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Music Teaching

So you wanna be a piano teacher?

I made up my mind about becoming a piano teacher almost 30 years ago. Allow me to highlight my own personal pros and cons.

POSITIVES

  1. Piano teaching can be a very fulfilling vocation, especially when you see students gradually improving over the course of time under your guidance. Many of my ex-students have gone on to become piano teachers themselves.
  2. You are your own boss. You set and maintain your own teaching schedules, your rates, your rules, etc. Best of all, you can do this in the comfort of your own home. And if you plan your teaching schedules carefully, you can have lots of me time for yourself and/or your family.
  3. You learn how to interact with people. I’m talking about students and parents here, of course. No doubt experience is the best teacher, but you have to indulge yourself in it, you can’t be shy. Learning people skills, knowing when and how to talk and listen, makes you into a better person and teacher. Buy some self-motivational books and motivate yourself first before you motivate others.
  4. This is a good career for those of us who would rather work at home. Many mothers do this so that they can be close to their children at the same time.
  5. Piano teaching can also be a supplementary source of income if you already have a primary job. Some of my ex-students teach on a part-time basis (for example after office hours) and that means more money in the kitty.

NEGATIVES

  1. Piano teaching is a career where your monthly salary is always in a state of flux. Like it or not, students come and go. You will have good periods and not-so-good periods. It comes with the territory.
  2. Piano teaching can be stressful at times. Believe me, this is the absolute truth. Teaching someone to play the piano well and expecting them to do their fair share of practice involves a lot of patience, determination, and wit. It will be a testing time for you!
  3. Like every other job, you get out what you put in. I hate to say the obvious but if you don’t correct the bad habits that students sometimes have, then you’re not doing your job right. Piano teaching isn’t about just sitting beside the student and barking out orders, you have to get involved, to demonstrate, to show them how you want it done. And if you have no idea at all, then you shouldn’t be teaching in the first place!
  4. There is also a tendency for people to judge your quality of teaching on the number of students you have. While this is true to a point, it makes no sense whatsoever for you to offer discount rates and have students (mediocre or otherwise) flocking to you. It’s also downright unethical. After so many years of teaching I’ve arrived at the point where I pick and choose my students; if you’re just starting off you might not want to do this, but be tactful about how you go about it.

You might also want to get a book like like James Bastien’s How To Teach Piano Successfully. It’s a book I’ve read and periodically dip into. Another book which appears interesting is David Newsam’s Making Money Teaching Music. The link will also show you the many other books on piano teaching, it’s worth getting a book or two.

You can also join a forum like Piano World (of which I’m a member) Registration is free and there are over 47,000 members sharing a wealth of information and advice. It’s a great place for piano fans.

One reply on “So you wanna be a piano teacher?”

Dear Mr. Yeoh,

I have been teaching piano for 20 years. My children are almost grown and I find myself interested in working for perhaps one day a week in an outside setting. This is mostly stemming from a desire to get out of the house for one or two days a week. I would like to take advantage of a recent lull in my student enrollment to pursue this. I would like to ask you what you would put on a ‘teacher profile’ for such a job application. I’d like to put my short profile at the top of the resume. I would be delighted if you had any suggestions.

Barbara

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