Hansen
Suzuki Association Member
21 posts

Summertime is great, but I always find the scheduling SO frustrating!!!

For Leslie, I had a couple questions:
Do you require your students to take lessons in the summer, or just require that those interested pay for 9 lessons?
How do you figure out how often to be available for lessons, if some might be absent some weeks, & then have 2 lessons another week?
Do you take any vacations in the summer?

I am a mother of a 2.5 year old, so I have to arrange child care for him while I teach. Some days he goes to preschool for a set amount of time, but sometimes I have a babysitter. Therefore, I always try to have no gaps in the chunks of time when I teach (especially on the babysitting days). However, this means that students sometimes will have lessons at different times each week. Is it reasonable to expect them to remember what I’ve assigned them at the beginning of the summer, if they’ve ok’d the times in an email, and to charge them anyway if they mess up once and miss a lesson? I feel a bit responsible because I am unable to offer them a set time each week. I’d appreciate any comments. Thanks for your time.

Betty Douglas said: Jul 21, 2011
 16 posts

I send my families a letter in late spring which details the days and times I am available during the summer and ask them to tell me which days/times are possible for them (11-1, 1-3, 3-5, etc), which are best and which are impossible, as well as their vacation/ camp weeks. I then send them a schedule for approval and make any necessary corrections. Once finalized, I send the final schedule (each one is dated to keep them separate). Often students will have different times each week because of vacations and camps occupying some of the students any given week. Once the schedule is set, it is their responsibility to attend the lesson and to pay me for that lesson. I’ve only had occasional mistakes, where families get the time wrong. I encourage them to switch with another family if possible, and certainly to contact me if a problem arises, but I always tell them I might not be able to accommodate changes once the schedule is set. So, yes, I believe families can be expected to keep a varying schedule as long as the schedule is laid out in advance and it is clear.
Have a great Day!

Betty Douglas, flute teacher

Brenda Lee Villard said: Jul 21, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Edina, MN
27 posts

Yes, I do what Betty does. I offer 8 or 9 weeks (3 days) and ask them for blocks of times that they are available. They submit me all of their choices by the May 20ish and I have the schedule done for them within the week. They then look the times over and if more tweaking is needed, then I make the changes for they submit their tuition on June 5th. During the summer, most of the students come in at different times and days each week but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Rarely is a lesson forgotten, but when it happens, if I have a slot (which I usually don’t) I offer it to them, otherwise they know it is their loss. Also, I don’t do make-ups in my studio unless I miss the lesson. Instead, I have swap lists available and it is their responsibility to finds someone to swap with. I’m always amazed at how flexible families can suddenly become when they have to put in the work to call people and set up the swap. It helps them to prioritize how important the cello lesson is versus Johnny’s hockey practice.

Jennifer said: Jul 26, 2011
Jennifer Moberg
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dehbori Kabul, Afghanistan
71 posts

I do the same as Betty.
There are 3 violin teachers in my school, so I have all the violin parents sign up for 6 lessons, and they indicate which weeks they are available, and their preferred times. I then assign them to whichever teacher happens to be in town at the time (we are all from overseas, and need to go home to see our families every once in a while!). This is a bit of a mission to do the scheduling, but it is worth it, because the kids get regular lessons, and the benefit of seeing all of the teachers.

We also run special programs- two years we did a summer camp, and this year we are doing an intensive reading workshop. This is less to work on reading than it is to ensure that the children are at least touching their instrument every day for a whole week!

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.”

Lisa said: Jun 3, 2012
Lisa HollisViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Dorchester, MA
21 posts

This is my first year running my own studio. Before I worked at a music school and had a salary that was spread out over the summer. Even so, I always offered summer lessons and something similar to Leslie and had my available weeks and times posted and they signed up for the times they wanted to come. They paid for the number of lessons they signed up for at the beginning of the summer. I never had any trouble persuading people to sign up and all of my students had lessons over the summer.

Now that I am running my own studio, I thought I would do something similar. I put in my studio policies that all students are required to take 8 lessons over the summer. Now I’m running into the problem that some still haven’t signed up, even after several reminders. I’m not sure what to do. If I had a full studio, I would tell them that it was required to take summer lessons if they wanted a space in the fall. Since I’m still building my studio here, I desperately need the students and know that I will still have space in the fall, even if I have bunches of new students. Any advice? Do I kick them out if they don’t have lessons? They are all pre-twinklers and I know if they don’t have lessons we will essentially be starting over in the fall if they continue.

Paula Bird said: Jun 4, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

My policy is that they take lessons if they want to guarantee a slot for fall. I take on new students in the summer to fill slots, and someone who does not take summer lessons runs the risk of not having a slot in the fall. They fall to the bottom if the priority list if they stop taking lessons. If I have room in the fall, great! Otherwise, sorry.

I ask for 8 lessons if possible (they can double up on some weeks to accommodate vacation/camp schedules).

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio (blog) (podcast)

Sue Hunt said: Jun 4, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

I have looked at all the interesting postings on this topic and I don’t think that there is any reference to including “extra” Summer Lessons in the the annual bill, to be paid upfront and non refundable.

I would have thought that the prospect of forfeiting 2 months lesson fees would galvanise at lease some parents into turning up.

Music in Practice

Glenda Walsh Crouse said: Jun 4, 2012
Glenda Walsh Crouse
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Recorder, Cello
Westminster, MD
8 posts

I require my students to keep taking lessons over the summer months if they want a spot in the studio. I also change my abscence policy. During the school year students may have one excused abscence. During the summer they get 2. Excused meaning they give me 24 hours notice and they will get a makeup for that lesson. Less then 24 hours, its not excused and no makeup up. If there are three or more unexcused absences per semester they run the risk of loosing their space in the studio. Tangent….sorry.

Students that will miss those two lessons for vacation will have them made up. If the student leaves for a month they automatically get the two lessons made up and IF I can fit in the other missed lessons I will do that. (My summer studio schedule usually gets fuller with new students AND I run extra group classes (to help get new students for the fall) that are pretty cheep.

If they leave for the whole summer they have 2 options. Pay for lessons in full to reserve the time slot they currently have. No makeups (as there is no time if they are gone for the whole summer. I don’t allow makeups from one semester to carry over to another semester). The second option is to pay $5 per miss lesson. This gaurentees that I will find a spot in my schedule to teach them (I will allow this student to take 2nd pick {after current students] for the fall schedule. It most likey won’t be a day/time they want…then anyone that is brand new (that didn’t take summer group) can pick]. This also helps with getting a studio full of students that take during the summer months. If you can get them to start summer group lessons, you know they will take in the summer. When fall comes they can see how slim the choices are after the regular individual students choose their fall times. Next summer they will mostly like continue lessons because they already know that they wont have much choice when they come back. Its real experience and not just be saying….” well…you know….in the fall…etc”

I had an idea to help suppliment income over the summer if you aren’t able to fill all the slots for students that don’t take summer lessons. Let me know what you think?

Rainy Day Lessons? It happens often in the summer. Families plan an outing and then it rains…they kids are stuck inside and they get BORED. What if you offered 1/2 prices lessons to students that are already enrolled in individual summer lessons? Once your summer schedule is set, make a list of times (separate by day) that are open for a lesson. If it is a rainy day, email out the times and students can repsond if they will attend or not. Gives them something to do, and helps you recover from lost income…I have no idea if this would work or not. Anyone ever do anything like this before?


Wendy said: Jun 4, 2012
Wendy Seravalle-Smith
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Cello, Violin
Thornhill, ON
119 posts

Interesting comments but I could not be so strict about summer lessons in my situation. Summer weather and cottage time is relatively short to enjoy for many families. For quite of few students who have families in Korea, and China, they go there for most of the summer. I also am involved in examining for Royal Conservatory in June and teaching at Suzuki Institutes in July. I make available some lesson dates for those that want to take lessons after that but there is not a requirement for this. I encourage the students to get together amongst themselves to practise, to attend a local day music camp at another Suzuki program and attend an institute if they can. I do make it clear that they will be reviewing in September or longer if they do not keep up their instrument in the summer. I renew my continuing students by end of May at the latest each year with a non-refundable deposit that is taken off the fall term and so this helps with commitment and covering some summer expenses but my other activities also pay the bills. I also then have a fall schedule set by August and send out fall information in a timely manner. I hope these comments might be helpful. I also want to spend time at the end of August just having holiday time with family too!

Lori Bolt said: Jun 4, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Hi lisahollis~

Have you spoken with the parents who haven’t yet signed up for summer?
You might need to hold a parent neeting to explain the need for their children, expecially the Pre-twinklers, to continue during the summer…

I’m in the same situation as you are as far as building up my studio, although in my case “re”building due to the recession still lingering in my state. I understand your concern about not wanting to close the door on your families by saying they’re. Hopefully, speaking to them will help….focusing on the benefit to their children of having some summer lessons, and the probability of needing to back track a good deal in the fall if they choose to take all summer off.

Consider the idea of a week-or two-week long “camp” for them which could also include new students. Required attendance?

Lori Bolt

Barb said: Jun 4, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

With pre-twinklers especially, you should expect to have to back track if they take time off, AND if they decide to keep practicing without lessons you may have some difficult-to-un-do bad habits!

This year I suggested to my students (haven’t heard back yet) that they may want to switch things up a bit for any lessons they book in the summer. They can bring a friend to work on the same repertoire or duets, and split the cost; they can bring in popular tunes and give the regular repertoire a break; I can give them a beginner Jazz lesson, etc.

There are some adult amateurs in town (play in a community group) who don’t take lessons—I will remind them that I give the first lesson free with no obligation, and that in the summer they may book a lesson or two or three without committing to regular lessons. I won’t offer the casual lessons for rank beginners—I need to see them more regularly.

Somehow we need to work around renovations in our home… maybe use a nearby church for summer lessons?

Does anyone take a break from private lessons but keep group lessons going?

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

Charlotte Dinwiddie said: Jun 4, 2012
Charlotte Dinwiddie
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Poughkeepsie, NY
10 posts

I live in an area where there are simply too many good violin teachers for me to insist that students take a particular number of lessons during the summer. Threatening not to teach any student who doesn’t study during the summer would simply result in students running from my studio.

Creating a “regular” lesson schedule doesn’t fit into the realities of the summer plans of my families. While it may depend on where you live, but my students do music camp, art camp, vacation, computer camp, family trips to India/Asia, etc.

My solution has been to teach on Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the summer. I am available from about 9:30/10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and they pay per lesson. No minimum number of lessons are required nor do they pay ahead (which I do during the school year). Students may take lessons when they are in town. They do not have to sign up for the same time each week. (I still require 24 hour notice to cancel.)

There are a few I won’t see at all because they will be away the entire summer. Some I will see in July only, others won’t be around until August. Other Mothers are so organized that they will give me a list of dates and we can set them up in June for the entire summer. But I find that I can fit everyone in at a time they want…….and I still have a block of time off to enjoy my own summer vacation.

We have a very active and demanding Saturday Symphony as well as an exceptional in-school string program for students. (The top HS orchestra won the grand prize at the ASTA convention in March) Being ready for those groups prompts most from skipping lessons all summer. They know that they must sign up for regular lesson times during the last two weeks of August…..and if they don’t get to me in time, they know their spot will not be reserved.

I depend on my teaching income for the total support for my family, so I do have to plan ahead and make a “summer fund” to be sure that important bills (health, car insurance, etc) and any emergencies will be covered. But given the area I live in, this was the solution that seemed to work the best.

Cleo Ann Brimhall said: Jun 4, 2012
Cleo Ann BrimhallTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
West Jordan, UT
39 posts

Because I want a set and guaranteed income monthly I have my families sign an annual contract with an annual tuition. This tuition guarantees them a set number of lessons during the year for 11 months (this gives a month off in the summer)—and they pay by monthly increments that are the same September through July. In August they register for the next year and pay an annual registration fee that includes memberships for them and for myself in the SAA and the local Suzuki Chapter—recital fees, awards, materials, festival fees, studio upkeep, etc etc. (this is any expense that I wouldn’t have it I weren’t teaching) I keep this in a separate account and pay these expenses out of that account. If I have extra money at the end of the year I lower the cost the next year and visa versa.
My families have realized the advantages of this arrangements. The cost to them is the same monthly and they don’t have to “nickle and dime” extra expenses all year.
Because I don’t have to pay these expenses out of my own income, the tuition can be a little less and still reflect my own services.
I have a few makeup days during the year. I use the sign up idea during the summer—offering 7 weeks for 4 or 5 lessons. They can arrange to trade times with other students or they just forfeit that week.
I discuss with the parents that summer is a time to “keep their current level” They will start the fall where they left off in May. However without lessons they loose three months and will start the fall where they were in February. Also there is the possibility that the students will have time and motivation to spurt ahead in the summer. That is a bonus.


Phyllis Calderon said: Jun 4, 2012
Phyllis CalderonViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Piano
Chicago, IL
22 posts

I love all the comments about summer lessons. And some of you provided some neat ideas, too that I can’t wait to implement.

In the past, I have reduced my summer teaching (to give myself a break) to Mon to Thurs only with the emphasis on group only. I also teach at a church music program throughout the year and during the summer for their music camp. I take on very few private students in the summer. Because of my intense schedule my groups during the year are monthly, though I’m looking to change this for the 2012-13 season and go back to weekly or twice a month, because the kids just love groups. For summer, I have created a reading orchestra for beginning readers, a piano group for beginners, and an advanced chamber ensemble for all strings, voice and piano (trying something different here with voice & piano students).

I don’t charge by the week. I bill upfront; but parents have the option to pay in half or in thirds. But with a lot of families who do travel, I give the option to them to sign up for 2, 4, or 6 lessons (my summer term is a short 6 weeks), and then encourage them to take the instrument with them (if they can) to practice while away. I also stress that if they do not continue over the summer, they risk losing their current time slot when we resume for fall. Someone here posted that they have their families reserve a fall slot by putting down a deposit. I love that idea!

Phyllis Calderon
Director, String Instructor
A Touch of Classical Plus, Inc.—Calderon Music Studio

Elizabeth Jones said: Jun 6, 2012
Elizabeth Jones
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Owensboro, KY
21 posts

I teach for six weeks during the summer, and students take either four or six lessons. My written policy states that four summer lessons are required. When I first started this policy, I did have to explain the financial necessity of summer teaching. Those weren’t the most comfortable conversations, but I’ve had better turnout once parents know that I need their support.

Laura said: Jun 7, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Stanton, MN
25 posts

My studio is 2 years old. I require 4 lessons during the summer to ensure a fall lesson spot (I am full with a waiting list). Last year I found that my students who took 4 lessons were able to hold their progress they made during the school year. One student did not fit in all 4 lessons, though they tried. She took a significant step backward in her playing. My students who took more than 4 made progress. I have no complaints from my families about the policy. I hear quite a bit of appreciation that I teach through the summer. I bill twice. Once in early June for 4 lessons, once in late July for the rest. I do offer more flexibility in scheduling than during the school year.

Terri Parsons said: Jun 7, 2012
Terri ParsonsCello, Flute
14 posts

I find that since many of my students rent their instruments, parents want to continue lessons as usual to leverage the rental costs, but I am flexible in moving lessons around to accomodate camps and family vacations. I do have some who just drop for summer and as others have stated they stand losing their slot for the fall. Since good cello teachers are at a premium, parents typically do not like that potential so they continue on. I do limit group work just to give myself a break and I take the time for my own growth and I like to go around to the nursing homes and play for folks who cannot get out much for summer activities. I like the idea of the calendar up on the wall and have the students choose open slots, that’s good!

Terri Parsons
Cello/Flute Teacher
La T Da Music

Alissa said: Jun 7, 2012
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

To help with fewer lessons, I take on summer-only students. These are students from local schools who want to maintain over summer at their school level, or their private teacher is taking the summer off and has recommended me. I give a special summer discount to make it more enticing and have a special flyer that I get out to families as early as a month before summer. It more than compensates the more erratic summer income. It has also filled my studio because at least a few want to keep going after summer. I echo the policy of a minimum lesson load to maintain your spot in my studio for regular students. I too, was frank with students as to progress expectations and that I would have to raise my school year rate if we didn’t have a certain number, but I have been reasonable with families who have gone out of the country or the like. We double up when they get back as much as possible to get them motivated and back in the groove. I have slowly moved toward an annual tuition and as long as I have explained each step and been open to payment arrangements, have met little resistance.

Barb said: Jun 7, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Alissa, taking on summer-only students is a wonderful idea! I don’t have a situation like that (not many other students in town but mine!), but I’m sure there are a lot who do.

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

André said: Jun 7, 2012
André AugensteinViolin, Piano
55 posts

In Summer Lesson it´s very good and very important for anyone serious
student of Music or musician(Violinist).
André Gomes Augenstein
Violin Teacher

Violin Student(International Suzuki Association) in Germany 1987
Violin teacher (International Suzuki Association) in Dublin 1995

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 24, 2012
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

In part because of my own erratic in and out of town summer schedule, and because I have many students who leave the country for a month or so during the summers, or who are in need of a financial break, I offer summer lessons on a pay-as-you-go, appointment by appointment basis. So at each summer lesson, we either schedule the next summer lesson or we say “have a great vacation! Email me if you have questions, or we can set up a Skype lesson if need be… We’ll be in touch in August about the September schedule.”

I keep a Google calendar online that allows students to look up when I am available (or not available) in case they decide they want to schedule a lesson.

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