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STG 042: Guitar Teacher Success Story – Interview With Austin Jones

The Start Teaching Guitar PodcastIn this episode, I’m doing an interview with Austin Jones…a Group Guitar Launch Formula owner and guitar teacher from Texas who’s a perfect example of the kind of success you can have in your teaching business if you apply the information taught here at Start Teaching Guitar.

Austin’s been knocking it out of the park with his his teaching business…growing from 10 to 15 students to almost 50, and starting up 10 group classes, all in the last 6 months. He recently held his first student recital and had over 30 students perform, with over 200 people in attendance…and his business is doing better than ever as a result. Austin’s just a regular guy, like you and me…the only difference is that he learned some effective techniques and applied them to his business. You can have similar results if you do the same thing…listen and learn!

 To call in with a question, a comment or to leave feedback for the show, call the Listener Feedback Hotline at (719) 428-5480 and leave a message! I just might include your recorded message in a future episode.

Items Mentioned In This Episode:

Link – Group Guitar Launch Formula
Link – LessonsWithAustin.com
Link – AustinJonesMusic.com
Book – “Entreleadership” by Dave Ramsey
Book – “Book Yourself Solid” by Michael Port

Podcast Transcript

All right. In this episode, I’m going to be interviewing one of the success stories from Group Guitar Launch Formula, from the training course, and this guy’s name is Austin Jones. And Austin is a guitar teacher, a bass teacher, and a drum teacher, as well as an independent singer, songwriter, recording artist and performer. And he went from having ten to fifteen private students to almost 50 in just six months after taking the Group Guitar Launch Formula course.

And if you want to find out more about Austin, as we go along here, you can check out. He actually has two websites. The first one is his teaching website, which is www.LessonsWithAuston.com, and then his music website is www.AustinJonesMusic.com.

Donnie: So, I just want to say hi, Austin, and welcome to the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast.

Austin: Hey Donnie, thanks for having me. I’m really glad to be talking to you today.

Donnie: Yeah, it’s great to have you. So, to start things off, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about yourself? Tell us where you live and what your background is with music and teaching, and all of that kind of stuff.

Austin: Yeah. I’m in Pasadena, Texas, which is outside of Houston. I’ve been playing guitar for about 20 years or so, and I had a few opportunities over the years to kind of teach one-on-one, but I didn’t really start taking it seriously until about two and a half years ago. About six months into teaching guitar, I was a teacher at the time, and I still am. Maybe not for much longer, but I was teaching school and we needed some extra income, so I started picking up some guitar students and I started really enjoying teaching private lessons. I had about three or four students, starting out, when I discovered your website and your podcast, StartTeachingGuitar.com, and I started listening to that.

I started getting really interested in one of the first. It was probably maybe the second or third episode that you recorded. You started mentioning group guitar courses very early in your podcast, and so that kind of planted the seed there, which really sold me before you even offered the Group Guitar Launch Formula, which I was all about. So, I’m also an independent musician and songwriter. I’ve been working on album for about 18 months, and then, when these guitar groups started just going crazy, taking off, I kind of took a back seat with that album. So, I will be planning on releasing that album sometime in the spring as well.

And now I’ve got a lot more students. We’ve got about 50 students now.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s great, man. So, you started out, you know, like most people, it sounds like, with about three to four students and now you’ve been able to grow it up to around 50.

Austin: Yeah, and I actually started with a second party company, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I was making very little money and my students were paying a lot of money, and I realized that that wasn’t a good idea and that I had what it took to just handle the business side of it myself.

Donnie: Okay. That’s cool. So, can you tell us a little bit more about your students, about what kind of people you teach, and those kinds of things?

Austin: Yeah. It’s interesting how things have kind of turned out. I have students. Now we have guitar and drum students. We have students as young as four years old doing drums. We have guitar students as young as seven and as old as 65, mid-60s. So, we have a pretty wide range of students, and every decade, different stages of life, and little kids to retired adults as well.

Donnie: Wow. So, four years old as a drum student. Can you talk a little bit about what it’s like to teach a four-year-old?

Austin: Yeah. Drums are a little simpler getting started off, because they can mimic your beats and they can do some basic stuff. An hour is about as good as it gets. Having a student for a private lesson like that wouldn’t work. That’s why the groups work so well with the younger kids, because it’s kind of like school in a way, but a lot more fun. And they’re working off the other students. They know that they’re going to get their turn, and so they’ve got to be patient and wait, and you know. It works well for the most part. There are some tricks you have to be aware, and you have to have some good classroom management. It helps.

It’s not as difficult with the older students, but it does take a little bit of classroom management skills to really be able to handle the little kids. But overall, it’s really fun to see them develop and grow, and they really enjoy it.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s cool. So, what percentage of your students would you say are kind of in that younger age group? You know, like kids 12 and under.

Austin: Yeah, actually that is a high percentage. Probably about 60 percent are under the age of 12. About 25 percent or so are above the age of 30. Unfortunately, our avatar that we talked about during the Group Guitar Launch Formula – my avatar was older teenagers and guys in their early 20s. And I’m surprised that that’s not the person that’s really wanting guitar lessons, or they don’t at least realize that they want them, but we’re getting there. We’ve got a few of those guys too. About ten of fifteen percent are in that age range.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s interesting. You know, sometimes, whenever you target a specific type of student, like I teach in the course about how to put together and avatar and focus on the ideal student that you want to teach, sometimes, depending on what area you’re in, they don’t have as many of those people there. You know, so you end up attracting people that are slightly different, but still a good fit for your business. And other times, you know, you have to just kind of target your marketing a little bit better and find new ways to get the attention of those specific people that you’re trying to teach.

Austin: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Using an analogy of fishing, it’s just like you’ve just got to try different things. And some forms of marketing work very well with the kids or with the older adults, and then there’s different methods that are going to reach different groups of people.

Donnie: Yeah, the fishing analogy is a good one, because it’s like sometimes you might be out there, fishing for trout or whatever, you know? But then you hook a bass instead. You know, that’s cool too.

Austin: Yeah.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s great, man. So, my next question for you, I guess, kind of shifting gears a little bit, what do you think has been the biggest key to success in your teaching business so far? I mean just looking back over the two and a half years that you’ve been doing it, what do you think has kind of brought you the most results and brought you the most success?

Austin: You know, it’s a combination of a couple different things. I think one of the biggest things is you’ve got to have strong support in your corner. You’ve got to have a good team. My wife has been very supportive. My family has been supportive. Even my students have been very supportive. I’ve been open with them and expressed my goals with my students as well. And you’ve got to stay on top of things, staying organized. You know, just taking some time out on Sunday night and just get ready for the week.

But in addition to that, you’ve just to constantly be putting yourself in a place that you can be inspired and motivated and educated, reading good books and talking to good people. But StartTeachingGuitar.com podcast, your Guitar Launch Formula, I have been going back and listening those and listening to the All-Access Podcast. That’s been very helpful, and just listening to your podcast has been a big part of that as well.

Donnie: Wow, I appreciate that, Austin. So, it sounds like one of the things that’s really helped you is just to kind of keep growing, you know, as a teacher, as a player, as a business owner, and you mentioned some books. What have some of the books been that have been really good for you?

Austin: EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey has been real good. You recommended a book. Book Yourself Solid was one that really helped. The first chapter in Book Yourself Solid, it sounds kind of mean, but it’s just talking about, you know, letting go of some of the dead weight.

Donnie: Yeah.

Austin: And that totally blew my mind, but I tested that out and it’s a big deal to let go of students that are just sucking the life out of you, and it really just motivates you when you have students in a row – you know, private students or group students – and they’re totally working hard. They’re motivated. They’re really in love with what they’re doing. And you’re just not keeping the guys around who just really don’t want to be there. And fortunately, that is the case some of the time, and you don’t really have to keep those kinds of people around.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s a huge shift in mindset. And I just want to reiterate how important it is for every guitar teacher to buy a copy of Book Yourself Solid, by Michael Port, and to read it. But like you said, that first chapter is almost like a slap in the face a little bit, because, you know, conventional thinking for a music teacher would be like: “I just want to get as many students as I can. I don’t care who they are. You know, I’m going to deal with some bad students. That just kind of goes along with the process.” But what happens is you end up with a lot of students that are difficult to teach sometimes that, like you said, don’t really want to be there, not motivated, and are probably doing it for the wrong reason.

And one of the best things you can do for your teaching business and like for your own emotional state and sanity and things is just to let those people go. You know, it’s like the 80-20 principle, or whatever. The Pareto principle. 20 percent of your students are going to cause you 80 percent of your headaches.

Austin: Right. Yeah.

Donnie: So, if you can get rid of that 20 percent, then you eliminate most of your problems at the same time.

Austin: Yeah, that’s true. And not only is it the students. Sometimes the students are just fine, but it’s the parents. The parents – they don’t pick the students up sometimes or they don’t pay, or they pay the wrong amount, or you have to deal with that sometimes. There’s ways to avoid that, but there’s not a perfect way to do it though.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s because there are no perfect people. You know, we don’t live in a perfect world, so sometimes you just have a few things to deal with. So, you mentioned offline, when we were talking before, that you just finished up your first student recital recently, didn’t you?

Austin: Yeah. Now, that was – I had a twitch in my eye after that. That was a little bit stressful, but the fruit of that labor was immeasurable. What we did – there’s a restaurant that I’m friends with called Collins here, in Pasadena. It’s a real upscale. It’s like a five-million-dollar restaurant. And they have this stage where they book cover bands four or five nights a week. Well, I talked to the guy that I’m friends with. Luckily, I’m very fortunate to be friends with this guy, and he let us do the recital there and we went totally all out. We had video, we had stage lights and everything. And I had about 30 students performing at this recital, groups and private individual students, and we were getting setup and 45 minutes before we even were starting, the room was full. And I was expecting about 60 or 70 parents and family members and friends, and we had almost two hundred people.

Donnie: Wow.

Austin: And I was just like – I was starting to get a little bit nervous. I’m not really one to get nervous, but you know, I felt nervous for the kids, but I’ll tell you what. When they got up there on stage and the adults too, and let me say one thing about the adults. It’s probably harder for someone in their 60s or 50s, who hasn’t ever performed on stage, to get on stage and do that for the first time. That was a big deal to be a part of that, but you know what. All my students got up there and it seemed like every single one of them performed better on that stage than they had done in our sessions, and just having the video and just getting the feedback, I was on a high for days after that. It was phenomenal.

Donnie: Man, that is so cool. I mean I can just imagine. I’m just trying to think back whenever I first started playing guitar. If I would’ve had the chance to get up in front of two hundred people on a stage in a really cool place with lights and sounds and PA and everything, and I knew that everybody in there was rooting for me, you know, I think that would’ve made all the difference in me as a guitar player.

Austin: Yeah, I agree. If I could’ve had some leadership like that, looking back on my development as a musician, I could’ve jumped ten years ahead in those first three to six months. It really would’ve done a lot for me, and I was really insecure when I first started playing. Man, just getting on stage and just knowing that you have that behind you, and that it went well and that it went okay, and that you weren’t by yourself and you had your teacher with you, that really helps, you know? These students are all looking forward to next one. Now they’re thinking about the next recital. We’re going to bump it up a notch. They’re already proving that they’re working harder. They’re practicing harder. It was perfect.

Now, I was hesitant to do it and I had never done that before. In the past two and a half or three years that I’ve been teaching, I had never done that before, and now I’m going to be doing this three to four times a year for sure.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s awesome, man. And like you said, it is a little bit of a task to take on to plan something like that and to actually pull it off. There are a lot of details and maybe a little bit of pressure. And I think it’s going to get easier for you the more often that you do it.

Austin: Right.

Donnie: The first time is probably the hardest time to do it.

Austin: Yeah, we did learn some lessons too. One big mistake is I was trying to cut some corners and I did the sound myself. I will never do that again.

Donnie: Yeah.

Austin: When I’m trying to perform with the students, and just get more people involved. And parents, you know, are willing to volunteer. I had a parent say, “You know, next time, in the Green Room.” We had a Green Room where the students hung out. “I’m going to be in the Green Room and I’m going to coordinate and help you with that,” and so it’s cool that the parents are very supportive and willing to help out.

Donnie: That’s great, man. So, it sounds like you really made your students feel like rock stars that night.

Austin: That was the goal. That was the goal. Definitely.

Donnie: That’s awesome, man. So, okay, let’s talk about marketing a little bit. So, so far, what do you think has been your most effective way of attracting new students into your teaching business?

Austin: Well, that’s an interesting question because there’s (A) attracting new students and (B) attracting the right students. And attracting new students, you can use public advertising signs and posting things, and we did a lot of that. Sending out emails. That attracts the most students, just being like everywhere, you know? Putting signs out and being online, and having people talk about you, but word-of-mouth is, I think. Even with the technology age that we’re moving into, word-of-mouth is still going to be the most powerful form in the long run. Initially you’re going to get people in different ways, so just public advertising. Putting out signs.

And the other thing is just following back. You know, when people contact you or when someone says they’re interested, being proactive and just trying to establish a relationship with them, and that goes with all forms of marketing. You know, if you’re able to just a build a rapport with parents and with potential students, you really increase the chances of converting them to a new student as well.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. I mean that’s one of the things about being a guitar teacher, is that you’re really in the relationship business, right?

Austin: Exactly.

Donnie: Yeah, it’s all about having that trust, especially when you’re teaching younger kids. You know, you want their parents to know you, to like you, and to trust you with their kids and their children. So, yeah, that’s huge, man.

Austin: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And then, you know, the parents want to feel like their kids are going to be safe with you, and I think, for the most part, that’s more of a priority than becoming awesome at the guitar in three months. You know, they just want to feel like they’re in a good, healthy place with someone who’s going to be a leader and help them set goals. And if you’re able to provide just that much, you know, 25 to 50 percent of those parents will refer new students to you and you don’t even have to offer incentives. Referral incentives help, but they’re not completely necessary if you’re doing a good job, if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

Donnie: Yeah, and I just keep thinking back about how you described the recital that you put on. I have two kids, and as a parent, if I could have one of my kids be involved in something cool like that, that would just be such a boost to their level of confidence. I would tell everybody about it.

Austin: Yeah, and I think the parents were more excited than the students were. One of my drum students. I quit taking drum students when I started the Group Guitar Launch Formula, and I’ve since handed off my drum students to my brother, Carson, who’s now doing drum groups. But this one particular drum student that stuck with me since January of this year, he performed a very difficult Youth Math song, and he’s only 11 or 12 years old. His mom sent me a video that night. When she came to the very first lesson I had with him, she videoed it and she sent it to me and she said, “Look at him. Look how far that you have helped him come. Like from not even being able to hold a pair of drumsticks to just dropping jaws over that room.”

Donnie: Wow.

Austin: It felt so good.

Donnie: That’s awesome, man. That’s when you know you’re actually making a difference and changing lives through what you’re doing.

Austin: Exactly. Exactly, yeah. And this kid is going to be a drummer for the rest of his life. And he may not have started that route, you know, because where he lives, I do some lessons in another town that’s lower socioeconomically. And there were no other drum teachers or guitar teachers in that part of Houston for them, and so I was it. You know, I was the only person they had to go, and I’m glad I was there.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s great, man. So, the kind of the other side of attracting students is actually student retention, right? Keeping people from quitting. That’s something that all music teachers have to deal with. There’s always going to be some turnover and stuff like that in your student base, but what’s been one of your most effective ways of keeping existing students from quitting on you?

Austin: Yeah, that’s an interesting question, because this last week, we started a new launch and we did lose some students. And I was pretty bummed at first that I had a handful of students that were not going to progress, even though we got a lot of new students and I’m very excited about that. But then, when I kind of went and thought about it, I’m like: “Well, you know, it’s probably good,” because the students that did decide not to continue for whatever reasons, they weren’t as motivated anyways as the students that stayed. So, the students that stayed, to focus on what they’re doing, they’re the ones that are just working harder. You know, they just took to it better, and so when you have a group, when you have some students that are going a hundred miles an hour and then you have other students that are not, you know, you have to keep pushing those kids that are the top.

And I don’t know really what the problem is, but I think the tendency would be: “Okay. Well, you’re doing excellent. You can relax, and let me try to get these other kids motivated.” And you’ve got to do that a little bit also, but if you forget about those kids that are really going, you know, they’ll go find somebody else too, and those are the kids that are really in it for the long haul as well. Just encouraging these kids whenever they have any little victory, if you’re just able to recognize that and point it out, and especially with younger kids, you’ve got to tell their parents. Be like: “Hey, so and so on the guitar. She was having a rough time, but now I can tell she’s practicing. She’s really having some breakthrough moments. I’m really happy to see her progressing so well.” So, just staying positive really makes a big difference.

Donnie: Yeah. Yeah, I agree with that completely. And you mentioned parents, and I think engaging parents is one of the real keys to keeping kids from dropping out of lessons. Right? Because you’re only with them, you know, an hour a week, but the parents are with them all the rest of that time. And if they could practice with their kids and help keep them motivated and, you know, communicate back and forth and appreciate the value of what you’re bringing to the table as their music teacher, I think that makes a huge different too.

Austin: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And the other thing is I think some parents were ambivalent about continuing lessons until that recital happened.

Donnie: Yeah.

Austin: We had that recital and they saw the fruit of their labor, their money, and the time that the students have been putting into it pay off. And not only that, but my students that I’ve had for a longer time that are more advanced, them seeing those kids that hey, so and so has been here for two years and they’re amazing. They’re getting up by themselves on stage and saying your child will be there in six months, nine months. This is where your child will be in two years. You know?

Donnie: Yeah, a recital like that, that’s the perfect. It’s like the ultimate concentration of social proof that you could possibly give to parents and other students, and stuff like that. It’s like, you know, here it is. This what you could be doing.

Austin: Yeah, and that’s absolutely right. And when it comes to retention, one thing that I am learning – this is a new lesson for me, but before they sign up and pay for a new session, a new cycle, or a new month, or whatever, you almost have to treat them. You have to keep in mind that they’re your current students, but at the same time they’re prospects too. They’re not a shoe-in. You can’t take them for granted that they’re just going to sign up. You still have to value them as a prospect as well.

Donnie: That’s an excellent point. Yeah, because there’s no guarantee that they’re going to sign up for your next round of classes. I mean unless you do a really good job and take good care of them, you can’t just take it for granted that they’re in it for the long-term.

Austin: Exactly. Exactly, and that was one thing that I failed to realize until about five days ago.

Donnie: Wow.

Austin: Yeah. So, it was a very valuable lesson to learn.

Donnie: Well, that’s great, and that’s actually the perfect segue into my next question. So, Austin, in your experience, what helps to keep you motivated to continue doing this when things don’t seem to be going as well as you would like? Like you mentioned that you had a few people that didn’t sign up for the next cycle of classes. That’s probably a good example of something that could discourage you, but what helps keep you motivated when things like that happen?

Austin: You know, in order to be successful with any endeavor, even if it’s just learning guitar, you have to have a big picture. You have to have in mind a big picture. You’ve got to know what your calling is, what your plan is, you know. You’ve got to rely on something. My faith in God is very important to me and it’s really something big that I rely on. And I also rely on my family and all that, but as far as the business goes, it’s really obvious when I take a step out of this little, dark spot that we walk through sometimes and just take a good, big look at the big picture. It’s obvious where this is going. Yes, you’re going to have little opportunities, if you will, to learn lessons, you know, and we need to look at it as an opportunity.

Yeah, it’s going to stink for a little bit, but just take a step back and just take a look at the big picture, and don’t lose your frame of reference just because you’re in a little, dark spot, because it doesn’t last very long.

Donnie: Right. Yeah, a lot of times, the feelings of, I guess, failure or sometimes feeling of rejection, things like that, that we feel when there’s a small setback. You know, a lot of times that can just kind of tend to dominate your thinking and stuff, and then it’s like: “Oh man, this is not working out like I thought.”

Austin: Right.

Donnie: You know, but what I always try to do and I encourage other people to do is just to have a different perspective on it. You know, like what you said was a perfect example. You took what seemed like a small setback at first and then you turned it into a lesson that you learned that will help you improve things in the future.

Austin: Yeah, and it’s crucial to focus on the positives at the same time because if I let the setbacks affect my persona, it could potentially damage these other successes that I am having with my current students. You know, you’ve got to stay away from that as well.

Donnie: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you’ve got to stay focused on the positive stuff, man. You have to stay in the zone, right, so you can keep doing the stuff that counts.

Austin: Yeah, that negativity can easily snowball.

Donnie: Yeah, it’s real easy for that to happen for sure.

Austin: Yeah.

Donnie: So, here’s another question for you. What advice would you have for somebody who is listening to this podcast and maybe they’ve never taught guitar lessons before? They’re interested in it. They don’t know if they can do it. It’s something that they would like to do, but what advice would you have for someone who wants to get started teaching guitar lessons for the first time?

Austin: Just go for it, you know. If you’re interested in making some extra cash, doing something that you love and sharing your love for music with other people, it’s a great opportunity. It’s an excellent time. You know, people are wanting to pick up new things and the competition is minimal. It’s a good opportunity to really instill and to give a gift to people that could potentially just change in their life. You know? I would say, you know, if you’re thinking about starting it out and if you’ve never had experience teaching before, I would definitely pick somebody that is close to you, maybe a relative or a friend that you can kind of do some trials on. Be open to feedback, even from your students, even from your younger students. They’ll provide you with some excellent feedback, and just go for it.

Don’t wait. The worst thing you can do is wait. You need to just go for it. Start picking up some students. See how you feel about it, and then just go from there.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s the beauty of starting a business as a guitar teacher. You can kind of start with just a few students and try it out. Right?

Austin: Yeah.

Donnie: I mean you could charge pretty low rates to start out with, until you just kind of get your footing and get a feel for what it’s like to be a guitar teacher. And then, after a while, if you feel like it’s not for you, you haven’t really lost anything. All you’ve done is just earned a little bit of money and helped some people out.

Austin: Right. Yeah, very true. Very true, but it is a good opportunity. It really is. And a lot of guitar teachers, at least in my area, are not doing good business. They’re not really serving their students well, and so it’s just an easy time just to steal students. And you know, that kind of sounds negative, but students need a lot. You know, they need more than just learning guitar. They need some leadership. They need to be able to set some goals. And I think you said it, we need to appeal. You said this in the last podcast. We need to appeal to their desire to be excellent. All humans have that desire to be excellent, and we’ve got to take advantage of that.

Donnie: Yeah. Yeah, and you mentioned stealing students away from other teachers. In my opinion, you’re not really stealing students. You’re actually rescuing them.

Austin: Yeah, that’s a good word. I like that.

Donnie: That’s a little bit more positive spin on what’s happening.

Austin: Yeah, very true.

Donnie: Yeah. Okay, so can you share one tip maybe that has worked for you to help your students get better results on the guitar?

Austin: Yeah, I’ve learned some different things. I had one student. About six months into it, I was looking at him. He was having a hard time fingering some chords, and then I noticed that his shoulder was drooping really low, and I was like: “Dude, did you always do that?” He’s like: “Yeah, I’ve been doing this since I started.” I’m like: “I can’t believe I missed that.” You know? I would say pay attention to all the little things. You know, pay attention to their wrist and their arms. Make sure they’re relaxed.

One thing that a lot of guitar students – one common complaint, and this is one main reason why students sign up for guitar lessons; is because they can’t change chords quick enough. And so, we play a game with our groups, and this works really well for the little kids as well as the adults, but I’ll have them stick their hand out front. And so, say we’re learning like a B minor or a bar chord, or whatever. I’ll say the chord and I’ll say go, and they’ll race and they’ll see who can hit that chord the first, and you turn it into a little friendly competition and it really gets everybody playing those chords pretty quickly.

Donnie: That’s a great idea, man. Yeah, I mean anything you could do, like to engage people and to make it fun.

Austin: Yeah.

Donnie: I mean that’s something that a lot of guitar teachers just don’t seem to grasp. They just present dry content and they’re more like a drill sergeant or something.

Austin: Right.

Donnie: And they don’t make it fun.

Austin: Yeah.

Donnie: So, I mean yeah, I could see how that would totally be something that would make especially younger people actually want to practice and want to do it right and want to put the effort in.

Austin: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, you’ve got to keep it fun. you’ve got to keep it positive, and you’ve got to be aware of when you’re losing students. And it is a little more challenging in a group setting. It does take a little bit more work to get used to it because you’ve got two eyes and you’ve got maybe five to ten students, and you’ve got to keep your eyes on all your students. But even the lowest one or the littlest one in the group, just keeping your eyes, make sure they’re not getting bored, and you’ve got to know how to switch things up.

We live in an MTV generation. If you turn MTV on for 15 seconds, you’ll see 15 different shots. You know, they keep switching back and forth to different things because they know that in order to maintain the kid’s attention span, they have to change things every five to ten seconds.

Donnie: Yeah. Yeah, for better or for worse. I mean I think part of the reason why they have to do that is because that kind of stuff has conditioned us as we grew up watching it.

Austin: Yeah, unfortunately that’s true. That’s very true.

Donnie: Yeah.

Austin: So we do have to be aware of that.

Donnie: Yeah, so it’s one of those things you just have to keep doing it. You know, that’s just one of the realities of life today, I guess.

Austin: Yeah, it is true, but there’s a certain level of discipline that is developed. You know? If you have a group of students for six or nine months, it’s not as hard because they start to fall in love with music. They start to fall in love with the guitar. And then, once you can get them to really fall in love, like students don’t want to learn scale anymore, three months into it. I wanted to learn scales when I first started learning because I wanted to make up guitar solos and stuff. The students aren’t really like that anymore, but you’ve got to really sell them long-term on the guitar before they start wanting to learn the theory.

And I’m a huge advocate for theory. You released an episode a couple weeks ago about that, but before you can really sell them the detailed part of music, they’ve got to fall in love with the guitar.

Donnie: Right.

Austin: Your passion has to rub off on them. I tell my kids, you know, I just love playing guitar. Even when I’m not teaching guitar, I’m just picking up my guitar, my bass, or just beating on the drums. It’s a joy, man. It’s very pleasurable. It’s rewarding to come home at the end of a long day and pick the guitar up and just chill, and just play, and just noodle. You know?

Donnie: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I mean you mentioned something interesting a second ago. You talked about learning scales. How whenever you first started out, you want to learn scales so that you can play guitar solos. I mean that was kind of my experience too. And I think part of the reason students today are different is because music has changed.

Austin: Yeah.

Donnie: You know, back whenever I was first starting out and, if you’ve been playing for about 20 years, you’re probably around the same time as me, but it was all about shred guitar back then.

Austin: Yeah.

Donnie: It was like playing fast and, you know, doing all this other stuff. Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, and all this kind of stuff. You know, Shrapnel Records and all of that. But that’s more of kind of a niche now of music.

Austin: Yeah.

Donnie: They have a lot less people interested in.

Austin: Yeah, it’s sad, but true.

Donnie: Yeah, but I think a lot of guitar teachers are stuck in that because that’s where they started out learning and playing and that’s what they like to do, but they just haven’t realized that today students aren’t as interested in that kind of stuff. They’re more interested in playing songs and, you know, doing Blink-182 and all of these other things.

Austin: Right, yeah. Yeah, that’s true. That’s very true, but I want to encourage anybody listening that feels that way, like man, we’ve got to get these kids to play the old school music. And I agree a hundred percent, but I may not agree with the common method of approaching that. Students want to come in. They want to learn Gotye and the girls want to learn Tailor Swift. That stuff is good and it’s a good start, and if can teach them a song like that at first and they’re happy, they’re learning guitar. You know, you’ve got a starting point. You got a foot in the door. And down the line, you can start introducing them. You’re not going to be successful doing it right off the bat, in my opinion, but one good example: I have a student in Galina Park.

He came in and, you know, he’s wanting to learn like the new Green Day stuff. but nine months later, he’s learning Bon Jovi, Dust in the Wind. He’s really getting into those old songs. And it didn’t start at first, but you know, as he started falling in love with the guitar, he saw, like: “Man, there’s a lot of cool stuff that has been done on the guitar in the last 50 years,” and now he’s way more interested in it.

Donnie: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I think that’s what a smart guitar teacher is going to do. You know, you’re going to use the music that the kids are interested in today kind of almost as a gateway drug, right?

Austin: Exactly. Yeah.

Donnie: Yeah, and then you can introduce them. Once they get hooked on the guitar, once they can play that stuff, then you can start slowly introducing them to other, more challenging, more technical material and theory concepts, and things like that.

Austin: Yeah, and you’ve got to be open to what these kids are into. Like I can’t stand Nickelback. They’re the worst band in the world, but this kid wanted to learn a Nickelback song and I was like: “I’m going to go ahead and tell you I don’t like this band, but we’re going to learn it and I’m going to explain the theory behind it to you,” and he got into it. I had some students that I’m not kidding you. They couldn’t tell you a single song that had a guitar in it, but they knew who The Black Eyed Peas were.

Donnie: Yeah.

Austin: So, I figured out a way to teach them I’ve Got a Feeling on the guitar, and you know, just starting with something. You know, they enjoy doing that.

Donnie: Yeah, that’s what it’s all about, man. You’ve got to take what motivation is already there and then turn it into something more as you grow and build on that.

Austin: Exactly. Yeah.

Donnie: Yeah. Well, this has been a really good discussion, Austin. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, and we’re just about out of time here for this episode, but I just want to say: do you have any last thoughts or anything you want to share with us as we kind of close this discussion out today?

Austin: Yeah. Man, I just want to just thank you for inviting me to be on the show today. I just want to encourage people that are teaching guitar and that are interested in the guitar, no matter what level, just be renewed. Just keep refreshing yourself musically. Just stay motivated. Stay inspired. Music is going to bring a lot of peace and sanity to the world, and there’s a lot of ways you’re not going to realize how it’s going to pay off, whether it’s a husband writing a song for his wife for the first time, or a kid singing a song for Mother’s Day, or just performing for the school and overcoming a tremendous amount of fear. There’s a huge need, and I really believe that everybody needs to be able to play music at some level. Not everybody is going to do it professionally, but there’s a huge market out there and it’s a great time to really take advantage of this opportunity.

Donnie: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. And one of the things I thought about that I forgot to say a little earlier was when we were talking about advice for new guitar teachers. You know, one of the things that everybody needs to remember is that the barrier for entry into starting your own teaching business is really, really, really low. You know?

Austin: Yeah, that’s true.

Donnie: It doesn’t take a lot of money to become a guitar teacher. It doesn’t take really even a whole lot of effort, honestly. I mean, you know, it’s pretty easy to find your first two or three students, and then just kind of build your confidence as you go.

Austin: Right.

Donnie: And I just want to say, Austin, that I think you are a really good example out there of what can happen if people are just willing to step out of their comfort zones a little bit and just believe for the best, and just kind of take some action and trust and see what happens.

Austin: For sure, definitely. Yeah, it’s a good thing.

Donnie: Absolutely. Well, cool, man. I just want to mention again, if you want to find out more about Austin and his teaching business and his music and everything, you can visit his websites. And his teaching website is LessonsWithAustin.com, and the music site is AustinJonesMusic.com. Is that right?

Austin: Yes, sir, thank you.

Donnie: Yeah, and we can’t wait to hear your new album when it comes out, Austin. Maybe when it comes out, we’ll have to get you back on and maybe we could play a little bit of it and talk about that too.

Austin: That would be fantastic. I’d love to do that.

Donnie: Yeah. Well, it’s been great talking with you today, Austin. I just want to say thanks for taking the time to be on the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast.

Austin: Thanks, Donnie. I appreciate it, man. It really means a lot that you had me here today.

Donnie: Awesome.

Thank You For Listening!

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STG 042: Guitar Teacher Success Story – Interview With Austin Jones was last modified: June 10th, 2014 by Donnie Schexnayder

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