One of the driving principles behind Start Teaching Guitar is that we can all learn from each other. This “Guitar Teacher Interview” series is a chance for us to hear from other guitar teachers around the world and hopefully get some ideas for our own teaching businesses.
This interview is with Justin Horenstein, from the Washington DC-area, in the state of Maryland, USA. To find out more about Justin and his teaching business, visit his website at http://www.olneyguitarlessons.com
Guitar Teacher Interview
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What’s your background?
I live in Maryland in the DC metro area. I graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 2006, toured the U.S. in different bands, and started my own teaching business. I have been teaching part-time off and on since high school, but only recently in the past few years made a much larger investment in it. I still play in a band in the DC area and try to tour as much as my schedule allows.
Tell us about your guitar teaching business. Are you doing it part-time or full-time? How many students are you currently teaching?
I have been teaching in more of a full-time capacity since 2010. Before that I taught lessons at a music store and had a few students on the side. Right now my roster consists of approximately 22 students, and seems to fluctuate between 14 and 23 any given week.
I typically travel to students’ homes all over the county I live in, but since I just bought my first house and am moving in June, I will be opening the doors to my brand new lesson studio!
I usually only offer one-on-one private lessons because of the environments I teach in. I do have an organized system and methodology to get my students the best results from their private lessons – of course with tons of help from Start Teaching Guitar!
What’s been the biggest key to success in your teaching business so far?
I think being flexible and down to earth with people. I think it’s difficult to find an instructor who will listen closely to their students and their parents and make every effort about THEM. Also, being honest and direct, but flexible will score major points in the long-run. I’ve always tried to treat people with the same honestly and flexibility that I would want in return.
What’s been your most effective way of attracting new students?
Word-of-mouth, and Craigslist ads. It is still a huge challenge to have an influx of new students all the time, but being the best instructor you can be is the first step. If you give each lesson 110% and make your students happy, your name will come up more often when people want recommendations on guitar instructors.
What’s been your most effective way of keeping your existing students from quitting?
As instructors we need to keep things fun and interesting. I have made my share of mistakes, but the bottom line is that you have to be in tune to what your students want. It’s really not that difficult to see when a student is unhappy. Typically it’s because they feel like they aren’t progressing or working on music they really enjoy. The trick is to teach them the mandatory concepts they need to learn, but rounding it out with the fun stuff they crave. This is one of the hardest balancing acts because most beginner students don’t realize how much work it takes to become proficient on guitar. As long as you can help them achieve their goals, then they will keep coming back.
What helps to keep you motivated to continue when things don’t seem to be going as well as you would like?
My motivation comes from the fact that I love what I do. As private music instructors, we are able to keep the schedule that works out best for our lifestyle and as a musician, I wouldn’t want it any other way! Even when times are tough, I’m still doing what I love and in turn helping people make progress on something they are really interested in. That helps me to keep going.
What advice would you have for someone who would like to get started teaching guitar lessons for the first time
Get organized! You learn a lot as you go along, but planning out goals, and keeping everything tidy down to your day-to-day tasks will be super helpful. It also gives you a sense of clarity and motivation. I have a binder set up with student files, goal sheets, transcriptions, etc. and it’s a great thing.
Even though I have been teaching for a while, the Start Teaching Guitar site has helped me to really organize myself to propel me forward. Being able to have everything in place has allowed me to be completely prepared for each lesson, and in turn makes each session more productive for the student. This leads to more progress for both the student and the business.
Can you share one tip that has worked for you to help your students get better results on the guitar
Have your transcriptions/lesson plans done ahead of time. Not being organized in a lesson was one of my biggest pitfalls. It was a waste of time for both the students and myself. Now that I am always prepared, there is more time to teach in each session and have the student make more progress. Plus it is way more fun to play guitar together, rather than trying to figure out a song or guitar solo on the fly.
Well, that’s it for today’s Guitar Teacher Interview. If you’d like to be considered for a future interview, enter your name and email address below to join the Start Teaching Guitar community. I send out occasional interview requests to this mailing list.
If you have any questions, comments or feedback please leave a reply below!