I’ve had a series of client appointments lately with musicians working on their teaching bios—an often overlooked part of a website. Here’s the essential: if you’re serious and want to attract more music students, (and more of the “right” students), upgrade your teaching bio. Find out why and how . . .
Why do teaching bios matter?
Think about it from the point of view of the student or parent looking for a teacher. Let’s imagine that a prospective student—or their parent—has gotten referrals to 5 different qualified and experienced music teachers. And you’re one of them.
What’s the next step that person will take?
They’ll look these prospective teachers up online, right?
Think about what they’re likely to find.
Out of the five musicians, one won’t have a website, one will have a site but it hans’t been updated in 5 years, and another one has a site for her performance work but nothing on it about her teaching.
The person looking for a teacher may or may not browse whatever else they can find on these three musicians. They might find YouTube videos of your performances, or your LinkedIn profile, or your performance bio on a website for an ensemble you play with—but that won’t answer that person’s burning questions about your teaching.
Maybe you’re one of the first 3 musicians described or maybe you’re one of the remaining two musicians with websites that are fairly current and have a teaching page.
What does the prospective student find on a musician’s teaching page? And how likely is it to get them to take action and contact you? Think about . . .
What a prospective student (or parent) wants to find out
Their burning questions aren’t about your degrees or the number of years you’ve been teaching. They don’t really want to read the long list of every competition your students have won—although some of all that is good to have on your teaching pages.
It’s just not the most crucial stuff.
So what is?
Prospective students (and parents) want to find out what you’re actually like to work with. They want to get a real sense of who you are. Private lessons are personal. It feels vulnerable, whether you’re 5 or 45 years old.
Parents want to find a teacher they trust and who’ll be a great influence on their child. And adult students want to know that you’re a good person to work with and that you’re the right person to help them level-up their music-making.
So let’s take a look an example of an effective teaching bio. This one is from pianist and educator Walter Aparicio, whom I had the pleasure of working with a while back. Here’s the bio on his piano studio website.
As you read this teaching bio, ask yourself what unstated questions it addresses
“As a teacher, my aim is to help students unlock the meaning and message of any piece of music. For me, teaching and learning are both about exploration, inquiry and experimentation. And I approach each lesson fully committed to spark a student’s imagination and musical understanding through these principles. The joy in my teaching is seeing students’ ideas develop and being there to guide them each step of the way!
Together with my students, we discover a wide range of repertoire, from Schumann, Kurtag, and Prokofiev, to Beethoven, Ravel and Philip Glass. I also equip students with the practical skills of lead-sheet reading, accompaniment styles, transposition and improvisation so they can take their creativity and love of music in many directions.
But my goal is to do more than teach piano. I help students become problem solvers and independent learners, as they find their own artistic voices. I ask lots of questions to help students make their own musical decisions and take ownership of their interpretations. I’ve taught students ages 5 to 68, and have found that at every age, the discovery of how music can communicate and connect people is richly rewarding.
Music is meant to be shared, so with my students each year culminates with a celebratory studio recital. Not only does this create a concrete goal and a sense of accomplishment for students, but it further cultivates the shared supportive studio environment they contribute to and enjoy.”
Where do all the credits go—the boring lists of where you’ve taught, awards, and degrees?
On Walter’s “About” page next to his bio is a sidebar with a series of “at-a-glance” lists. These include his relevant credentials: his current and past teaching affiliations, where he’s presented master classes, and his students’ successes.
The advantage of presenting his material like this is that it makes it easy for readers to see his teaching credentials and easily find whatever category they’re most interested in. Plus, by putting these credits in list format, it leaves him room to address the more engaging questions in the sentence and paragraph format of the bio.
Instead of simply listing the mundane facts of where he’s taught, when, and who, Walter uses his teaching bio to address questions around what’s distinctive about his teaching. He describes who he really is as a teacher and gives readers a real sense of what lessons are like.
Identify the unstated questions: analyze how each paragraph works
By noticing how any effective piece of promo material works, you can learn how to improve you own material.
What unstated questions did you notice were being addressed in the example above? See what you think.
The first paragraph answers the questions What is your aim as a teacher? And How does that play out in lessons? The last sentence in the paragraph addresses the question of Why do you teach?
The second paragraph addresses the question, of What do you focus on in lessons? Here Walter addresses this in terms of the wide range of repertoire and the breadth of skills he teaches. And he adds why: so that his students “can take their creativity and love of music in many directions.”
In the third paragraph, the unstated question is What results does your teaching provide? Walter addresses the larger goals of his teaching: the transferable life skills that he helps students develop. The second sentence explains How does this play out in lessons? And the last sentence works in the age range that he’s taught and re-emphasizes the larger value and gratification that he offers students.
In the final paragraph, we get the answers to the questions of How does performance fit into teaching studio goals? and What are studio recitals like? We learn that these are approached as celebratory events that contribute to a “shared supportive studio environment.” This conveys a sense that Walter is not simply teaching individuals but that he welcomes them into a community of positive learning.
Here’s the thing . . .
The #1 problem with most teaching bios is they don’t address the real questions readers have.
Focus on answering your intended reader’s questions. Clarify who you’re writing for. Are your dream students advanced high school students? Adult amateurs? Beginners wanting group classes?
Be specific. Choose a targeted group and write with those students (or their parents) in mind. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Think what questions that person would most want answers to.
Then draft your bio material addressing one question at a time.
Too often we try to cram too many ideas into one sentence or one paragraph. We use clichés instead of thinking harder about what we really mean to say. We skim the surface instead of taking the time to examine our intentions and motivations as teachers.
Slow down. Get honest. Think one question at a time.
Writing prompts to the rescue
When I work with clients, we end up having a series of conversations to tease out HOW they teach and what’s distinctive about their teaching. We dig deep to get at the goals behind their teaching.
To get you started, think about the last time you taught a lesson and had a moment when you felt LUCKY to be doing this work. Keep that memory in mind as you complete the following prompts:
My aim as a teacher is to . . .
Beyond the musicianship skills I teach, my goal is to help students achieve . . .
For me, the most rewarding part of teaching is . . .
In lessons my students and I . . .
I love teaching because . . .
With the raw material from these prompts, you’ll be a lot closer to having an effective and memorable teaching that helps attract your ideal students.
Why upgrade your teaching bio
In working with clients on their teaching bios I’ve found that many have never taken the time to answer such questions. They haven’t articulated for themselves what’s distinctive and effective in their teaching.
One of the reasons I love helping clients upgrade their promo materials is that this process of clarifying your WHY—your mission—can be transformational. Musicians often come away with a renewed energy and commitment to the work they do. They gain a new sense of the value they bring to the world. And they gain the confidence that comes from being centered in your life purpose and moving forward in your career.
So how will all this attract more students?
Think about it. When you can articulate your value as a teacher and clearly describe what’s distinctive in your teaching, what you value, and why—then networking, self-promotion, and recruiting conversations all become easier.
As for the teaching bio on your site, the goal is to clearly convey what’s most relevant to prospective students. Address their concerns. Communicate what you offer and why—and invite interested readers to contact you.
An effective bio is a call to action. Help readers take action—include a link so they can easily email you to set up a time to talk or meet online.
Use these tips to step more confidently into the next chapter of their career—so you can become the artist and educator you are meant to be.
For more help with your teaching bio read this post on clarifying your promise.
And check out this one on describing your teaching.
Have a question about your teaching bio? Hit me up in our exclusive Musicians Making It Facebook group—happy to have you join the conversation!
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well