If you want more of your “ideal” music students—if you want more committed and advanced students—the place to start is with your teaching bio. Think about it: anyone looking for a music teacher who gets a referral to you (or who finds through an online platform) is going to look you up for more info. They’re looking for a sense of who you are as a person and how you teach. And that’s going to determine whether or not they contact you.
So it’s best to view your teaching bio as a call to action.
Prospective students and their parents are trying to find the right match in a teacher. It’s not enough to tell them that you have degrees in music, have performance credits, and that you’re on the faculty at a school. They want more because they’re trying to get a real sense of what you’d be like as their teacher.
Let’s be real: we all make snap judgments about what we find online about anyone. We make assumptions based the bios we read, but also on the photos and, of course, any video. For now, let’s focus on your written material.
Do you actually have a teaching bio?
Hint: it’s not just your performance bio with info about where you’ve taught tacked on at the end. It should be separate from your performance bio and it should be aimed at the needs and interests of your “dream” students—and the work you seek to do more of.
If you have a teaching bio, ask yourself . . .
Does it energize readers: is it an effective call to action?
Teaching bios should prompt your ideal potential students or parents to contact you. To attract your ideal students you need to be clear about how you work. You also want your messaging to help the “not-right-for-you” students see clearly that you aren’t what they’re looking for—it saves everyone time.
What to include? You need more than your degrees, performance credits, and places where you’ve taught. Help your readers get a real sense of HOW you teach. Anyone looking for a private teacher has a zillion options. And that person isn’t going to make a decision based on the school you went to or what groups you perform with. Prospective students and parents want a sense of who you really are and what you’re like in the studio.
The problem is, most of us musicians haven’t articulated how we teach or why we teach. Most of us take our teaching for granted and haven’t clarified—even for ourselves—what we’re aiming for in our teaching (other than better music-making).
Clarify your message: effective bios answer key questions
To write an effective teaching bio take time to reflect on—and write out answers—to the following questions:
- Why do you love teaching? (Be specific)
- How do you help students achieve their goals? (Give examples)
- What results have your students achieved?
- What are the larger, overarching aims of your teaching? (Think beyond music, think transferable life skills)
- If we were to interview your former students or their parents, what would they say you focus on most?
- Particulars: where have you taught, what ages and levels, and what range of repertoire and subjects?
Warning: these questions demand real reflection. Bio writing takes time because it’s iterative. With clients we go back and forth with multiple drafts to help dive deeper and find what’s distinct and true about your teaching.
How do the answers to these questions work into a teaching bio?
Take a look at soprano Jennifer Piazza-Pick’s teaching bio. Read this and notice what questions this bio is answering. Imagine you are a prospective voice student (or the parent of one) and pay attention to what you find compelling, inviting, or engaging in this. Would it get you interested in contacting her?
As a teacher, I consider myself fortunate to have taught talented students from ages 5 to 72 in both individual voice lessons and in the classroom setting. Whether teaching high school students auditioning for college programs, university undergraduates, or adult choristers, I search to design a long-range plan that will guide each student to reach his or her goals.
I approach my private studio teaching with the curiosity of a science lab, where we experiment to find each student’s authentic voice. I want students to sound like themselves and no one else. In each lesson, we work together toward achieving that goal by exploring and devising solutions to technical puzzles and delving deep into the texts. My aim is to teach students how to apply the concepts and problem-solving approaches they are learning so they can use them on their own in the practice room. That way they are on the road to taking charge of their own lifelong learning. I also guide them to explore their own humanity to learn to bring the text alive. Because I value diversity, I strive to assign repertoire from a wide-range of composers, not simply the ones in the traditional vocal canon.
As a classroom teacher, I design course plans with the desired outcome in mind: what students will be able to do by the end of the semester or year. I then plan backwards from the goals to incorporate student-centered learning: group work, creative assignments utilizing technology, and lively class discussions to help students become empowered learners. My goal is to provide a classroom environment that feels safe enough for students to take risks, ask questions, and connect the course material to their own life experience in order to create curious leaners.
I have had successful private studios in Texas, Virginia, and Maryland, as well as in Heidelberg, Germany. My students have gone on to study at prestigious schools like the University of Houston and Yale University. They have been finalists and winners at NATS, Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition, TMEA All-State and Solo competitions, Golden Voices Competition, American Protégé Competition, and the Hal Leonard Vocal Competition.
At the collegiate level, I have taught everything from Applied Lessons, Class Voice, and Opera Workshop, to Music Appreciation and Sight Singing and Ear Training as an adjunct instructor in three states. As a teaching assistant, I’ve aided professors in undergraduate diction, undergraduate vocal literature, and undergraduate and graduate vocal pedagogy. I’ve also taught high school-level choir and music theory as well as elementary music and choir. The institutions in which I have worked were diverse student populations, including an HBCU, a university that was 75% Hispanic, and one that focused on working adult learners. No matter the context, I remain committed to fostering the musical and personal growth of each student, creating music lovers for life.
What do you notice? What questions does Jennifer’s bio answer?
Note: this is a substantial bio because Jennifer is highlighting private teaching as well as classroom and especially, college-level work (which is her ideal teaching setting). You certainly don’t need to a lengthy bio, especially if you’re primarily promoting your private teaching studio.
What you most need is to answer key questions in a way that prompts readers to connect with you. So that your bio is an effective call to action.
It’s not about clever phrases and smooth sounding adjectives. What makes this bio work so well for Jennifer is that it reflects who she truly is as an artist and as a teacher.
So yes, be inspired by Jennifer’s bio, and analyze it to see what principles you can apply to clarify your purpose and how you work as a teacher. Just make sure you use your own words and phrases in your bio. Focus on your own truth, not someone else’s.
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Here’s to your forward motion,
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well