Where Does Your Tuition Money Go?

The first day of school is right around the corner and I am in the midst of preparation for the new academic year in my studio, Asberry School of Music. Study upon study has demonstrated the positive impact musical training has on brain development and academic success as well as emotional and behavioral growth, not to mention the sheer joy music making itself brings. But occasionally a parent asks me this question: exactly what do my tuition dollars pay for?

Piano teaching is my passion and my full-time career. I earned my Master of Music degree in Piano Performance and Piano Pedagogy from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and have been teaching piano privately since 1979. I keep up my own practice, perform regularly, and am a frequent adjudicator, writer and speaker. So in part, monthly tuition pays for my knowledge, experience and expertise.

But there’s so much more. Statistics suggest that for every hour enrolled in piano lessons, students are actually investing at least two hours of the teacher’s time. I spend countless hours on behalf of my students outside of lessons, including but not limited to such things as:

Planning curriculum and acquiring music for each student.
Scheduling lessons, planning students’ repertoire, communicating with parents (emails, phone calls, text messages, studio newsletter, studio website, Facebook page), planning and physically preparing for recitals and festivals, adjudicating area festivals, attending local and state music meetings and seminars.
Attending meetings, workshops and conventions to continually improve my teaching skills.
Performing organizational tasks involved with planning festivals, recitals, competitions, auditions, and other performance events.
Attending festivals, recitals, competitions, auditions and other performance events.
Belonging to and volunteering many hours to music organizations: Gwinnett County Music Teachers Association, Decatur Music Teachers Association, Georgia Music Teachers Association, Music Teachers National Association, and the National Federation of Music Clubs. Teachers must be active members of these groups for their students to participate in the festivals, competitions, and auditions.

So what exactly does monthly tuition pay for?

My time spent with student in lessons, performance classes and rehearsals, as well as time spent at recitals, festivals, and competitions
My time spent on behalf of my students outside of lessons, as detailed above.
Business expenses such as recital expenses, gifts and awards, certificates, repairs and maintenance of the piano(s) and studio, software, incentive programs and prizes, professional membership dues and journals, teacher expenses incurred in festivals and competitions, materials, postage, and normal operating expenses any small business incurs (i.e. telephone, internet, electricity, copies, etc.)
Continuing education such as conferences, conventions and workshops to help keep me current on methods and techniques of teaching and playing,  attendance at concerts and other musical events that cost money to attend.
Going to the music store or purchasing music online, incurring travel expenses or shipping charges that are not passed on to the student when billing for books.
Property taxes, self-employment taxes, health insurance, business insurance, retirement; since I am self-employed, I have no company to assist with these and do not have the benefit of sick days, paid vacations, disability insurance, etc.

It is clear that monthly tuition payments cover much more than the actual one-on-one time I spend with children at lessons each week. Each student registered at Asberry School of Music is scheduled to receive 36 lessons per academic year. For ease in billing and budgeting, tuition is prorated equally over 11 months, August through June, for all activities that occur throughout the entire academic year, not only for individual lessons.

The investment parents are making in music lessons today will provide lasting benefits throughout theirchildren’s lives and is one of the best investments they can make in their children’s futures. I trust that my own students’ parents consider their tuition dollars money well spent and am very grateful for the trust they place in me.