How a Pinto Blew up My Teaching

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Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I have a really interesting story for you about how a Pinto blew up my teaching. This is not only an interesting story, but for any of you people out there who have ever thought about having a career or even a side hustle teaching the piano, there will be useful information for you. I’m going to give you a lot of pointers because I have a background in teaching going back literally generations.

My father, Morton Estrin, was a great concert pianist and teacher.

He taught my sister and me until we both went off to conservatory after high school. And in fact, both of us got our teaching career started by learning how to teach the piano from our father and assisting him in his teaching when we were still in high school. All throughout my college years in conservatory, my side hustle was teaching the piano as well as accompanying. So I was no stranger to teaching.

Have Pinto, will travel!

When I graduated from the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, I very quickly amassed many students. I did this by offering to travel to people’s homes for lessons and advertising wherever I could to get students. Back then, it was classified ads because it was before the internet offered that possibility. No matter where people were located, I would go there .I would figure out how much more I’d have to charge for the amount of time it would take me to drive there.

I went all over the county.

No place was off-limits. I would just charge accordingly. My schedule back then was crazy because I would figure out the exact amount of time it would take to go from one student to the next. So one student might have a lesson starting at 3:15, and the next one might start at 3:55. It was all these odd times. Now, if a student was not able to make the lesson, it would be a disaster because I’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere! Sometimes it was really cold, and that car didn’t have the best heat. The other thing was that back then there were no smartphones with GPS. In some areas, there were no street signs! When it was dark, it was almost impossible to figure out where you were going. Worse yet, if for some reason I had to call a student, I’d have to find a payphone!

My mission was to figure out how to get students to come to me.

I figured the best way to do that was to have a really good piano to entice them. It also added a lot of validity when people walked into my studio and saw a beautiful, brand new Baldwin baby grand piano. We also always looked for houses with a separate entrance to a room so that students didn’t have to march through the whole house and there’d be some privacy. My wife Florence is also a musician, a flutist, so we always looked for houses with two rooms with separate entrances to each one. This was always a huge challenge! But you would be surprised at how many places we found that had two separate entrances that didn’t go through the whole house where she could do her teaching and I could do my teaching without disturbing each other.

If you want to get into teaching, you might consider driving to people’s homes.

Why is this so advantageous? Can’t you just teach at a music store or studio? The problem with that is that many studios now, at least in Southern California, get 50% or more of the money in studio fees! So you go to teach lessons, and the people who own the business that you’re teaching at are making more than you are for the actual teaching! You can make far more money if you’re willing to travel. Plus, people really appreciate the convenience of having you come to their homes. Once you develop enough students and have a following, seek out a place where you can make your own teaching studio. If you have a good instrument, and perhaps recording capabilities, it could be a viable place for people to come to for the benefits they get from studying with you.

I hope this is helpful for any of you who are interested in teaching!

By the way, I teach piano pedagogy. I have a deep background in teaching teachers. I was so lucky to have been taught how to teach by my father from the time I was in high school, and I’m happy to help any of you out there who would like to teach piano. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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5 thoughts on “How a Pinto Blew up My Teaching”


  1. Yes, those were the days. I had ten students my senior year at Western MI U. Fortunately, two of them lived across the street from another two that I taught. And fortunately, I teach a great deal better now!

  2. 50 years ago, when I began teaching, I went to students homes. I would have current students whose friends would also want lessons. I ended up having 6 or so students in each different neighborhood. Eventually I made the transition to teaching at home. About 30 years ago, I had a separate piano studio built in back of the house. It has been very nice having a separate entrance and a bathroom next to the teaching room. Going out to peoples’ homes was a great way to get started!

  3. Robert- 4 in my son’s family take lessons fm the same teacher–so she goes to them even though she normally teaches in her home. So, optimum might be a hybrid–travel when it’s worthwhile. One summer I had 4 students who lived 50 miles fm my home where I normally taught. So, I used the grand piano at the high school near them and drove the 50 miles, w/o any extra compensation, just to save them the travel time.

    Also–I just recently uploaded many of my works to the on-line platform, SoundCloud. If you or your students go to SoundCloud, you can listen to a number of symphonies, a string quartet movement as well as my two piano suites:

    Dan Lansdown

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