Studio Policy Essentials

A good studio policy can make the difference between loving and hating your job as a teacher. While there are many things you can address and ways you can personalize your policy, I would like to talk about two essential areas that can make a big difference in your relationship with your students and their parents.

  • Make-up lessons: This is an area where I think many teachers fail to demand the respect they deserve. Do not let your students take advantage of your valuable time! If you are clear and up front about your policy, parents will respect you and your time.
    • Don’t offer refunds for missed lessons.
    • Don’t offer make-ups for no-shows or late-cancellations (less than 24 hours notice). Some people will think this is unfair in the case of illness, which often doesn’t allow for advance notice. But though it may seem unfair to the student, consider that it would also be unfair to the teacher to ask them to reschedule. I am sympathetic to the situation, but it doesn’t magically free up my schedule. If, on the other hand, I do happen to have an opening later in the week, I will often offer it to a student who is ill (provided they recover in time, of course).
    • Be clear about how you will handle lesson conflicts for which you do have advance notice. Some teachers offer make-up lessons one Saturday a month. Others have students spend extra time in their computer theory labs. I prefer to give my students a phone list and have them trade with other students when they have a conflict. Occasionally this doesn’t really work (if the student is gone the whole week, for instance), and I will make other arrangements with the student. Because I don’t teach in my home, and I have to arrange childcare anytime I teach, I only teach these rare make-up lessons when I will already be at the studio, and when my husband can easily be home. You may want to limit the number of make-up lessons to one per quarter per student, if you have students who are constantly rescheduling. Don’t be afraid to revise your make-up policy as you discover what does and doesn’t work for you (although don’t spring changes on parents mid-semester—it is probably best to make revisions at the beginning of the calendar year or the school year).

  • Tuition and Billing: This is another area where you want to be very clear and professional. Nothing is more awkward than having to ask a parent to pay you, so it is best if you can set up a system that is very clear, and won’t require a lot of follow-up or maintenance. In fact, if at all possible, I would recommend using a service like to handle your billing automatically, so that you don’t really even have to think about it, and you are guaranteed payments every month.
    Include the following information in your policy:

    • How much is your tuition? How often is it to be paid? Are there any discounts for paying several months up front, or for multiple students in one family?
    • When is tuition due? Is there a late fee?
    • How is tuition to be paid? (include details if you are using an external service, or just make it clear to parents when and where they need to provide payment, so you won’t have to ask for it)
    • Will there be an extra charge for recitals, festivals, and other activities?

There are obviously many other things you will want to include in your studio policy, such as practice expectations, how music purchasing will be handled, recital participation, and calendar events, but these are two areas that, if handled professionally, will significantly increase your happiness as a teacher!

Jennifer Boster

2 Responses to “Studio Policy Essentials

  • These really are some great suggestions! I love how you talked about teachers failing to demand the respect they deserve through the way they handle make-up lessons. I think this is something that I (as well as probably many other teachers) sometimes struggle with a little, because I tend to be "too nice" in a lot of situations. It is so true that we need to be professional and demand respect. Great ideas!

  • Thanks for the ideas. I'm very bad at both of these areas- I've been too lucky in getting responsible and considerate parents. I know it won't last! And I'm so glad you mentioned I'd forgotten all about it!