Recruiting New Students

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    Have you found any one method to be more effective in attracting or recruiting new students than another? What works for you, if care to share your secrets?


    A prospective student wants to know several things about a harp teacher: can they play well, can they teach well, and do they have any connections that will help the student in their career? So, to recruit students, it is necessary to be able to get this information out into the public eye one way or the other. Harp Internet forums, such as this one, are excellent for this, as are YouTube, recordings, a steady gig somewhere, public performances, published compositions, articles in newsletters or magazines, going to conferences and networking with other harpists and teachers, and an informative web site or at least a presence on the web when googled. I don’t know if any one of these is more effective than any other; it depends on what the student is looking for. For example, someone seeking a serious career will be looking for a teacher with plenty of previous experience in turning out great students, and who might be able to help them find opportunities to compete and perform successfully. Someone who is just beginning will be looking for someone with patience who has a history of teaching solid technique.


    Yes, and I remembered that one of the reasons it was a big deal to study with this teacher or that teacher is their network of contacts and former students, and whose network is stronger or more helpful to the next student.


    As a student, the things that draw me to a possible teacher are 1)personality – I want to know a teacher will respect me and be enjoyable to work with, while still being firm in their expectations of me; 2) flexibility – I want to have a choice of repertoire and be able to make some of my own decisions, with the help of a teacher. I don’t want a teacher who will dictate everything I do, but guide me as to what’s in my best interest; 3) ability – a teacher who clearly has a good background and performs at a high level (or has obviously done so at one point, if they no longer perform); 4) a personal connection – I think a teacher should have a good personal rapport with their student, especially at the advanced level, and be somewhat of a ‘life coach’ in addition to just teaching music. Not that they are obligated to fix their students’ problems or anything, but I think a teacher should have a vested interest in their student’s success as an individual.

    I think most people would look for similar things from a teacher. The thing is, they need to be able to find out all those things about a teacher. The internet is the most accessible and far-reaching medium for this. In fact, this might be the only way someone has to find a teacher, especially as a beginner.


    I feel that some of your expectations are a little unrealistic. A teacher may care about their student, but, mostly must stay out of their personal lives. It can get very messy. We are only there to teach music, and don’t see the whole person or life story. It is easy to slip down the road of giving personal advice, but it should not necessarily be encouraged, just like with parents. It is not possible to know all about a teacher, and especially their personality. The teacher’s personal life is not so much part of their teaching, but if you start opening those doors, then it can become too much part of it.

    The internet doesn’t really change anything. It is the teacher’s musical personality that matters most, their knowledge, artistry, talent, willingness to give. Many of the best people I know do not have recordings. Lucile Lawrence only made one solo recording in her life, for pedagogical or preservational purposes. Word of mouth is still important.

    As for repertoire choices, it depends on whether the teacher has


    Actually, I believe the internet has changed things tremendously.


    And by the way, my first memory of that harpist in the movies was a man.


    You clearly misunderstood me. I don’t expect any teacher to delve into my personal life, but the best teachers I have had (and have now) have a genuine interest in my well-being and that of all their students. Music is not a field like chemistry or engineering where a teacher can teach you all you need to know and never remember your name. Music is a highly personal art and if a student is aspiring to be a professional, their teacher must teach them on a personal level. Obviously when it comes to non-musical advice, the teacher should exercise discretion when offering it without being asked. I have spent time at my clarinet teacher’s home and have gotten to know him well, and he knows as much as he needs to about me without prying in any way – and this helps him understand me and how I learn. He also offers me personal advice when he feels it could help me, and that has never been a problem. I don’t know everything about his personal life, nor do I want to (and vice versa). When he was in the hospital this summer for surgery, I visited him and he really appreciated it. That is personal, but not inappropriate. I want to know a teacher’s personality so I know that they will treat me like a human being. I can deal with a hard teacher, but I expect them to treat me with respect, as I treat them with respect.

    The internet is the only way for me to know about things in the harp world that my teacher doesn’t tell me about. In fact, most of what I know about the harp and the harp world comes from online sources. It is the only way for me to know who is where, and doing what in the harp world. It is the only reason I know who you are, for example. When it comes to recordings, it is necessitated now because there is no Salzedo School, there are less public concerts, and honestly people in my generation expect to be able to easily access recordings, and being able to hear how a teacher plays is important. Lucile Lawrence was exceptional (as are some current teachers and performers) in her reputation and abilities, so I doubt she worried much about recruiting students. Her reputation superceded the need for potential students to hear her. Now, there is still word of mouth, but it’s not ubiquitous enough to eliminate the need to be able to hear how a potential teacher plays.

    When it comes to repertoire, I know that every teacher has their progression of pieces for each student that helps them advance at appropriate levels. I agree with this. But a student should have some say in what they play, within reason. Honestly, there are very few harp pieces I don’t like or wouldn’t want to learn anyway. I want to be able to trust a teacher, and I will, if they trust me.

    And I must remind you that your question was not how to be a good teacher, but how to recruit students. Those suggestions I made are only in response to your question about recruiting. I am working to understand the complexities of teaching myself. I am a music education major, after all. I don’t have unrealistic expectations, since I have teachers that fit my ‘criteria’ and in fact, exceed my expectations of a what a teacher can be. They have years of experience, a passion for teaching, and a personal commitment to their students. They also have very high expectations for their students and high musical standards. I am lucky to be at a school with many teachers like I just described. They are definitely the best models for the kind of teacher I would like to be, and they really make me strive to be a better musician, which is really the ultimate goal. Teaching music, or anything, is not a business transaction, but a commitment and a service to society. If I didn’t believe that, I would be a business major and get a job where I only have to worry about my own success and not the success of countless students. High expectations, yes, but not unrealistic.


    I guess the problem is not just recruiting students, but recruiting the right students for the teacher.


    Sure, Vince, I just wanted to address the extreme examples of what you mentioned. When I was just starting out, I took rather too much interest in some of my students’ lives and it did not help things in the end.


    I understand. I know that can become very complicated, and I have been fortunate not to have experienced that situation.


    Are you referring to harp majors? or community harp students? For community based students i have found that information at music stores, especially those that sell harps, has proven the most effective for me. Also, having a website presence linked to useful sites attracts all levels.


    I think the best way to attract students is to produce good students.


    I don’t understand this at all.


    You mentioned that once before, Sam. How does one fish for students on this site, and why is it unethical? And what bait does one use?

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