Canadian Music Trade December / January 2023 | Page 21

students need to connect with their instructor on a personal level . We ’ ve all had that one teacher that stands out in our lifetime as being our favourite one , and we encourage our instructors here to remember why they liked that teacher so much , and implement those same skills with their students .
CMT : What are some evergreen tips you would give to others ?
Wentworth : You have to have a reason to make sure that students return , not only weekly , but hopefully for many years . Accountability is the big one here . The students need to have a focus or goal . For us , we have been very successful by putting together a themed bi-annual concert , that showcases the students ’ skills in a band scenario . This needs to be done in a “ big ” way . You can ’ t just rent a hall or a church and have little Timmy get up to play “ Twinkle Twinkle Little Star .” Utilize your local theatre — they have the seats , and quite often a PA , lighting , video , etc . Put together bands using as many of the students as possible . Get as many kids as possible up on a stage in front of the cheering crowd . If their skill level isn ’ t quite there yet , put the teacher up as well , and have the student play a less complicated part beside them . Our bands will range from 10 to 30 people . Pick songs that most people know and like . Keep it fun and positive back stage , and hire a good MC .
CMT : What benefits and challenges come with operating a lessons program as part of a retail business ?
Wentworth : It adds more to the bottom line , and functions as a symbiotic relationship . Sales lead to lessons , and lessons lead to sales . The biggest challenge is finding the right people that will understand your philosophy , and work with you to see it through .
CMT : How can the sales and lessons departments help each other ?
Wentworth : This is pretty self-explanatory , but for some reason quite often the sales team and the teaching team don ’ t understand the importance of the other . We encourage our sales staff to recommend lessons to everyone ( not just brand-new players ), they will walk the customer to the lesson area to show them what it is that we do , and how cool it is to
be part of . Once someone is taking lessons , they quite often will trust their instructor more than anyone else when it comes to gear , and we encourage the instructors to walk the student to the sales floor and have them show them a new instrument that will get them to the next level .
CMT : For you , how did the pandemic change the way lessons programs are designed and operated long-term , if it did ?
Wentworth : The pandemic was a difficult time for many , including the instructors here . Although sales of instruments were booming , the one-on-one in-person lessons stopped . We needed to act quickly to figure out a way to keep students with their instructors and jumped into teaching remotely . Fast forward to today , some of our instructors have students all around the world taking online lessons remotely , as well as in-person lessons . This does come at an added cost , as the business needs to provide a very solid , fast internet for streaming for every studio
CMT : With people having more free time to learn an instrument during the pandemic , did you see any unexpected business , and how has this kept up since the pandemic has cooled down ?
Wentworth : With a lot of new players , came a lot of interest in learning , i . e ., new students . Unfortunately , we lost a few instructors in 2020 who ended up taking their students with them when they left . So , things sort of balanced themselves out in terms of our current numbers , as it has taken us two years to hire new instructors and fill their schedules .

Mike Risko

Mike Risko , along with his wife Miriam , is a founder of Mike Risko Music School and Mike Risko Music Store in Ossining , NY . The Riskos have been in business for over 25 years , and with a staff of over 30 educated musicians , offer a variety of programming , including private lessons , group workshops , virtual learning , and even musical theatre classes . Mike Risko Music Store carries everything from instruments to pro audio equipment to books and sheet music . Risko is also an active gigging musician with the Mike Risko Band .
To learn more about Mike Risko Music School , go to www . mikeriskomusicschool . com .
CMT : What are the main components of running a successful music lessons program as part of a store ?
Mike Risko : It ’ s developing a great lesson curriculum for each instrument . That can be anything from writing your own material to choosing the best method books that you can find . I happen to write a series of guitar instructional books , so in our guitar programs , all of the guitar teachers use the books I wrote . That ’ s one component . The other one is having great systems set up , great software in place for scheduling and keeping track of everything , how you write assignments out , and how you communicate with students and parents and teachers .
CMT : What are the benefits and challenges of operating a lessons program as part of a retail business ?
Risko : Our situation is really unique because we started as a music school . We added a store later . So , a lot of people have a retail music store and then have a lesson or two going on in the room in the back , but we did the opposite . To answer your question , the benefit is , of course , the businesses are housed in one building . And so , the retail component and the lessons program have a symbiotic relationship . When somebody is taking lessons and they need books , strings , guitars , equipment , whatever , we have it for them . And we can use our expertise to suggest the proper tools for them . And I don ’ t know that there really any challenges , per se . What ’ s challenging is really just managing everybody and everything .
CMT : How can the sales and lessons departments help each other ?
Risko : I think there ’ s two parts there , when you ’ re asking how they can help each other . The first part really is , educationally speaking ,