Growing a private teaching studio is hard. Maybe you moved from another city and you don’t know anyone. Maybe you recently graduated and need to start getting your name out there as a professional. Regardless, it’s tough to get your name in some of these tight circles. One of the best ways to build a studio is to go to schools and teach lessons or sectionals for free simply to get face time with students and hope they’ll like you enough to want lessons. But getting directors to bring you in can be tough. They don’t read emails. So how else do you get their attention?

In the past, if you wanted to recruit students by engaging parents and the students directly, you’d have to show up in-person to a performance, be the judge for a competition, or some other situation that positions you as an expert. But getting these gigs can be tough to get, too.

So what do you do to get through all these traditional gatekeepers?

Humans value deep relationships and the trust that come with them. Period.

It’s not about playing the best or teaching the best. It’s not even really about who you know. It’s about who knows you and what they say when you’re not in the room.

Here’s the secret: You need the attention of directors, colleagues, parents, and students. So infiltrate their ecosystem. Start showing up in their social media feeds, provide tons of value with their particular needs in minds, and engage.

It’s that simple.

So how do you just start showing up in their feeds?

Check out this quick list of ideas I’ve made.

Go to local program’s Instagram accounts > click Followers > Engage with them.

  • Find 2-3 photos/videos relevant to music (your common interest) and LIKE them
  • Then COMMENT on at least one of them. Say something valuable and with depth.
  • If it’s an adult, dig around their profile and see if they’re a parent. Leave a comment on a post from the perspective of a professional adult. Don’t just tell them you’re a teacher and saw their kid may need your help.
  • If it’s a student, compliment them on any performances posts or wish them lock on an upcoming competition. Keep it professional and from the perspective of a teacher. Even offer a solution to a technical or musical problem.

Engage with the local school’s music accounts.

  • Find 2-3 posts/videos for each account and LIKE them and COMMENT on at least one.
  • Turn on post notifications so you never miss a chance to engage with their latest posts. This is important as many programs update just a couple times a week. You’ll want to catch the account holder right after they post to be sure they see your activity on their posts.
  • Share their events on your Instagram Story and encourage your followers to attend
  • Praise any posts about student and program accomplishments
  • Attend their performances. Post that you’re planning to attend a few days before the event + tag the program’s account so they see it. Make a couple Story posts as you’re there. And shake the director’s hand afterward as you introduce yourself. Then make a final congratulatory Story post.

Create content directed toward students in your area.

  • Make All-State videos when All-State is coming up in our area. Make a list of all the major events happening around you and design content for it.
  • College auditions coming up? Make content about how to handle it, questions to ask on campus, how to choose repertoire, etc.
  • Post stories of you at a coffeehouse in town, at the local orchestra performance, or doing anything else related to music culture featuring your location.

Create more context about yourself within your instrument’s community + the local professionals in your area.

  • Establish yourself as an expert in the broader community. This will bolster social proof of your expertise rather than some of these other ideas that are more 1:1.
  • Collaborate with other influencers that play your instrument and show up on their account. Maybe a LIVE hang out talking about nerdy technical and musical stuff. Or go see them perform and take a selfie. They’ll post it + tag you + get you in front of their audience [where your potential students and parents are already looking].
  • Teach lessons to the camera.
  • Perform solos to the camera.
  • Design posts featuring your warm up routine and teaching curriculum. Make pdf downloads available on your website of exercises you might create.
  • Establish weekly content to keep you on a schedule and to keep people checking back regularly. Maybe that means you implement a weekly practice challenge or release a page of technical exercises.
  • Repost other people’s Instagram Stories to your Story to get their attention. If the local high school is performing a concert, share their Story post to yours. Become part of their community by investing in them before you expect them to invest in you.
  • Repost Stories from other professionals that you think are doing a great job. Curating some content is a great way for people to know what you value.
  • Posts photos and videos of you performing recitals, in the practice room, and onstage with ensembles. Even post photos of you teaching in your private teaching studio.
  • Start an interview show where you interview ensemble directors from around your state about pedagogy and common issues + solutions for your instrument. They’ll share it with their friends and students + you’ve just established a relationship with them in a meaningful way few others will. Extract the audio and post as a podcast, transcribe it as a blog post, and post the full video to IGTV, YouTube, your FB artist page.
  • Create a weekly Q&A show around something musical you’re passionate about and distribute it as a podcast, long form video, and long form text.
  • Publish an article in your state MEA publication to get in front of ensemble directors. Here’s my article on 7 Things You’ll Be Judged On During College Music Auditions as an example.

There are tons of other tactics, including hashtags, geotagging, using face filters to add a fun side to your Stories, caption strategies, and many other considerations for making these pieces of content successful. All of this can sound daunting. It is a lot of work. But you either have money or you have time. And for most of us, we have plenty of time to do this. Maybe it means staying up until 2am, but it’s got to be done. The biggest piece of advice I have is to just get started. Don’t wait to have the highest product value, the nicest camera, the skills to edit video and photos, the right lighting for your studio, etc. Just get started creating and fill in those gaps as you go. It takes time to learn as you get hands-on with these strategies. So get started now and build that studio.