Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Town, New Studio, PART 1

You just got the word that your husband (ok, since it's my story, MY husband) has just gotten a better job!  It's got a great health plan, it's at a great university, and the town is much bigger than the current one.  And it doesn't smell bad on hot days.  WIN!

But.  You've worked for 3 years to get your studio to where it is.  And your playing gigs.  And your friendships.


Gotta do it all again.  What to do? 
[Note: I've done this .. let me see -- five times now.  I'm getting good at this]

FIRST: google your new location.  Figure out the area.  Is this a single town in the middle of nowhere?  A metroplex?  Big city?  Suburb?  Good stuff to know. 
ARE YOU Planning to stay there. Like -- grow old and die there? Or is this a stop in your bigger journey? 
[Note, again.  I tend to still approach a move the same as far as intensity goes, but if you're planning a lifetime here, be even more careful not to put your foot in it.]

Then start googling, for instance, "mid-michigan flute."  You want to know who's there.  Google it as "flute teacher, flute performer, flute lessons, etc."  If you get some studio websites, bookmark them.  If there's a university or college, note who the flute professor(s) are.  Realize that these folks are your entry points.  DO NOT piss them off.

Start calling music stores and ask for the names of their best flute instructors.  Don't stop at just one call.  Call the local schools (high school, college, etc.) or email them.  Ask the same questions.  Ask, "Who's the 'queen bee' flute teacher out here?"  If you get the same one or two names, google them.  Then get their phone numbers/emails. 

Here's the tricky part. 

Figure out who YOU are first.  Are you a new, young teacher, just happy to get started?  Just a couple students?  Are you a more experienced teacher?  In it for some better money?  Or are you angling to become the Queen yourself?  (If it's the last one, keep it to yourself... you need to know the territory before you do that.)

If you're young and getting started, simply email the professor at the college (or whomever seems to be the highest on the totem pole).  Tell them you'll be moving there sometime in the next few months, and would be honored to have their input.  Be brief.  They don't want your entire damned life story.  State it like this:
"I'm a flutist and private teacher, looking to pick up a few students when I get to Middleville, USA.  I have my Bachelor's degree in flute from Okedokey U, where I studied with Ann LeAwesome, and I taught a group of beginners at a local school. My husband I are coming to Middleville because he got a job in the Geology department, and I really am looking forward to settling in there. Will you give me some suggestions on how to get started there in your town?"

That's really all they need to know, right?  It states your pedigree (bachelor of flute, with what teacher), and your history (taught some beginners), and your intent to stay for a while (getting settled in).  They won't care about your lumbago or your parakeet.  You might add a link to your website, but don't count on them reading it. 

Now, this is the bare beginning. 

Every single time I've moved, it's taken at least (AT LEAST!!!) two YEARS to get my studio to be self-sustaining.  By that, I mean that you start getting enough referrals from current students to replace drop outs and graduates.  This has taken as many as 3 years, but usually 2. 

Once you've emailed or called some flute teachers there, you need to start to take some action.  Ask ALL the flutists you know for suggestions on who to call, places that need teachers, band directors who are awesome, people you can trust. 

REMEMBER: first impressions are totally important.  When you call, be articulate.  Be clear.  Don't blather on and on.  Don't down-talk your previous acquaintances.  The music world is small and incestuous.  The band director who was an ass to you in Indiana could well be the former roommate and best friend of your next sugar-daddy band director.  Keep your negatives to yourself. 

ALSO:  nobody is your own personal self-help book.  Everybody had their own life to live. Don't constantly badger ANYONE for help.  If you know someone is a great resource, make it a point to contact them occasionally for strictly personal reasons -- to praise their work, to ask them how they are doing, to chat.  Don't give in to the temptation to add 'just a little favor' request at the end.  People feel used when you use them.  Don't do it.

If you look at them as a mentor, acknowledge that.  It's flattering, and it defines your relationship.  If they know that they are your mentor, they will be more likely to be forthcoming with advice and suggestions.  Thank them.  Give them credit.  Praise them to others.  What goes around, comes around. 

Right now, as you are getting to know the territory and the inhabitants, (if you're anything like me) you're going to forget who is who sometimes.

Be a dork.  Make a chart.  Seriously.
Keep a notebook or something.  Use your smartphone. 
Name and title (Dr., Mrs, first name basis), and position (band director, principal flute in orchestra, etc)
Date of first contact
Method of contact that seems to work best (phone, email, text) and BE SURE to write down the info so you can call them again
*Important: keep track of who introduced you or gave you their name.  You'll want to thank them!  (old fashioned ? YEs.  Good plan?  Even yesser.)
Action: here's where you write down what to do next.  Need to call them back in September?  Can you send them brochures?  Can you come visit their school? Do you need to leave them the heck alone because you got bad vibes?

You won't need this past the first several months, but it sure helps out at first.  It's SUPER bad form to email a band director, make a good contact, set up a meeting, THEN leave them a voicemail as though the emails had never happened.  Makes the person realize that they are not memorable at all to you.  FAIL.

Get a nice stack of those big envelopes that you can send your brochures out in.  You will be sending a lot, if you do it right.  Do yourself a favor and print out the labels with addresses.  If you are snazzy, make attractive return-address labels in some distinctive color or font.  NO COMIC SANS, please.  You just want to have some brand-recognition, if possible.  I use the same watermark on all my pages that I send out (a simple stylized eighth note, nothing too girly or dorky or schmancy).  It's been easy to keep that going for years.

I sent out over 200 envelopes my first semester or so.  I researched all the local schools (elementary, middle, high school, both public and private), and got the names of all their band directors, orchestra directors, and choir directors. 
Why orchestra and choir, you might ask?  Well, imagine this scenario.  A kid is in choir.  She loves choir.  At the end of the year, her mom is at the choir concert and mentions to the director that Kid is interested in learning an instrument.  Probably flute, since they have one under the bed.  Suggestions?  Who could they call to do some lessons over the summer?  (They like the choir director, trust her.  And they don't know the band director.  Who are they going to ask?  Choir director.)  It doesn't hurt to cross-pollinate. 

I googled (and asked everybody I met) the biggest churches in the area.  I looked for their Director of Music.  Sometimes it's listed as Choir Director or Music Minister.  They each got emails to introduce myself, and I followed with an envelope with a brochure to hang in their lobby or jsut to hang on to.  I also added a business card.  THIS is a great way to nab some church gigs.  The business card might just go into the Music Minister's rolodex.  Volunteer to play one free gig at their church (I always specify "regular service or mass, not holiday" because I don't want to take a paying gig from another colleague or myself.  Christmas Eve is not a gig I'd want to play for free, either.).  If you TAKE a gig with a church, I don't care how much you are bored, STICK AROUND afterwards to schmooze.  Don't put away your instrument.  Keep it in your hand so they know that YOU were the flutist they heard.  Keep business cards in your pocket, so they can say, "oooh! My susie is looking for a teacher! Are you taking students?"  Remind them, too, that they can always get your contact  information from the Music Minister.  This ensures that at some point, someone will ask the MM about you, and will keep your name in her mind.  Devious, I know.

More later.

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