Young girl teaching little boy to playing violin

Five Things That Happen When You Start Teaching Music

Teaching music can be extremely rewarding as a career. And whether you’re a full-time Teacher or supplementing your performing career, many things will change in both your professional and day-to-day life!

Here are five big changes you’ll notice right away.

1. Your network expands drastically.

You’ll find yourself trading ideas with fellow Teachers, whether through online forums, Facebook groups, or perhaps professional organizations such as MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) or NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing), to name just a few. Take advantage of these groups to the fullest. You’ll soon see your fellow Teachers are super supportive and have lots of great ideas, whether it has to do with business-related matters, or how to deal with difficult students or parents. Chances are, no matter what your concern, someone has dealt with it before and can offer sound advice.

The other way your network expands is through your local community. Once people find out you’re a Music Teacher, they may want to collaborate. Offer yourself up for workshops at your local libraries, non-profits, community theaters, and schools, and you’ll find yourself meeting tons of interesting new people from all walks of life who want to take lessons from you.

There are also lots of other professionals you will need to have in your corner for you AND your students. A few examples may include a good Piano Tuner, a Yoga Instructor, Acting Coach, a Graphic Designer, and an Accountant.

Although you may feel somewhat isolated during the day as you teach, the truth is you have the opportunity to really grow your circle in so many ways. Like in all professions, networking is the way to go. Schedule a time to have coffee with a fellow Teacher to bounce ideas off of each other. It will get you out the studio and be a nice break, and you never know how he or she can help you (and vice versa).

2. Your schedule can be very unpredictable.

At least for a while! As you’re building your studio, don’t expect a steady income. You will need to budget very carefully. You may find you have to say “yes” all the time, and perhaps be giving lessons six or seven days of the week for a while in order to generate an income.

Eventually you will figure out what days are most popular for your students, and you can create more manageable time blocks for each day you make yourself available for lessons.

Keep in mind, though, to avoid Teacher burnout, I recommend at least one day off per week to recharge. If you spend all your time teaching or hustling to get your business to grow, you won’t have the energy necessary to do your job well.

Although a Music Teacher’s salary won’t always mean you can take off on a grand European adventure when you want to, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a simple staycation or something on a smaller scale. Sometimes it’s when we step away from our teaching job we find ourselves coming up with really great ideas.

You’ll soon see your fellow Teachers are super supportive and have lots of great ideas, whether it has to do with business-related matters, or how to deal with difficult students or parents. Chances are, no matter what your concern, someone has dealt with it before and can offer sound advice.

3. You become a perpetual student.

This is the fun part! One of the greatest things about teaching music is discovering NEW music, whether on your own or through your students.

Let’s say you are classically trained. The truth is very few students are interested in classical music these days, so it’s best to keep an open mind about working with students who are interested in other genres. You’ll find yourself learning about new artists and songs through them, and it’s wonderful. Young students in particular will introduce you to the latest songs and shows. Once you know what’s hot, you can better assist your other students in selecting songs to work on.

It’s also important you set aside time to research music on your own. As a Music Teacher, part of your job involves either assigning or suggesting repertoire for your students. You need to stay current about Top 40 and hot Broadway shows, but also be well-versed in older repertoire.

The other way to stay competitive is to pursue training for yourself as often as you possibly can. Are there special certifications you can get? How about a workshop in Alexander Technique? Your work is far from done, even if you have an advanced degree. Fortunately, technology has made it easier than ever for you to learn. Many arts organizations offer webinars that can greatly benefit you, and you don’t even have to worry about leaving the comfort of your own home.

You should also consider attending as many master classes as you can. Many top artists offer these at universities or through other professional organizations throughout the year, and they are often open to the public for a modest fee. There are also many master classes on YouTube as well as on sites such as Medici TV.

Thinking outside of the box can also help you as far as being a compelling instructor. The more you can teach, the more likely students will flock to your studio.

Finally, consider taking lessons from other instructors — as often as you are able to! Even though many turn to you for your expertise, there is still more you can do as far as sharpening your technique on your respective instrument. Naturally, there is a lot you can take from your own instructor when working with your students. Fresh ideas mean you’re a lot more likely to feel inspired and energized.

Thinking outside of the box can also help you as far as being a compelling instructor. The more you can teach, the more likely students will flock to your studio.

4. You become a business person.

Maybe this is the least enjoyable aspect of becoming a Music Teacher, but it’s extremely important — almost as important as being proficient at the instrument you teach.

A big part of the business side is finding students. Working with a reputable company like TakeLessons helps a ton because they do part of the marketing and initial student set-up for you. But you should also continue doing work on your own. Maintaining a website or social media page are great options – although time-consuming, both current and prospective students want to see a Teacher is posting relevant content as often as they can.

Don’t forget about marketing yourself offline, too. Creating eye-catching flyers with a memorable logo is just one way to prove you’re professional and really set you apart from the competition. Although they may seem old-school, ALWAYS have business cards with you.

You will also spend a significant amount of time writing and revising your studio policies. A lot of this comes from trial and error, but many Teachers are willing to share their own policies to help you write yours. Having policies in place mean students and parents know what to expect out of lessons, and also means they’re more likely to respect your time and your business.

Lastly, if you are an independent music instructor, you’ll find it’s all much harder if you don’t have a good Accountant. To make it easier on you, save all your receipts on everything you buy related to your teaching. Your Accountant will show you surprising things you can write off on your taxes. Once you get the hang of it, it will be a lot less intimidating once tax season rolls around.

5. You grow as a musician.

It’s true: teaching can make you better at your instrument. If you’re taking workshops, lessons, and then constantly emphasizing technique to your own students — well, it’s bound to happen!

This is why it’s critical you continue playing or singing, in addition to teaching. Don’t make the mistake many Teachers make and give it all up to “just teach.” Students want an instructor that walks the walk. Prove to them you can still do it, and get out there and perform, whether it’s at an open mic night, or even at your studio recital.

Being a Music Teacher can be hard work, especially when you’re just starting out, but it’s so worth it. I’ve learned a ton from my students, and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Good luck!

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