Find a job as a music teacher

1. Perhaps from some of the reality shows on television, there seems to be a resurgence in interest in music. Do you agree?

I have to admit that I have a very talented 14 year old daughter and we follow American Idol. I do believe that this show has raised some of the awareness of the incredibly talented people that live in every part of our society. However, I'm afraid that one of the problems with these types of contests is that they give people a false sense of what it really takes to succeed. It requires a tremendous commitment and dedication to succeed as a musician and I fear that reality shows may give people the impression that winning a contest is the best way to achieve your goals. The musicians that I know who are successful have done so through hard work and hours and hours of practice and study.

2. What instrument is probably most popular for music lessons?

As a guitarist, I would say that it would probably rank near the top of that list although I believe voice and piano are also extremely popular, especially amongst younger students. That being said, I have also taught lessons on electric bass, mandolin and banjo. In addition, I teach theory and improvisation to students on any instrument. Teaching many styles, instruments, and musical genres can certainly expand your pool of potential students.

3. How does a music teacher become associated with schools for teaching music? As in your chapter 2.

Many schools, both public and private, are hiring private instructors to teach lessons after school. These lessons may often supplement the primary programs and assist students in those programs with band music as well as furthering their individual needs. I believe that networking is a key to success. Public and private school teachers and band directors should key people to connect with, especially if you would like to pursue lessons in the schools.

4. Is working at home a viable alternative? What problems sometimes arise?

Teaching at home is ideal if you can make it happen. You have full access to all your materials, equipment, recordings, music. Teaching on the road makes it more challenging to prepare for the needs of each and every lesson. The best scenario is to have a dedicated space for teaching. Problems can arise however, when your teaching affects the day to day life of your family, roommates, or neighbors.

5. How good at playing the instrument themselves does someone have to be to teach?

I often say that the best athletes rarely make the best coaches. I believe that while it important to have a thorough understanding of your instrument, it is more critical that you have the communication skills to pass on that knowledge to others. That being said, it is absolutely critical that you inspire your students. Your level of proficiency on the instrument will be a huge factor in motivating students, especially the more advanced ones.

6. Tell us a little about marketing oneself?

There are a number of ways to let students know about your business. You should have business cards with your contact information. I would also suggest having a website so that prospective students can find out about you. Be sure to include biographical information in addition to some sound samples of your work, and perhaps some testimonials. You can even include sample lessons, your studio policy, lesson rates, etc. on your site. You can also take advantage of other internet resources such as craigslist, or online bulletin boards where you can advertise your teaching business or look for individuals and organizations in search of a teacher. I also think that hanging posters can be effective if placed in the right place.

7. You mention troubleshooting problems with teenage learners. Can you go into that a little bit?

One thing to remember is that private lessons may be the only time that adolescence meet an adult one-on-one. As you develop a teacher-student relationship, students may feel open to confiding in you. It is important to encourage a friendly environment for learning, but to always keep the focus of the lessons on the music and keep things professional at all times.

8. Adults sometimes wish they had taken lessons as children? Do adults make good students?

I think that in general, the responsibilities of adult life mean that most adult students do not have the time to truly commit to studying music as much as they might hope to. However, music can be a tremendous outlet for relieving the stress of everyday life and many adults find great joy in simply playing music. Part of our job as teachers is to understand the goals of our students and to recognize that not all students have the time or commitment that we might possess. Keep things in perspective and motivate students to achieve their goals, whatever they might be

9. What techniques can you use to keep the student coming back for more lessons?

The best method is to be a fantastic teacher! Not only will your students keep coming back, but other serious students will see the results of your work and seek you out as their private teacher. I have found the key to success is to approach your role as a teacher with the same drive, dedication and commitment that you apply to your own music. There are many talented musicians who assume that teaching will just come naturally. This is not the case at all. Teaching is about imparting knowledge to others and requires great skill, patience, and understanding.

I also believe that it is very important to get students to perform. It is important to teach concepts but I believe that students need to understand how to apply these concepts to real music. Get students to play in each lesson. Playing with you will be a huge inspiration for most students. I also believe that presenting concerts and recitals that feature your students is very important. It takes a lot of extra effort but it is always worth it when you see the joy in the faces of students, parents and friends after students have that opportunity to perform in front of a live audience.

10. Is there anything else you would like to mention to the readers of this website?

I have recently begun teaching a course in the Professional Music Department at Berklee where I get to pass on my knowledge and passion for private studio teaching to young musicians who want to pursue individual instruction for a living. I tell them that I feel very fortunate to call myself a music teacher. It keeps me involved in music each and every day and I am constantly motivated by the work that I do. To me, there is no greater joy than to see how the seeds of knowledge take root and grow in the students that you work with.