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How To Proactively Fill Gaps In Your Guitar Teaching Schedule When Students Are Away

How To Proactively Fill Gaps In Your Guitar Teaching Schedule When Students Are Away

How To Proactively Fill Gaps In Your Guitar Teaching Schedule When Students Are Away

Today’s Topic: On Time Cancellations

Many New York City Guitar School teachers mention to me that they appreciate working in a school with a standard cancellation policy, where they get paid if a student doesn’t show up for a lesson or cancels with late notice. The flip side of enforcing late cancellations is allowing early cancellations, and they are a reality of life for a teacher, whether because a student is gone for a single day due to planned travel or a schedule conflict, or because they are taking a summer vacation.

How can we mitigate their impact on student progress and teacher livelihoods and maximize lesson attendance?

Success leaves clues! So, whenever we try to solve a problem, it is a good idea to look for somebody who has already solved it.

That’s why we interviewed one of our most in-demand and busiest teachers, Michelangelo, to find out how he handles cancellations. Here are the takeaways:

1. MOST IMPORTANT! If you only do ONE THING do this. Get in the habit of offering your students make-up days when they early cancel a lesson! If you are scheduled for multiple days in a location, offer your student to come in on a different day OR ask them if they’d like to have a lesson if a time opens up for you!


Student: I will be away next Thursday.

You: Would you like to have your lesson on Tuesday?

Student: Yes!!!!

2. Look at the start and beginning of your day. If you have a student that early cancels a lesson, see if you can ask your first lesson of the day or last lesson of the day to come in later or earlier. ONLY do this with students you already have established a good relationship with. Do NOT do this with new students, and do NOT Avoid doing it with new students OR several times each week.

You: John, for the month of August, would it work for you to come at 4pm instead of 4:45pm?

Student: Yes!!!

3. As you build your studio, you are likely to develop FLEX students (students who can’t commit to a regular weekly time) or even a waiting list. If you have cancellations, always reach out to those students that don’t have an on-going time! You can even offer a last minute spot in case of a late cancellation–and that flex student might be very eager to come in even if they have short notice!

You: Jimi, tomorrow I have an open time at 7:30pm, would you like it?

Student: Yes!!!

4. KEEP in mind school breaks and plan accordingly. Summer is always slow for the guitar teachers, but remember that there are school breaks in February and April that might affect your schedule (especially, if you teach mostly kids!). Look 3-6 months ahead of time. This helps adjust financially. At New York City Guitar School we run summer camps and school break camps and coaching a band is a fun way to make the most of these quiet seasons. These times are also ideal for taking a trip or booking a tour–especially the last two weeks of August!

5. MOST IMPORTANT! If you only do ONE THING do this. Get in the habit of offering your students make-up days when they early cancel a lesson!

Wait, did I already mention #5? Well, it deserves being mentioned twice.

Thanks to Michelangelo for these great tips for guitar teachers everywhere!

And remember, as a teacher you are in charge of building your studio, but hopefully you are also part of a great team so that if there are questions, late cancellation issues, or issues of somebody repeatedly early cancelling you can bring them to someone like one of our NYC Guitar School Directors. Even though as teachers we are often working alone, we should never have to be alone when it comes to facing challenges and improving our teaching and studio! If you are an independent teacher in New York City and are interested in becoming part of a supportive team, find out more about working at NYC Guitar School at

On to Greatness,

Dan Emery

Founder, NYC Guitar School

PS Here is an addendum with details on how NYC Guitar School approaches not only late cancellations, but early cancellations.

Late Cancellations:

What is a late cancellation? It is when a student no-shows or cancels with fewer than 48 hours. In this case, the school charges the student for the lesson and the teacher is paid for the reserved time. Many schools with adult students have a 24 hour policy, but we decided to make ours 48 hours.

Why do we enforce late cancellations? A clear cancellation policy builds respect and professionalism, helps the student make and keep a commitment, and protects the time and income of the teacher (and school).

To make this work: Students get the policy when they start lessons, and it is explained to them by the desk team. Teachers: Please reinforce it with your student (at NYC Guitar School that means pointing to it in the first pages of the Ultimate Lesson Book in your first lesson) and strive to show your student the same standard (or better) than we expect from them–give them a predictable schedule.

What to do with late cancellation issues: If there are late cancellation issues, refer them to your Director. They will explain the policy to the student. Most students understand why the policy is fair and important, and in rare cases when they don’t, they may not be suited to taking lessons with our school.

Early Cancellations:

What is an early cancellation? – cancellation with more than 48 hours notice. The student is not charged for the lesson, and the time is released.

Why do we allow early cancellations? Students desire the ability to early cancel lessons–it is an important factor in their decision to commit to lessons.

Realities of early cancellations: Our business is seasonal–students will be out, especially young students, during school holidays and summer in particular. This is a reality of our current system.

When are early cancellations an issue: Sometimes a student will early cancel regularly. That really is not what the system is intended for. At NYC Guitar School, if we have a student who routinely early cancels, this is a sign that they may actually need to be a “Flex” student–meaning that they don’t have a reserved weekly time, but can call at any time to schedule a lesson at a time that works for them.

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Dan Emery is dedicated to Coaching Personal Greatness, One Lesson At A Time. He is the founder of NYC's friendliest and fastest growing guitar schools, New York City Guitar School, Brooklyn Guitar School, Queens Guitar School and NYC Guitar School, East, and the author of the Amazon best-selling Guitar For Absolute Beginners and six other books on learning guitar and deliberate practice. He coaches new entrepreneurs through the Entrepreneurs Organization Accelerator program and especially enjoys helping other Educational Entrepreneurs. He has a Masters in Education from Columbia University Teachers College, extensive performing experience as songwriter and guitarist for The Dan Emery Mystery Band, a wife, three kids, a cat and some juggling equipment.


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