Top 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Music School

Top 10 things I wish I'd known before starting a music school by Kristin Yost from Centre for Musical Minds | composecreate.com

This wonderful insight on the top 10 things to know about starting a music school is from the esteemed Kristin Yost, owner of the Centre for Music Minds and the author of How I made $100,000 My First Year of Teaching Piano! 

The Centre for Musical Minds opened in May of 2008, in the middle of a recession, and on the brink of a depression. The audacity of my dream to own a really great music school was going to happen, regardless of what was going on around me. I knew I could do it but hindsight is 20/20 and eight years has given me a lot of experience that would have been handy when I started.

The long story short is really about money and marketing. Opening a commercial location and managing other teachers is vastly different than being a successful independent music teacher. It is NOT the ‘next step’ if you don’t love administrative work, organization and managing other adults. However, if you have greater desires, owning a music school is extremely rewarding, a lot of hard work, but leaves a wonderful footprint in the community.

Here are my top 10 things I wish I would have known before jumping head first into starting a music school:

10. Starting a music school takes capital

I underestimated how much capital it takes to get a start-up off the ground and pay all monthly expenses at new commercial rates. The cost of internet alone was 40% higher than residential rates for the same level of service. I wish I had known to go in with more capital; two year’s worth would have been perfect. I opened with enough for 6 months, but that went REALLY quickly!

9. Networking is important

I wish I had done more networking with school music teachers and other professionals, so they knew I was there.

8. Starting a music school takes more money than you think

Basically my cost projections were too low. I wish I had allotted an additional 20% into my monthly expenses. If nothing else, for peace of mind.

7. Invest in early advertising

I wish I had done more marketing/advertising initially, so I didn’t have do as much teaching (it’s hard to grow when you’re putting so many hours toward teaching.) Have you checked into the cost of advertising recently? It’s astronomical but when placed well, is worth it.

6. Buy Used Instruments

Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have purchased my instruments (acoustic grand pianos) used, rather than financing with a retail store.

5. It takes a community when starting a music school

I read somewhere that we are a collection of the 5 people we spend the most amount of our time with. Be strategic about where you get your ideas. I wish I would have sought out more possible partnerships with other strong teachers in my area. As an example, I would love to have a steady voice instructor on my faculty. What if I would have partnered with someone who was established and that shared my vision?

4. Invest in a solid financial house

Your financial house MUST be made of a strong foundation. I wish I would have started with an accountant for day-to-day record keeping AND a separate CPA my first year, instead of my second. That would have saved a lot of hassle and I would have much better reports to look back on from year 1.

3. Marketing psychology is real

I wish I would have known more about marketing and what makes people buy; advertising the school philosophy, consistently highlighting other teachers and focusing on what the school can do for the community, instead of my pedigree. That was a big eye-opener…everyone was requesting me specifically, not my philosophy, like I thought they would. That’s a big challenge going from a strong home studio/brand, to branching out.

2. Know the difference between employee vs. contractor

I would have hired employees, instead of contractors my first year. As an employee, you can do training, and I underestimated how different my approach actually was compared to what is being taught in traditional teaching programs.

1. Money – what I didn’t know

I wish I would have known how much I would NOT be making in the first 3 years of the business being open! I bootstrapped, and it was tough. Starting a music school is extremely rewarding in spite of the hard work involved. But I love the wonderful footprint it leaves in my community.

Starting a music school is extremely rewarding in spite of the hard work involved. But I love the wonderful footprint it leaves in my community.

What are your thoughts? What things do you wish you’d known before starting a music school?

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Kristin Yost
Kristin YostOwner of Centre for Music Minds

Kristin Yost founded The Centre for Musical Minds in 2008 in Frisco, Texas. Teacher, presenter and author, Yost likes to travel, spend time with her dog and experiment with iPhone photography. For more information about her school or her professional accomplishments, visit CentreforMusicalMinds.org and KristinYost.com.