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Teaching Music: Is it the Right Career for You?

Teaching Music: Is it the Right Career for You?

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I am a piano teacher and also the owner of Kane Piano Studio. I have more than 30 years of experience in this field. My clientele consists of more than 40 students, and I employ two other teachers who also teach students for me.

Each of my students receives a private lesson of 30 minutes each week. Most of my students participate in a New York State test of their ability, and we hold an annual recital every June. A common misunderstanding in my field is that it is easy, and  that you only have to know how to play the piano in order to know how to ‘teach’ piano.

I would rate my overall job satisfaction at about a 6. The students of today are involved in far too many extra-curricular activities. As a result, they cannot possibly dedicate a regular amount of time daily (at least 30 minutes) to practice and to achieve satisfactory results. To improve job satisfaction I would want to drop those students who do not practice regularly due to lack of interest or because they are overextended with activities.

Sometimes, I feel like I have found my calling when a student shows sincere appreciation once they have successfully learned how to play a particular piece or have performed well. I then know I have done my job well.

I started teaching music privately after college. I subbed during the day and taught at a music studio after school hours. The money was better so I decided to teach privately and not in a public school setting. That was a mistake. I went for the better money right away instead of looking down the road for my later years. Now I have no retirement, no pension. I would probably have been retired by now and teaching privately had I taught classroom music instead.

One thing I have learned the hard way outside of the classroom is that the saying, “It is not always ‘what’ you know, but ‘who’ you know,” is true of just about any profession in terms of getting into and succeeding in a certain area.

Nothing actually strange has happened during my career, but little kids will often say whatever is on their mind – they do not filter things out. I am sure some parents would be appalled by what their children have shared with me over the years.

I get up and go to work each day because I am not the kind of person who can remain idle for too long, and because I have a family to support and bills to pay. But on the other side of the coin, I do enjoy what I do and look forward to what each new day brings.

The biggest challenge I am confronted with on a regular basis is getting the students to commit to practicing each day. It can be very frustrating to have to say the same thing over and over, week after week, and see no improvement.

There is definitely stress involved in my job. Trying to keep the parents happy even when their children are not doing their jobs can become extremely stressful. The parents simply do not want to hear it. For some reason, a child’s lack of success is usually blamed on the teacher and not the child’s lack of commitment and dedication.

I make $30 per 30-minute session, which is the going rate for a degreed instructor in my geographic location. I am fortunate to make such good money, but I do have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in this field, a great deal of experience, and I have been told on numerous occasions that I am a good teacher.

To get into this industry and succeed, one needs a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in music education.

My advice to a friend who was looking to get into this field would be to start your career in the classroom and then have a private clientele on the side. As I mentioned, I made the mistake of doing it in the opposite direction. I should be enjoying my retirement years at this point in my life.

If I had started in the school system as a music teacher I would be able to retire comfortably today and not have to worry about whether I have a large enough clientele to meet my overhead expenses.

If I could write my own ticket I would love to be teaching ONLY those students who want to learn and are willing to practice. I have no plans of retiring… ever!

Career teaching music image from Shutterstock

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