One of the driving principles behind Start Teaching Guitar is that we can all learn from each other. This “Guitar Teacher Interview” series is a chance for us to hear from other guitar teachers around the world and hopefully get some ideas for our own teaching businesses.
Today we have an interview with Don Parkhurst, a full-time guitar teacher from the state of Connecticut, in the USA. Don is a good example of a teacher who has the right mindset for success…he puts his students first, understands how to use the Internet to grow his business and is always looking for ways to do things better. You can get more info about Don and his teaching business by checking out his website at rock-lessons.com.
Guitar Teacher Interview
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What’s your background?
I live on the East Coast in Connecticut, where I have lived most of my life. I’ve been playing guitar for about 30 years. I started by my cousin teaching me some Zepplin and Skynard. From there I would learn songs on my own and eventually I started taking lessons.
After many years of throwing pears and bananas up on the shelf at the local grocery store, I decided I needed a change. That change would be to start teaching guitar.
I started by studying with one of my guitar idols named Alex Skolnick (Testament, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Alex Skolnick Trio) for about a year. From there I went on to study at the Hartford Conservatory. I got my first teaching job at Corner Music School and eventually opened up my own teaching business.
Tell us about your guitar teaching business. Are you doing it part-time or full-time? How many students are you currently teaching?
I’ve been teaching 5-6 years and I teach full time. I currently teach between 20-30 students. Since it’s summer time, things have slowed down a little.
My students range from 6 yrs old to around 40 yrs old. The majority of my students are rock and metal students. Currently I do private one-on-one lessons but I’m also very soon going to be giving online guitar classes and seminars.
I also write articles for Troy Stetina’s Digital Guitar Lessons magazine which is a free online magazine full of great free lessons.
What’s been the biggest key to success in your teaching business so far?
The biggest thing that has helped me is to put in the extra work to help my students get the results they are looking for. I go the extra mile! Students can tell if you care or not. If you show you genuinely care about them, then they will stay with you and recommend others to you.
What’s been your most effective way of attracting new students?
I worked hard on my website and getting my website to show up in the rankings on the search engines. I advertise on every site that comes up when I Google “guitar lessons” in my area. Most are free, so the price is right!
What’s been your most effective way of keeping your existing students from quitting?
Besides showing that I genuinely care about their progress, I also use songs they enjoy as the basis of our lessons. I get backing tracks for them to play along with as they are learning the songs and I record them when they have mastered it. They get the greatest thrill when they hear themselves playing the song they have heard their favorite artist play on CDs and on the radio. They feel like a rock star for a few minutes!
What helps to keep you motivated to continue when things don’t seem to be going as well as you would like?
One is thinking that I could be still throwing the pears up on the shelf! The other thing is when I get a student that comes in and is full of questions and eager to learn. That helps erase all the “I couldn’t practice this week because (fill in the blank)” excuses I get from other students sometimes. When a student like this comes in, it reminds me of why I’m doing this!
What advice would you have for someone who would like to get started teaching guitar lessons for the first time?
I would say to learn your basic music theory. If you have your basic fundamentals down and you can play half way decent you are in good shape.
Having said that you can start teaching at any time. Just find a friend or relative that wants to learn and start teaching them for free. If you can play a couple of chords, then that’s a couple of chords you can teach someone else. Later when you have some teaching chops and feel confident, start charging.
You can go to music school, take years of private lessons and prepare in a million ways but nothing will help more than to just jump in and teach. This is the only real way to learn. Just start teaching!
Can you share one tip that has worked for you to help your students get better results on the guitar?
Teaching my students how to break down music they are learning and focusing in on their problem areas. Learning how to practice correctly is the difference between success and failure!
Well, that’s it for today’s Guitar Teacher Interview. If you’d like to be considered for a future interview, enter your name and email address below to join the Start Teaching Guitar community. I send out occasional interview requests to this mailing list.
If you have any questions, comments or feedback please leave a reply below!