Many people arrive at their music lessons, plop down on the bench, and only get to see the next 30 - 45 minute window of what being a music teacher involves. They don't often think about the behind-the-scenes requirements of being a quality music teacher. Therefore, I often think to myself if parents really understand and know where their tuition goes and why they pay a little higher tuition rates at my studio than perhaps some surrounding studio's.
I firmly believe in 100% transparency and therefore am writing this little article for you. Private music teaching, is an industry that is (whether we like to admit it or not) struggling to survive. I'm not talking about professional music academies. I'm talking about the wonderful one-on-one relationships that are built in the comfort of somebody's home.
This industry is struggling to keep up with inflation, causing many music teachers to work full-time hours, at almost a part-time income. This is not a sustainable model for a career, despite many music teachers having Bachelor's degree's in music performance and/or education and working on average anywhere from 50 - 70 hours a week. It is not often you see success in a single-income private music teacher, who doesn't have a part-time job or the support of a dual-income. This makes it very difficult to be seen as the truly creative professionals we are.
Music teachers are known to have big hearts, that understand financial struggles. So we tend to bend our own boundaries for the sake of music education, because we believe in it's transformative power and believe everyone deserves to be exposed to it. However, in the long-term, I believe this hurts our industry more than helping it.
Instead, we should be accommodating financial struggles with scholarships for deserving students and financial aid with funds raised by donations. However, that unfortunately requires yet another hat for us to wear and time we really do not have. In order to be there for our students, we must also take care of our own mental, emotional, and physical health, which requires time away from the studio as well.
Here are the many hats a sole music teacher must wear:
On top of all these hats we wear, we have hidden expenses that drive the cost of lessons up, such as:
According to an article by David Cutler (author of the Savvy Music Teacher) published by Oxford University Press
"It is difficult to devote 100% of attention to teaching excellence when tormented by problematic personal finance. Economic woes trigger a host of problems, inducing stress, strained relationships, and zapped enthusiasm. Individuals forced to take supplementary 'day jobs' they despise just to get by, or those with unmanageable schedules and an unbalanced life, are unlikely to have time or energy to go the extra mile for students.
On the flip side, a sound financial model increases likelihood that teachers find the psychological space to offer their best. It provides a foundation for maintaining a studio, organizing meaningful activities, pursuing professional development, and tackling passion projects, in addition to fulfilling personal desires such as buying a house or raising a family.
Is there a more direct correlation? There is if you do things right. In order to increase impact, savvy music teachers are known for employing teaching tools and strategies that expand beyond the average studio. As a result, their offerings are differentiated in innovative and meaningful ways, which translates to more students and higher fees. In addition, they offer a variety of products and services beyond lessons that enhance learning and revenue." (https://blog.oup.com/2015/09/music-teacher-business-innovation/)
Additionally, as a Suzuki teacher, I firmly believe in spending time for parent education and support. This means spending yet additional time finding and making parental guidance materials, in order to provide a more quality experience in my studio. This is not a normal component to most private music studio's where you just drop your kids off and pick them up.
I believe that it is time to treat private music teachers with the respect they deserve: by compensating them appropriately for their education, experience, and unseen commitment to music education.