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 Sliding scale for lessons
Author: bmcgar 2017
Date:   2019-03-02 01:03


Now that I'm pretty much retired from an unrelated profession, I'm beginning to teach individually again now that I can be in my home area full time. Previously I taught part time in a fairly affluent town, and had enough students who could afford my full rate and fill the hours I had available.

Now, because I want to expand my teaching, and also because interest in private lessons is very low in this part of Virginia, I'm going to have to branch out to three counties to collect enough students to make travel and scheduling worthwhile. More than that, though, I'm going to have to find a way to make lessons affordable out here in the sticks.

With the exception of a very few places, most students in this area would not be able to afford my normal rate, employment being mostly in the service areas and in other areas that don't pay much. I'd expect to get one, maybe two, students from each high school at the most, which means that "economy by volume" won't happen.

I'm not out to make a bundle of money; I'm more interested in getting kids interested in instrumental music than I am making much of a profit, but I can't (and would never) teach for free.

I want to make lessons affordable for motivated students, and I think that charging on a sliding scale based on income might work. I'd like to hear how others have gone about this. Is it feasible? Is it worthwhile? How should I structure my scale?

Thanks for your help.


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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-03-02 02:32

Find out what the going rate is for other teachers in each area and charge a "normal" rate that corresponds to the local economy.


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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: donald 
Date:   2019-03-02 06:23

Here's what I would do in this situation... Charge a rate that was in line with the other teachers in the area (so they don't perceive you are undercutting them, and endangering their livelihood).
Then, any students (from disadvantaged background) who show that they work hard and enthusiastically - give THEM extra time and commitment, maybe donating the odd mouthpiece and ligature now and again. This way you are helping the student, but they have to make a commitment first. AND you are doing this without undercutting the other teachers. Dn

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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: bmcgar 2017
Date:   2019-03-02 07:57

Thanks, but I can't charge the rate of other teachers because there virtually aren't any who are clarinet and saxophone specialists. The only clarinet and sax teachers who I know of are university music school students giving lessons, and they are confined to the one "affluent" town in the area. The few other teachers in the area who I know of are instrumental generalists.

With a few exceptions in this are, if you don't pluck or bow it, it's off the radar here.

What I was hoping to get is information about how others may have handled a sliding scale for lessons, and if it worked for them.



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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-03-02 08:50

I personally think the sliding scale idea is going to put too big a burden on you (what are the criteria; what happens when Jane finds out what Dick is paying and wants the lower rate).

Even if "generalists" are all that's out there, I'd use their rate. At some point whatever the going financial burden is, that is a part of what reflects the students's commitment (at least that of their parents).

Maybe a better idea outside the box would be to come up with some sort of "barter" arrangement. That way you don't even have to worry about reporting a taxable income. Just a thought.

..................Paul Aviles

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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2019-03-02 09:20

I adamantly believe that you should charge the prevailing rate that private teachers of other instruments are charging.

If there aren't enough students in a prospective service area who are able to pay the going rate, that's a market that is not worth pursuing.

If you go ahead and charge a sliding rate, be prepared for some unpleasant situations down the road. It won't take too long before parents of lessons students get together after a concert or the annual awards night and your services become the topic of discussion--eventually, some parents will find out that they are being charged more than others, and some of those full-pay clients WILL cancel out, making that market even less viable for you.

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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2019-03-02 09:28

Looks like Paul posted while I was composing my response...

His suggestion of barter is an alternative arrangement that I've used and this can be a big win-win for everyone concerned. I've provided an instrument and lessons to the child of an HVAC technician in exchange for his services. We both got a lot more value out of this arrangement than if we had paid each other cash for the same services.

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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: bmcgar 2017
Date:   2019-03-02 10:46

I like the barter idea a lot.

That might work extremely well in this situation as long as I can muster enough cash-paying students to offset expenses.

We'll see what happens.

As to my charging students who I know would be able to pay my usual rate the rate that student teachers and non-specialists charge so that I can "compete" for students, I won't do that.

At a certain point in life one has to say "no" to such things, even if it means a washout. (Yes, it's pride talking...backed by reputation, history, and credentials.)

Thanks, folks!


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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: Tobin 
Date:   2019-03-02 17:29

Glad to hear you’re getting back into it, Bruce!


Gnothi Seauton

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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2019-03-02 19:07

While finding the correct fee to charge isn't necessarily quick or painless - it is relatively easy.

Start by charging what you need to get out of the endevor. If your prices are "right" for your market - you'll find the perfect workload. If your prices are too high, you'll have too little demand. If your prices are too low, you'll have too much demand.

To determine the fee you should start with, I'd recommend looking at the other service industries (plumbing, auto mechanics, IT support, etc. - as well as other instructors). An average of these will give you a ballpark of what your local market expects to pay per hour.

When I was giving lessons, I had one fee. However, that fee was somewhat flexible, as I travelled a lot on unrelated business. If I happened to be in one of the towns where the student lived, the student's family would pay my entire fee. However, if one of the families was passing through the city in which I lived, I charged them a bare minimum charge ($5 or $10) because they had already incurred travelling expenses for 160+ miles. (There were no competitors to "undercut," so that wasn't an issue.) Likewise, charity isn't forbidden.

I realize these things all have to fit with the region you're working/living in. In my neck of the woods, it's all about helping the kids. Our school bands can sometimes be counted on two hands.

Even the college offered (offers?) severely discounted lessons to students willing to drive the 80+ miles to receive a lesson.


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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2019-03-04 02:55

Rarely do I give a discount, but if the literal need exists, and the student works really hard, it does happen.

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 Re: Sliding scale for lessons
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-03-04 03:11

DavidBlumberg wrote:

> Rarely do I give a discount, but if the literal need exists,
> and the student works really hard, it does happen.

I think the problem can be that a teacher will never know about a potentially hard-working student whose family truly can't support the full cost of lessons because that student often won't approach a teacher in the first place.

In an area where organized music schools exist, the problem can be solved by scholarship programs that pay the teachers their regular contracted rate but subsidize the student's fee.

If there are no such schools in a less populated area, it may take a local school music teacher acting as an intermediary to get the student and teacher together. If you start at whatever the going rate is in the area, you can always negotiate a discount if the cost still seems to be more than the individual family can pay. You can start by allowing the student to take lessons less often at the full (local) rate and then offer to increase the frequency at a lower rate if the student shows reliable lesson attendance and practice between lessons.


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