How to Balance Performing and Teaching

Do you perform in your community? Or anywhere else, for that matter?  Do you ever feel like balancing what’s best for your performing career with your teaching studio is like walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon?  In Stiletto heels?

Balancing Perfoming and Teaching feels like thisPerforming is a great way to be visible in your community, and can even bring in some new students. But performing and teaching have competing needs.

To perform your best, you need to be healthy and stay away from sick people.  But when you teach, you’re exposed to the giant petri dish that is people living in groups.

To teach your best, you need to maintain a consistent schedule. But to perform, you need to be available during prime teaching hours, for traveling, and sometimes on short notice.

Teaching probably brings in a LOT more money than performing.  But performing feeds your soul and you NEED to do it.

Making mistakes is how we learn… what can you learn from mine?

The first year I taught, I made a lot of mistakes in this balancing act. I had a flat monthly rate and I didn’t make up lessons missed by students.  But I would make up lessons that were cancelled for rehearsals or weather.   It cut into my limited free time, and exhausting me further. I even thought about NOT performing so that I could always be consistent for my students.  My heart felt as heavy as lead at the thought.

The next year I got a little better.  I knew that I needed to perform SOME – maybe not tons, but a few concerts a year plus a church job. I also figured out (duh) that I had to take care of myself if I was going to perform my best. I structured days off for performing into my annual lesson schedule, and wrote it into my policies.

This was better, but I still had a problem if I got really sick or if we had a Minnesota snowpocalypse.  I also had a problem if a gig popped up at the last minute. The next year was when I started the monthly all-studio make up lessons.  They are my slush fund for unplanned absences by me OR by students.

Balance Achieved (nearly)

Five years out, I’m nearly where I want to be.  I plan a couple weeks off for performances and rehearsals when I figure how many lessons are in a year. I count our annual recital as everyone’s lessons for that week, and I take the following week off. I have 6-7 make up lessons each year to give all my students  an option for a little more teacher time. I figure in 1 week off for professional development. And, I figure in  a few weeks off that are REAL vacation.  2 in the summer, 2 during the holidays (1 week is normally performances), and various holidays. I teach 43 weeks per year.

So how much performing do you need to keep your soul nourished? How can you build that time off into your annual calendar?  What else could you change about your studio’s structure to accommodate your performances and rehearsals? Remember, you can make changes gradually – figuring this out is a process, not an event.

Your performing experience adds value for your students

Students gain a lot from learning with an active performer: you can give them strategies to deal with performance anxiety. You can teach presentation, poise, and how to salvage a musical train wreck because you’ve lived it many times.  You may have connections that will help students who want music as their career.

Set Expectations + Meet Expectations = Happy Students

If you tell students what to expect and then you meet those expectations, your students will be happy. Even if you take 12 weeks off for performing, and 5 weeks off for vacation each year.

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