Simply Your Own Piano Instructions Business
By Michele Lee
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #67, 2005.
Learn the basics of becoming a successful piano teacher.
A couple years ago, Practical Homeschooling reviewed the Learn at Home
materials put out by Simply Music. Since that time, Simply Music has
decided not to sell additional levels direct to the public, though the
Level 1, Level 2, and Accompaniment programs are still available direct
from the company. So if you proceed through these three programs
independently and want more, what are you to do? You either find a
Simply Music teacher, or you become one yourself.
Given the popularity of the Learn at Home materials, I wondered why the
structure of the business has changed. Here are several good reasons:
- Using a teacher is a more effective way of teaching a larger
percentage of people and getting the word out about how great the
- Instead of the company answering questions from thousands of
students, teachers can be well-trained to answer those questions.
- Students are more accountable to a teacher.
What is required to become a Simply Music teacher? The desire to become
one! Seriously, even if you have never had a music lesson in your life,
or if you are a 30-year veteran at teaching music, you can learn this
system. Teachers as young as 16 are teaching the program to other
students, and making a good income doing so.
The head of the company, Neil Moore, makes sure that his teachers are
trained very well, and provides a wide array of materials to help you
learn every process of the business. The initial materials cost $2,000
(see the sidebar for what’s included) and contain almost
everything you need to get started, with the exception of the student
materials you will need for each student. Additional support is
available at the website if you need it, and you can always call the
company and speak to Neil if you have any questions. In fact, in order
to progress through your initial training, you are required to call Neil
after you have listened to the “Getting Started” CDs.
Depending on your motivation and desire, you can become an accredited
teacher, then an associate teacher, and eventually a senior associate
teacher, which allows you discounts on the materials you need to
progress through the levels. Your accreditation is dependent on moving
at least five students through a level. You don’t need to recruit
other people to teach, or sell anything, but each student does have to
buy the student level materials. A family with more than one student in
your program can share student materials except for the notes book. It
is recommended that each student have his or her own notes book. And all
materials are copyrighted, so you are not allowed to make copies of
anything that you have.
You become a licensed teacher after going through the teacher training
program. After that, each teacher training level that you buy (Level 1
is included in your training materials) is $150. This amount is
discounted for associates and senior associates.
There are other fees as well. For each student you teach, you are
required to pay the company $2 per student per lesson for the first 30
lessons taught each week, and $1 per student per lesson for lesson 31
and up of that same week. So if you teach 32 lessons per week, you would
pay the company $62 for each week. These fees are due at the end of each
month, and there is a form for keeping track of these fees, called the
Education Fee Schedule. All fees are explained on the website and in the
materials you get.
There is also the cost of advertising, but this is up to each teacher.
Word of mouth seemed to be the best form of advertising, although one
teacher I talked to said she paid between $500–$1000 per year for
advertising. Advertising materials are provided in your training
program, with additional materials on the website.
Are these fees reasonable? The teachers I interviewed said that the fees
are minimal compared to the amount of money they are making teaching
Simply Music. Hourly incomes range from $17 to well over $100, depending
on whether the lessons are private or shared. Obviously, if you are
teaching four or five students (or more) in a shared lesson, you can
make a lot more money. Shared lessons are encouraged by the company.
Location didn’t seem to be a consideration when deciding on fees.
Those in small towns were able to make as much as those in larger
cities. One thing Neil encourages teachers to do when setting fees is to
ask more than teachers in the area who teach a traditional method. The
student receives a lot more in a fraction of the time, so this makes
Fees and income aside, what is it that makes Simply Music such a great
program, and worth teaching instead of traditional lessons? Aside from
the fact that you don’t need any training except what Simply Music
provides to become a piano teacher, your students don’t learn to
read music right away—they learn to play music right away. This
makes a huge difference in their motivation to practice and keep up with
the program. A variety of aids are used to teach students the basics of
playing, all of which are covered in the training materials. Emphasis is
not on technique, like Suzuki, but daily practice is required. Lynn
Frank, who taught traditional lessons for 30 years before finding Simply
Music, switched all of her traditional students over, and they all loved
the program—even one who was hesitant about it at first.
Bernadette Ashby, who had no musical background before Simply Music, has
had several traditional students and says that the switch to Simply
Music was no problem for them, and that they also love the program.
Not only is the teaching method different, but the way of thinking about
music is different as well. Bernadette Ashby even goes so far as to say
that the program is a “life-changing, profound experience.”
Lynn Frank says that with the program, you are “learning a way to
learn.” Karen Gibson, a three-year Simply Music teacher with
little previous musical background, had this to say about the program:
“The look of amazement on the faces of new students as they leave
their first or second lesson playing a song with both hands is typical.
Yet in spite of the method’s seeming simplicity, it is very
thorough. It provides a deep and thorough knowledge not only about
playing piano, but also about music, and how it is put together. The
program also produces consistent results.”
The strengths of the program are many. It teaches students to think
musically. Students learn a wide variety of musical styles instead of
just classical. Students learn how to accompany. All ages are able to
play. Students have an easier time learning to read music when they come
to that. And it’s fun. The weaknesses? One main weakness: that the
method isn’t as well-known as it should be, so people unfamiliar
with it may be uncomfortable about its unique approach. Your teacher
training materials include videos to show to prospective students so
they can see how the method is different from traditional methods, and
why it is so successful.
But how do you explain to a music teacher with a master’s degree
in music that anyone can learn to teach students to play piano by using
this method? They want proof, so lots of testimonials are provided in
the materials that you get. Ways to talk to people about the program are
also included in your training materials.
Students who go through the program typically have a repertoire of about
40-50 songs from a wide variety of genres that they can play after about
a year. This is without reading music. How many traditional students do
you know with that kind of repertoire? Which brings up another possible
weakness pointed out by Karen Gibson. She said that because the program
is so easy to learn, students may feel like they need to be learning
more than they are. If they’ve never taken traditional lessons,
they can sometimes feel that knowing only 20 or so songs after six
months isn’t enough!
People of all ages can learn the program, so if you feel like you missed
out on your life calling as a concert pianist because you didn’t
start lessons at age 3, you can still learn to play piano. The program
has also been successful with students who have disabilities. In fact,
Neil started the program after teaching this method to a blind child.
Lynn Frank teaches an autistic child, and says that learning this
program has not only helped him musically but has helped him with his
reading skills. At the website, there are more stories like this,
including one about a group of inner city kids who put on a concert
after only eight weeks into the program. Michelle Masoner, a Board of
Education member who attended the concert, said this about the Simply
Music program: “…they broke the mold and they set a new standard
for what could be accomplished in a very short time.” She also
called the performances by these children exceptional. A Casio
representative, who initially donated a few keyboards to the school, was
so impressed with the students at the concert that he donated another
100 keyboards to the school.
The website has so much helpful information that it’s hard to know
where to begin. There are snippets of videos about the program, company,
and founder. There is also a teacher locator, and information about the
learn at home materials. Almost all of the news clips about the program
are at the site. And if you buy the teacher training materials, you are
given access to the teacher intranet, which provides information on many
topics, from how to deal with a variety of students, to different ways
of advertising, to teaching strategies, to performances, and much more.
You can get answers to your questions by posting a question on the
message board, or look up answers that have already been posted there
via the search engine, which is very helpful. There are also a number of
coaching conversations that you can download. These address such issues
as how to know when you are ready to teach, managing your time,
assessing students with previous experience, and more. In this area you
will also find support materials such as forms, schedules, manuals, more
advertisement layouts, and other material that will help you be more
efficient. It is recommended that you put your teacher information here,
along with a picture. Neil says in the training materials that having a
picture with your teacher information seems to put people more at ease
when deciding on a teacher.
Along with all of these helpful materials at the site is a place where
you can type in your students’ information so you don’t have
to worry about losing their phone numbers or when they started playing,
etc. You can enter the information as soon as your student shows up for
his or her first lesson. What a great time saver!
Since the program is such a radical departure from other ways of
teaching piano, you have a unique opportunity to teach this new method.
There are so few teachers in many sections of the country, that those
Simply Music teachers have a waiting list of students. This is an
incredible opportunity for the homeschool parent or child looking for a
home business. The initial investment may seem high (the fee was
recently doubled), but compared to the cost of a degree in music, it is
minimal, and your personal and financial rewards could be multiplied
many times over.