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Why New Group Class Pricing for Hybrid Classes?

Aug 03, 2021

Hey everyone,

I'm making a big change to the package structure for enrolling in Group Violin Classes and I wanted to take a second and explain why to those who were interested.  

Origins

When group classes originally started, they were only once a week. As soon as I had enough sign-ups to justify it, I was able to start holding more classes, and to eventually double the number of times each class was held per week.

For a very long time, I had two types of packages available: one that would allow you to attend your class once a week, and one that would allow you to attend twice a week. For the majority of the time, there was always one class type per level.

Back in the Pre-Covid days, I would rent a medium-sized rehearsal room, and if a few more or less people showed up than I had planned for, it wasn't a big deal as if more people showed up we would just squish them in, or worst-case scenario, we could all just stand (anyone remember practicing Kashmir with the drummer the week before the concert?)

Space in NYC has always been an issue for small business owners and especially musicians - it's very hard to find a decent, reliable space that meets all of our needs: consistent availability for our class schedule, large enough to seat all the adults comfortably with room for stands, the ability to make lots of noise, centrally located so that all of the students from Uptown, Downtown, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island and NJ can attend without too much of a hassle, and ideally with chairs & stands already in the room for our use (so you don't have to carry a stand).

I always provided copies of the sheet music and the ability to come once or twice a week. The year or two before Covid hit, I started making Practice Videos from time to time for you to practice with at home in between classes.

And then, Covid

Once Covid hit, my new commercial space that I had finally set up for our use was now out of the question, as while a soundproofed room doesn't let sound in or out, it also doesn't let air in or out either. (It would have been great if Covid hit at the end of my lease instead of at the beginning, but it had the nerve to not consult with a single human before spreading itself around!)

Since I was now unable to hand you sheet music anymore, I set up shop online where I tried to make everything as accessible as possible. I set up a system whereby each week I would give you the PDFs and the Practice Videos, and while I was at it, I went ahead and wrote down everything we would do that week, plus some extra music theory and other fun, educational facts about what we were learning. I wanted to make it as worth your while as possible to still attend online!

I actually spent quite the pretty penny on my new online web hosting, because my original web host couldn't handle that kind of beefiness very easily, but I figured it was worth it. Since I was already spending the money on the hosting, and since I was already putting in the time into each of the classes to plan them out so meticulously, and since I was already delivering the classes from the convenience of my own home, I decided to see what would happen if I turned all previously purchased packages into unlimited class passes. And I was pleasantly surprised when students started attending class more than ever!

What this told me was that students were happy to come twice a week, and that once they were permitted to attend once or twice a week, they often chose twice! I was very happy about this and for the next few online semesters, I reworked the packages to include this option right off the bat. I added more classes to the roster to make sure students were happy to stick around, and it was great to be able to do a deep dive into several topics that we never had time for before. 

The change to everything unlimited

In considering the turmoil Covid had wreaked on many people's lives, I decided that during online Covid times I would let students choose their own pricing, as some students were more or less financially affected by the pandemic, and it was impossible for me to know who needed the most help. This worked out pretty well in that those who were able to contribute did, and those that were in a much tighter spot, were able to pay less but still attend just as much. This was workable, temporarily.

As time went on, I continued researching and planning to work on the best material for online-only learning, and the best learning methods and latest technology to help students get the most out of online classes. Many of you may remember life before Soundslice. Once I discovered Soundslice and Upbeat, I knew there was a lot I could do with you online, and we went ahead and did it!

Eventually, it was safe enough to host a few students in my home, during the Zoom classes, to test out how a Hybrid class would feel. This worked out exceedingly well. I was so happy to finally be able to hear my students again, all at the same time, and to see and hear how they were really doing, and it was so nice to have the students actually playing at the same time again (audibly!). The online students reported one-for-one that it made the class much easier since they could hear all the parts together, and that they felt like they were more part of a group experience.

Trying Out Hybrid - not as easy as I thought!

After life started returning back to normal, I knew Hybrid was going to be the way to go. While my home could be stretched to fit 4 students, socially distanced, we had to precisely schedule who was going to come on what day. I knew that by renting an hourly space again I could host as many students as wanted to join. (My commercial space was gone by then, and still too small for our new spacial needs, anyway!) 

So, for Summer Semester, I did just that. Only this time, I wanted to make sure to add in transition times between classes so students weren't on top of each other when the classes changed over. The amount of time this totaled didn't add up to a proper time slot, so I decided to lengthen classes to get the most out of the studio time.

One thing that became evident pretty quickly was that in order to deliver the same quality of Hybrid classes, I needed to take all my home equipment with me in to the studio, and then back home again each time. And, while I could hand out copies of music to in-person students again like I used to, I also had to make sure they were in downloadable PDF format for the online students, and I started seeing how hosting both classes really was twice the amount of work and cost!

Full Rooms and Empty Rooms

The semester went on for 8 consecutive weeks. Near the halfway mark, students started missing classes because they were behind at work, or for other reasons. On certain days, the huge room I had searched so hard for, finally found, and reserved months in advance (to try to provide consistency to my students) was almost empty. Other days it was filled perfectly to capacity. On a couple of days, it was almost going to be too full, but then a few students canceled and switched their day, so we all fit just fine.

There were days the room was almost empty with a bunch of online students and days where the room was full with little to no online students. It was hard for me to predict which would be the case as only about 50% of the students scheduled themselves online. I don't blame them - I hate having to add extra steps to things.

I started to realize that it would be better for everyone if before the semester started, we could all plan and predict which days each student would be present.

A Return to What Works

That's when I decided to return to my old model of having 1x/week or 2x/week packages, separately, but this time with the element of prediction.

This semester, I am excited to announce that you no longer have to schedule yourself out for all the classes you plan to attend. This means more prediction for you, and way more prediction for me. Now I can use the correct sized room to host all the students than can (or can't) be there on that day.

While this model may contain more scheduling rules than before, I think in the end it will benefit us all. I also included two weeks off, spread out through the semester so you can catch up on everything and have an easier time attending all or most classes. (I have done this in the past with good success.)

-

Now, to address the elephant in the room. Pricing. 

The pricing structure is different. First let me tell you what I want:

I want a room full of in-person students, and all the online students who couldn't make it in. I like the idea of flexibility (coming on one class day OR the other class day), but when put into practice this last experimental Hybrid semester, it did not play out the way I would have predicted. And that's ok. That's why we try new things, to see if they work. The online Covid model, however, did not work for Hybrid classes as there was so much more to account for.

Therefore this coming semester, each student will be asked three questions when deciding on the right package for them:

1. Do I want to attend In-Person, Online or both in-person & online?
2. Do I want to attend once or twice a week?
3. For students who want to attend in-person once a week, do they want that in-person day to be during Tues/Wed (depending on their class type) or on Saturday?

Each scenario will now be it's own package. This is the best solution to everyone needing and wanting different options (in the survey I sent out, there were tons of different ideal scenarios for everyone!). You now still have all the same options available to you, but now I can predict and plan for what's going to happen during the semester (as can you!)

So, the pricing elephant is still there.

Yes, it will cost more to attend twice a week. I worked it every which way I could, but I just couldn't do anything about it. As I mentioned, the Covid model just doesn't work for the Hybrid model. It bums me out to think that some students, who want to attend twice a week won't be able to because it's more expensive. I do have a small amount of donated scholarship money set aside for the students with the most financial hardship who fall into this category.

Some students will be paying less

I implore you to take advantage of the Early Bird Discounts. There are two of them. And students who enrolled in and attended the last semester always get an extra special discount on the next semester. So take advantage! 

For a number of students, your new rates will actually be much cheaper, since you'll be on the "once a week" package instead of the unlimited pass (since there is only one class of each level this semester just like the old days). If you'd like to donate to help a student in need who had their price raised instead of lowered, you can do that here, in any amount. You'll get full credit, or can remain anonymous, if you prefer.

Anyway, that about sums it up. If you have any questions, you can always reach out to me to ask me more about it. But rest assured that I toiled for weeks on a solution that would meet everyone's needs as best as possible (including the survival of the studio).

Thanks for your curiosity, and your understanding. I always strive to service you in the best way possible.

Love,

Antoinette

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