By Nicole Douglas, owner of Nicole Douglas Music Studio
When I first started teaching private music lessons, I kept a paper notebook for myself to keep track of what students were working on so I could use it to plan their next lessons. For the larger goal planning, I would write all my student’s names on a giant whiteboard and stare at it while I asked myself what each student really needed and what I should add to their semester plan to meet those needs. As time went on, though, this method didn’t work well since I taught in my student’s homes, as well as my own. And the more students I got, the more overwhelmed I started to feel. It got tricky to always have the notebook ready and to not have it get banged up in my teaching bag. Also, when I wrote quickly, I couldn’t always read what I wrote. I can type a lot faster than I can write, so I started looking at using an iPad with a keyboard that I could carry around to help be a music studio organizer. That worked well in the beginning, but I still wished I could add things to my lesson notes from a computer some of the time. And I also wished it were easier to create lesson plans that were easy to reuse with minor edits—plans that included all the files and links I’d sent students before, so I didn’t have to search my computer files to find them again.
Then I found out about Tonara Studio. I’m a pretty skeptical person—I don’t like to put my weight behind something until I know it will be worth it—so I was hesitant at first that Tonara would really be the answer for me. But I honestly did not realize what a gold mine it was until I tried it out with my students.
Not only did I find out that it allows me to easily reuse pre-planned assignments, but I also discovered how easy it is to attach all images, PDFs, audio tracks, video recordings, and Internet links all in one assignment—as many files as I would like. No more writing by hand and no more misplacing my notebook. It’s totally easy to enter pre-planned assignments into the web-based platform, and then easy to access and enter assignments on the fly while travel teaching with the app.
Another benefit I discovered is now I finally have a sense of what repertoire I already own. When I’m looking for which versions of a piece I already own, I can search within My Repertoire and discover which books I need to look at within seconds. I can search by title, composer, book, level, genre, and any words I type into the notes field.
I didn’t realize how easy it would be to organize my media files in Tonara Studio, as well. I need access to all my backing tracks very quickly while teaching. I had been uploading all the tracks into my iTunes on my phone, but then my phone storage would be taken up. So I loaded them into a subscription-based music service, but accessing them on my phone meant going through several clicks to get them to play, and sometimes they wouldn’t play even if I was connected to the Internet. That meant my 4-5-year-old students would be off and running onto something else by the time the track was loaded to listen to or play along with.
Now I can click on My Media within the Tonara Studio app or the web platform and quickly search for the file or folder I need. If those media files are loaded into an assignment the student has, it’s even easier to play them during the lesson. I love seeing all the CDs I bought with the method books being put to good use.
I really enjoy the look of the calendar feature, too. With the click of a button, I can add lessons, recitals, birthdays, … any kind of event I want. I can add my students to each event as well. This will also make the event show up in the student’s agenda. I can view the calendar by the day, week, month, or in the agenda format (like a list of events).
Besides helping me keep track of lesson plans and schedules, Tonara Studio has become my music studio organizer by helping me follow up with students. It’s easy to see who has practiced and how much they have practiced—both in total and broken down by assignment. This means I have a handle on what to expect from the student even before their lesson starts, and that if needed, I can reach out to them mid-week to make sure all is okay with that piece.
I also love being able to keep my texts with students separate from my regular texting app. It keeps all the communication with students in one place so new questions they ask and recordings they share don’t get lost in the dozens of texts I get a day. It makes it easy to send them images or recordings if they need additional encouragement.
Tonara Studio has become my favorite music studio organizer, and these are just the features that help ME! My students’ practice sessions are more organized, too, now that they see specific tasks in a list and have all the attached media they may need. No more finding a CD player, pushing play, and rushing to the piano to start playing along with the track. It’s all within Tonara Studio.
So what are you waiting for to better organize your studio? Let us know in our Facebook group for teachers, Tonara Focus.