photo by Nathan Russell
Many musicians consider teaching music privately. Here are some things to consider before you start.
1. You set your own hours. There are some out there, but most private instructors do not teach 40 hours per week. Many also take off part of the summer.
2. You build relationships with students of all ages. I've forgotten names of previous students, but I still carry the memories of so many faces and personalities to this day.
3. Depending on your current occupation, teaching may be lucrative, at least in terms of dollars earned per hour. According to simplyhired.com the average yearly salary for a piano teacher is about 36k. It's not a fortune, but for a starving artist it beats flipping burgers.
4. You may or may not have a contract with a music store. If not, then you have more job security as a music teacher, ie you can't get fired overnight. All of your students won't drop all at once.
5. If you are building or maintaining a performance career, teaching allows you to keep your work centered around music. You don't have to work a 9 to 5 job in some unrelated field.
1. When it comes to paying taxes, being a private music teacher is really tough. Check out my article A Penny Unearned is 1.56 Pennies Saved to read more about the real cost of being self-employed.
2. Most students do not take lessons for the long term. The best you can hope for is a good group of medium term students who may take for 3 to 5 years. You may be blessed to have a small number of long term students perhaps taking up to 10 or more years. And in the margins there are those pupils who quit after 6 months or less. The quitters will make up less and less of your schedule as your studio becomes more established. For someone who gets easily attached to people, it can be very sad to lose touch with so many people.
3. Many start teaching only to find it difficult to gain enough students to support themselves. This can happen for many reasons other than your teaching ability. Sometimes it's the store location, bad management by those answering phones, lack of reputation, or just a bad economy. Music lessons are certainly seen as a discretionary expense.
4. Working with kids can be challenging. How are your people skills? Disrespectful, defiant, and otherwise abrasive little tyrants can zap your energy fast. A friend of mine decided to hang up private instruction after a young boy turned his guitar up-side-down and asked, "Do you think my guitar looks like a space ship?". Patience is certainly a virtue.
5. If you love music enough to consider being a teacher, you may become disheartened by all the "bad" music you hear. Every lesson will include numerous mistakes, which you must tenderly correct.
Teaching music may or may not be a good fit for you. It's certainly not for everyone. In the end, teaching is all about helping people. As corny as it sounds, you have in some small way a chance to make the world a better place. It took many years for me to realize it, but people really are more important than the music you teach them. Realizing this has helped some of the cons, especially the "bad" music, be a little less painful. Feel free to comment with some of your pros and cons of music teaching.