Creating a Better Studio: Music Teacher’s Helper and Privio

The Problem

I have a confession: I hate keeping track of all the scheduling and billing here at Kay Barker Studio. As a musician, the Excel and Quicken lobes of my brain have never fully developed. I’d much rather spend time with my piano and voice students, helping them grow and learn, and seeing the hours of hard work and practice pay off than bury myself in the spreadsheets and managerial tasks that go along with running a studio. And I know I’m not the only one. Music teachers everywhere struggle with finding the time to keep good records. And parents lives aren’t simple, either. Music lessons shouldn’t be an added stress. It should be easy for both the teacher and students to schedule lessons, view attendance and keep track of billing so they can both focus on the most important part of the lessons: learning. So what do we do?

Last week my husband (who helps out with some of those boring managerial tasks) decided to look around and see if there was something better than the Excel and handwritten – yes, handwritten – logs we’ve been using. Actually, Excel and Quicken are great programs for most small businesses, but what was missing was an interface that allowed parents and students to keep track of their schedules and bills, and most importantly for us, pay online. A system like that would consolidate all of our records in one place where students could access them, and eliminate any of the scheduling confusion that invariably crops up. So we made a list of the requirements we needed in our new, yet to be discovered system.

1) A secure account for each student or family, accessible through
2) Automatic billing
3) Online payment
4) Calendar and attendance viewable by both me and my students

The Solution

Enter Music Teacher’s Helper and Privio. Both of these websites had everything we wanted and more. Music Teacher’s Helper is a little more sophisticated and has several extras, like features that allow you to keep track of a lending library and send out automatic emails on students’ birthdays. Privio is simple and clean, with all the basics in an easy-to-use interface. I’ll do a quick overview before I reveal what we settled on.

Music Teacher’s Helper

Music Teacher’s Helper has been around for a little while and was started by teachers just like me who wanted an easier way of keeping track of lessons. It certainly does that well.  It has an integrated expense and milage tracker, so theoretically I could use MTH to keep track of all the numbers I’d need at tax time. One of its better features is the free website you can build with their templates, including a registration and login page for students. The templates look nice, but they don’t offer much in the way of customization and don’t integrate well with current sites.  If I didn’t have a website or didn’t want to mess around with getting one built, this would be a great solution. But I do have a website, and a very nice designer at my disposal over at, so this wasn’t much of a selling point.

Music Teacher's Helper

Music Teacher’s Helper Homepage

On the student side, it’s very easy to log in to check your schedule and pay your bill. However, since the site is so expansive and offers so many options, I thought it might end up being confusing for students and parents.  It’s not like it’s hard to use, but I wanted something that parents wouldn’t have to spend even one minute learning. Remember, I want to reduce stress and complexity, not add to it.


Privio is a new startup, which always makes me a little nervous, but there are some great things about getting in on the ground floor of a new venture. (My band, Bella Ruse, has gotten in early on lots of online tools like Kickstarter, Bandcamp, Square, ArtistData and The Music Bed and we’ve loved every minute of it.) The first thing I noticed about Privio is its simple design and clear interface. There isn’t any fat on those bones, but it’s still feature-rich. It met all of our requirements, like having an option to pay online and a portal where parents can view children’s lesson schedules, attendance records and bills. And the best thing is that on the student’s end, all that information is there at a glance. No hunting around. No confusion. And the support is AMAZING. I had a couple of little issues getting my account set up and so I contacted them. Ok, now get this: They replied with a solution in about two minutes! Even better than that, when I suggested a feature that would be helpful, they said, “Hey, you’re right, we should add that.” And they did! The next day! That’s unbeatable service.



So Privio it is.  I should mention that both of these services come with a variable monthly fee that depends on the number of students. But they’re both very reasonable. Privio is a little cheaper, but it has fewer of Music Teacher’s Helper’s bells and whistles. Here’s the bottom line: if you’re a music teacher, either one of these programs is worth the investment. Music Teacher’s Helper is the whole package with tools sophisticated enough to eliminate the need for Excel or Quicken altogether. Privio is a confusion-proof interface designed to help you and your students keep up to date on schedules and payments.

And now that my life has been dramatically simplified, I can get back to what I do best: teaching.