Years ago, a piano teaching colleague and friend of mine gave up teaching piano and switched careers. I could hardly believe this, because whenever we talked on the phone, he always brought as much excitement, curiosity, and fascination into our conversations about teaching as I did. What could make such an enthusiastic teacher suddenly decide to go nuclear and quit teaching altogether?
In 2012, I moved across the country and joined two different music teachers associations. One of these associations held certain education and experience requirements for joining, a foreign concept that disturbed and continues to disturb me. Not that I had any trouble joining – my qualifications are more than solid. And granted, the requirements for this particular organization are vague: applicants “shall present satisfactory qualifications” and shall have “proper training.” I suppose this gives board members the ability to approve those with no training at all since it all depends on what the working definitions of “proper” and “satisfactory” are on that day of the board meeting, and as I understand, the board apparently does work with very generous definitions of these words since they have never rejected a single applicant. Still, I find qualification prerequisites hugely bothersome, even if they are theoretical and never actually applied. If they are never applied, they should be disposed of for that reason alone, not to mention this wording probably does deter some teachers from applying in the first place. But even aside from that, this wording should be disposed of for a much bigger reason: Music teacher associations ought to be hospitals for teachers in need, not just stages for great teachers and their students to be showcased.
Get any group of 100 private music teachers into the same room, and more than likely a few of their discussions will find their way to the passionate subject of make-up lesson policy. Why such passion over something that seems so mundane? The passion comes out most often as a natural result of conflict teachers experience with their own clients. I do agree that we have all had the misfortune of serving clients who are difficult to please, but I believe teachers are more often to blame for this conflict than most of them would admit, and this proposition runs contrary to what I generally hear promoted within the teaching community (journals, conferences, blogs, and forums). Some make-up lesson policies, such as the no-make-up lesson policy, are so unfair that the resulting poisonous disputes within Continue reading →
In my previous article, How Music Teacher Directories Hurt Private Music Teachers, I began with the same quote and compared music teacher directories to farmers using cows for milk (and to the mafia demanding pay for protection against themselves). If those comparisons seem wild and crazy, be sure to read the article to find out why they are not. In that article, I promised to discuss another example of how certain business people exploit private music teachers.
Giving lessons in a music store is one of the best ways to start out teaching. Teachers pay an hourly or monthly fee to rent a teaching studio in a store. A teacher usually gets a considerable number of referrals from this, and stores also benefit from this deal since teachers bring a lot of people into their stores every week, generating sheet music sales and instrument rentals. Perhaps most importantly, it creates great loyalty between teachers and stores. Even after leaving a music store I taught at for several years, I remained loyal to this store, sending them a great deal of sheet music and piano purchase business.
Unfortunately, many stores take it further than the simple rental scenario: they take Continue reading →
I’m not sure where this quote originates, but I heard it in a Leverage episode from season 3 titled, “The Studio Job.” The context in this case was to ask, “Why write songs yourself when you can steal others’ songs and sing them?” In other words, it’s more profitable to let others work for you than to do the work yourself. This abuse can surely be found in every profession, but I’d like to discuss one way it manifests in the context of private music lessons. Continue reading →