The Art of Studio Scheduling

My guess is that I’m in the minority when I admit that I actually enjoy scheduling music therapy groups, individual sessions, and lessons.  Sure, it can be a huge headache; but there’s something extremely satisfying about making it all work (after lots of erasing and rearranging).  It’s sort of like a puzzle, and I love puzzles!

So here’s how I tackle this job: I give all of my current students and incoming students (or their parents) a list of all my open time slots, as pictured above, a few months before the next session begins.  I’ve found that it’s easier to schedule the summer and school year sessions at the same time, so that I don’t have to go through the passing out and collecting process twice.

Students and parents then fill in their preferred time slots, rating them 1 through 5.  I have a master spreadsheet that looks a lot like the tables above, except with much bigger cells…because I pencil in each student in each of their preferred time slots and circle the number.  I’ve done this both on the computer and by hand, and found that the by-hand method works much better — for me, at least.

Once I’ve received everyone’s time slot preferences, the real fun begins.  I take my hand-filled master spreadsheet and begin plugging students into the computer, giving higher preference to students in order of seniority (how long they’ve been in my studio).

I have to take into account which families have more than one student, students with longer lessons or music therapy sessions, and the type of lesson or session they have.  I try to space out music therapy sessions, because these take the most energy and planning (as opposed to a piano or voice lesson).

Students don’t always get their first, second, or even third preference.  In years past, I haven’t had to go beyond the #5 slot, but I’ve never had more than 30 students.  This summer and fall, though, I have 50 students to schedule…so that may change.  This is going to be one tough puzzle to put together!  So if I seem a bit frazzled after the first of May, you’ll know why ;)

How do you go about scheduling your students or classes?  And do you dread it, or look forward to it like me?  If there’s a better method out there, I’m not opposed to trying it out.  Please share!

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