My private music teaching career began in 1963. I was sixteen years old and not at all sure about a career direction. Having studied the guitar since the age of fourteen, I was involved in music but certainly not committed to it. Chance rather than planning played a major role in what was to become a life long career and commitment. In the spring of 1963, I was practicing my guitar lesson in the kitchen of my family's home in suburban Philadelphia. A neighbor came over to show my mother an ad that she had read in a local newspaper. This ad was written by a woman who was looking for a guitar teacher to teach her twelve year old son. As there was a transportation problem in their family, they needed someone to come to the house.
I went to the phone and began calling the number. My mother asked what I was doing and objected because “I didn't know how to teach”. My response was “I know exactly how to teach”. With the conviction of my response, my mother let me make the call. Such was the booking of my very first student. Being sixteen and lacking a car, my mother drove me each week to teach. Not long after that, I developed some independence of transportation and began teaching other students in the same neighborhood. I continued through word of mouth to develop students in other neighborhoods. Sometimes this involved teaching multiple students in the same household and sometimes friends on the same block.
I also began to develop students that came to the family home. My studio was located in the recreation room and had a private entrance. For the next three years, I continued developing my schedule in these two ways. A small music store opened within ten minutes of my home and I applied for a teaching position. I taught in the afternoons and on Saturday. When the store went out of business, those students came to my home studio, representing a significant increase in my teaching schedule.
Music in general and teaching specifically began to absorb more and more time, forcing me into my first major decision. I had always been extremely active in sports. Now, teaching was interfering with after school sports practice and performing with a band was interfering with weekend games. I resolved the conflict by quitting sports in my senior year of high school. Though it was not a popular decision at school, it was the official launch point for my music career.
At age nineteen, my father was transferred to Texas. I was about lose my home teaching studio. Since I attended college in Philadelphia, I made the decision to stay in the area rather than relocating to Texas. I found the largest music store in the area and applied for a teaching position. Since I was bringing my own home students to study at this store, I was able to negotiate a higher percentage of the weekly teaching fee. For all students that the store scheduled for me, I was paid the lower and standard fee. I continued to build my teaching schedule up to ninety five students per week while attending college full time. Because I had three times as many students as any other teacher, I was offered the position of director of the music school which I accepted.
The retail store moved the school to a new location a block away. This facility was devoted exclusively to the music school. It was during this time that I began to develop the organizational skills needed to run a private music school. This included advertising, billing, developing policies and marketing. At age 27, I left the school and opened my own music school. Fortunately, all my students made the transition forming the initial basis for my new school. The school was located in a older two story building with stain glass windows and pocket doors. With the help of my father, we incorporated the school, furnished the building and had a parking lot built.
Ultimately, the school had twelve teachers, over 400 students and included workshops, seminars and group classes. We also opened a guitar and bass repair center in the basement. One of the back rooms was devoted to graphics which were used for promotional material and a brief look at the music education publishing business. The school also developed contracts with local schools and organizations which provided additional sources of revenue.
After five years, the school began to take so much administrative time, that I decided a change was needed. Taking four of the school’s teachers, I moved to a smaller facility in the same town. Instead of the traditional arrangement with the teachers, we developed a teaching co-op. Each teacher reserved his own studio for a specific number of teaching units per week. We determined the total number of teaching units available and developed a percentage of shared expenses for each teacher. In this situation, the teacher not the school collected the fees and paid their percentage of expenses. This proved to be an easier way to continue the school as it relieved me of the time required to schedule, bill and collect tuition. Because the overall expenses were so much lower, it proved to be more profitable for all concerned.
This co-op organization continued for the next three years. I had in those three years begun to develop a desire to be independent of organization in general. I began the construction of a custom built teaching studio and waiting room attached to my home. The studio’s construction required a variance from zoning ordinances and necessitated a twenty thousand dollar debt which was paid off in time. The studio long after being paid off continues to operate as the base for my private teaching.
Throughout all teaching transitions, I continued to give concerts, do recording sessions, play shows and pursue an active playing career.
Future plans include more private teaching, books, seminars, workshops, videos, performances, recordings and consultation.