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#2247291 - 03/16/14 03:18 AM Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual?
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 242
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
I've dreamt of teaching piano for years now. I do have a student once a week, but I'm keeping it quiet while I do my Bachelor of Music Performance. I teach that student at a school via a contracting company. I've always thought when I finished my Bachelor I could work at a supermarket or something while building up private students. But is teaching piano really viable? My family and friends really don't seem to think so. Would it be a good idea to go for a Master of Education and lean towards school teaching? That hasn't been my goal for a while, but it's sort of close.

Also, later down the track, would piano teaching be viable in a family situation (married with kids)?


Edited by Maechre (03/16/14 03:19 AM)
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#2247293 - 03/16/14 03:20 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5212
Loc: Europe
You seem divided to begin with.

I'd say that teaching is very much a viable option, if you're clever about this. You'll need a combination of skills, but it certainly can happen. Many teachers here "only" teach and are very happy overall, as far as I'm concerned.
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#2247298 - 03/16/14 03:29 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 242
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Fair that I might seem divided. Classroom teaching seems more stable and "normal", has a predictable wage, and is the kind of thing my family and friends would suggest. All through my Advanced Diploma, though (I've just started year two of the Bachelor), the vision of teaching piano has been a driving force for me. smile
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#2247314 - 03/16/14 05:14 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5899
Loc: Down Under
I did both for quite a few years - teaching class music at school, and teaching some piano students after school or weekends. It gave me a chance to really give both a go and see which suited me. You probably only want to have a few students at first if you're full-time school teaching however - the latter can be rather tiring. smile Are you doing any pedagogy courses in your performance degree?
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#2247384 - 03/16/14 10:31 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 242
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Next year I'll be doing an elective called "studio teaching". I'm hoping there's a good deal of pedagogy involved.
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#2247408 - 03/16/14 11:26 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1314
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Originally Posted By: Maechre
Fair that I might seem divided. Classroom teaching seems more stable and "normal", has a predictable wage, and is the kind of thing my family and friends would suggest. All through my Advanced Diploma, though (I've just started year two of the Bachelor), the vision of teaching piano has been a driving force for me. smile


Classroom teaching pays much better, and has a societal status that studio teaching does not have. Your family and friends will better understand and approve if you go into the classroom, rather than starting a private studio.

But the headaches of a classroom - the politics of principals, school boards, fellow teachers, unions, pushy parents, insolent students - may get to you. It's more of a burnout profession than teaching piano, I believe.

My advice is to find a mentor or two in the community who are successful independent piano teachers. Ask to observe a week or two of their teaching. Offer to pay them. Maybe even take private lessons with them in piano pedagogy. They will be flattered, and most likely helpful. The might even provide you your first students.

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#2247412 - 03/16/14 11:40 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Peter K. Mose Offline
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Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1314
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
To answer the original question: I'd say "sort of/maybe." A lot depends on the cost of housing in your community, if you want to teach from home. It would help to have assistance from family (or some other "angel") to fund your first teaching years: buying a decent piano or two is expensive, finding appropriate teaching space might be expensive, and unless you are very lucky, it will take some years to build your student numbers.

It helps to have a self-employed person's relentless drive. Coupled with a piano teacher's patience.

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#2248397 - 03/18/14 01:45 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1314
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
I'd be curious to get some more responses to Maechre's original query about the viability of piano teaching. I ponder this issue often.

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#2248405 - 03/18/14 02:12 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I've never relied solely upon teaching, but upon wearing many hats: singing, accompanying, performing in addition to teaching. I think perhaps once a person is well-established within their community they could cut back on other things and focus on teaching and make a decent living out of it, but I know without working the side jobs and my husband's income I would not survive on teaching alone.
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private piano/voice teacher - full time
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#2248440 - 03/18/14 03:33 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
You can rely on piano teaching as your sole source of income, if you're good at it, and if you can attract lots of students.

I used to teach at public schools to make ends meet, but now that my studio has (finally) picked up, I'm living quite comfortably without a school job. I do supplement my income with evaluating student exams and judging competitions, and occasionally I do tutor students from other studios whose teachers can't teach theory. If I'm bored, I can always work as a substitute teacher at school (I'm credentialed). Once in a blue moon I also get an accompaniment gig, but that's getting less and less frequent because I now have quite a few students, and side jobs are not worth the trouble to accept.

But the problem with being your own boss is that you have to be able to wear many hats. Advertisement, for me, is the biggest problem for many years because I live in an area with a heavy saturation of teachers, including a large older population of teachers who are still teaching into their 80's who literally teach until they drop dead. For the longest time I had trouble getting new students.

I'm a lot more aggressive with recruiting students today than before. I can't rely on luck and word-of-mouth referrals.
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#2248455 - 03/18/14 03:58 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3153
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
other studios whose teachers can't teach theory.

Is that common? That a piano teacher can't teach theory? Is that because they don't know the theory (which shocks me) or because they can't teach it well (which I could find reasonable -- not everyone is good at teaching all things, even all things piano-related)? Is this at any level of theory, or just the higher levels?
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#2248460 - 03/18/14 04:04 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: AZNpiano]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11418
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
...including a large older population of teachers who are still teaching into their 80's who literally teach until they drop dead.
Those poor students! I wouldn't want to be their next teacher/piano bench psychologist. wink
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2248461 - 03/18/14 04:04 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: PianoStudent88]
Polyphonist Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7503
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
other studios whose teachers can't teach theory.

Is that common? That a piano teacher can't teach theory? Is that because they don't know the theory (which shocks me)...

Be shocked. Clueless teachers are quite common.
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Polyphonist

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#2248473 - 03/18/14 04:26 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: PianoStudent88]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
other studios whose teachers can't teach theory.

Is that common? That a piano teacher can't teach theory? Is that because they don't know the theory (which shocks me) or because they can't teach it well (which I could find reasonable -- not everyone is good at teaching all things, even all things piano-related)? Is this at any level of theory, or just the higher levels?

In my experience, there are three scenarios:

1) The teacher is incompetent. Does not know any theory.

2) The teacher chooses to focus on repertoire and technique, and leaves everything else (including theory, sight reading, and ear training) to somebody else.

3) The teacher chooses to focus on repertoire only because competition is what piano is all about. Every second of every lesson is dedicated to teaching Liszt etudes or Chopin Ballades. Testing is for the average students, and even the dumbest kids can fake their way through theory, or just buy a theory book and teach it to themselves.
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#2248475 - 03/18/14 04:28 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Polyphonist]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
other studios whose teachers can't teach theory.

Is that common? That a piano teacher can't teach theory? Is that because they don't know the theory (which shocks me)...

Be shocked. Clueless teachers are quite common.

If there were a way to systematically eliminate all the clueless piano teachers in my area, the rest of us would all have 50 students and 30 more on the waiting list. So clueless teachers do serve their purpose. wink

[I'm kidding!]
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#2248559 - 03/18/14 07:38 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 832
I had a piano teacher who taught me when she was 78. That was her final year of teaching. She was an excellent piano teacher. All together, I took 8.5 years of lessons with her.

As to your original question, you can make a living, but for me, it's always been about just making ends meet and having only a small amount of discretionary income. If you need a lot of money to be happy, a car and a house, this is not the right job for you.

The only way you can do well is if you take all the lousy teachers away and that will never happen. Many people think of piano teaching as a nice way to make a few bucks on the side and they will always crop up, particularly if the economy is bad.

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#2248609 - 03/18/14 09:08 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
hreichgott Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 869
Loc: western MA, USA
Yep, you can make a living, a musician's living not a stockbroker's living that is. That's if you're not in an area saturated by piano teachers, you teach well enough to earn recommendations, and if you can allow yourself a ramp-up period to get known in town. I live in a small town where there is only one other private teacher I know of. I set my rates so as to be affordable to the town where I live. (Neighboring towns have a higher cost of living and the teachers there charge more; then again, those teachers have to pay for their living arrangements in the more expensive towns, and I don't.) It took about 2 years to get to the point where 3 families in town knew me and liked my teaching and felt that they had enough of a track record to recommend me to others. After that my phone never stopped ringing. By choice I also do other work, but after passing that tipping point, I could teach full time easily. I do not advertise except a little perfunctory notice on my website (which says "my studio is currently full" now anyway).

Keep in mind that unless you get lucky and find a lot of students with daytime availability, full time piano teaching really isn't a 40 hour work week, it's pretty much 3pm until whenever you want to call it a night, presumably no later than 8, so that's a 25-hour work week plus whatever happens on weekends.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2248692 - 03/19/14 01:01 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: hreichgott]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1314
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
I live in a small town where there is only one other private teacher I know of. I set my rates so as to be affordable to the town where I live. (Neighboring towns have a higher cost of living and the teachers there charge more; then again, those teachers have to pay for their living arrangements in the more expensive towns, and I don't.)


Thanks for this observation, Heather. Cost of living is an important factor in this game. I also think setting up a teaching studio in a smaller town can often be more successful than in a major metropolitan area. Plus your talents may be more obviously valued, because without you, piano teaching might collapse.

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#2248694 - 03/19/14 01:03 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: hreichgott]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1314
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
It took about 2 years .... After that my phone never stopped ringing.


Et voilà...hurray, Heather!

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#2248708 - 03/19/14 02:36 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: hreichgott]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
Keep in mind that unless you get lucky and find a lot of students with daytime availability, full time piano teaching really isn't a 40 hour work week, it's pretty much 3pm until whenever you want to call it a night, presumably no later than 8, so that's a 25-hour work week plus whatever happens on weekends.

Mornings are for practicing piano!

And for other job-related tasks. I keep my mornings filled with activities that will help my students.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2248724 - 03/19/14 04:54 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 242
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
This is all looking pretty positive to me! smile

I've spoken to some of my Uni friends who happen to be teaching at the moment, and they're doing quite well for themselves, especially considering they're only working one day per week.

Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
I live in a small town where there is only one other private teacher I know of. I set my rates so as to be affordable to the town where I live. (Neighboring towns have a higher cost of living and the teachers there charge more; then again, those teachers have to pay for their living arrangements in the more expensive towns, and I don't.)


Thanks for this observation, Heather. Cost of living is an important factor in this game. I also think setting up a teaching studio in a smaller town can often be more successful than in a major metropolitan area. Plus your talents may be more obviously valued, because without you, piano teaching might collapse.


I'm so happy you brought up this point. There's an online directory of teachers I look up from time to time. Close to the city where I'm studying, there are heaps of teachers, probably over a hundred. Over at my old hometown, there was one or two, and where my mum's now moved (and where my private teaching should be starting up), there's only one teacher a 10-15 minute drive away. The new place is just twenty minutes north of my old town. So I'm hoping that will spell out good things for me.
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#2248868 - 03/19/14 12:46 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1314
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
We wish you luck, and keep us posted.

I'm curious: for the one student you have now, what percentage of his or her tuition goes to you and what percentage goes to the "school via a contracting company"? (That's a pretty clumsy phrase, by the way - I don't really know what it means.)

But we have had many discussions here about the merits of teaching on own's own or through a music school, and our discussions were only about the US, so it would be nice to learn about your situation in Australia.

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#2249104 - 03/19/14 10:20 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
hreichgott Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 869
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: Maechre
This is all looking pretty positive to me! smile

I've spoken to some of my Uni friends who happen to be teaching at the moment, and they're doing quite well for themselves, especially considering they're only working one day per week.

Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
I live in a small town where there is only one other private teacher I know of. I set my rates so as to be affordable to the town where I live. (Neighboring towns have a higher cost of living and the teachers there charge more; then again, those teachers have to pay for their living arrangements in the more expensive towns, and I don't.)


Thanks for this observation, Heather. Cost of living is an important factor in this game. I also think setting up a teaching studio in a smaller town can often be more successful than in a major metropolitan area. Plus your talents may be more obviously valued, because without you, piano teaching might collapse.


I'm so happy you brought up this point. There's an online directory of teachers I look up from time to time. Close to the city where I'm studying, there are heaps of teachers, probably over a hundred. Over at my old hometown, there was one or two, and where my mum's now moved (and where my private teaching should be starting up), there's only one teacher a 10-15 minute drive away. The new place is just twenty minutes north of my old town. So I'm hoping that will spell out good things for me.

Sounds promising! Do keep us posted.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2249182 - 03/20/14 02:16 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 899
Loc: California, USA
In answer to the OPs original question: Yes. Piano teaching is a viable occupation.

The details will vary depending on your location, and maybe more importantly your personality. You need a wide range of skills... beyond your music and teaching skills.

Is it a fit for your personality and skill set? We can't know that because we don't know you, but plenty of people with a wide range of personalities have success at the career.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2249183 - 03/20/14 02:22 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: PianoStudent88]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 899
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
other studios whose teachers can't teach theory.

Is that common? That a piano teacher can't teach theory? Is that because they don't know the theory (which shocks me) or because they can't teach it well (which I could find reasonable -- not everyone is good at teaching all things, even all things piano-related)? Is this at any level of theory, or just the higher levels?

I just accepted a transfer student who had been studying with a teacher for 2 years and didn't know her finger numbers, what any clef was, didn't know any types of notes (quarter notes etc.) and of course no letter names. 2 years!

There are shocking levels of incompetence out there.

Why did I accept the student? Because she's bright and has potential. But it's starting from the very beginning.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2249196 - 03/20/14 03:08 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: musicpassion]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
I just accepted a transfer student who had been studying with a teacher for 2 years and didn't know her finger numbers, what any clef was, didn't know any types of notes (quarter notes etc.) and of course no letter names. 2 years!

There are shocking levels of incompetence out there.

Welcome to my world!

I've been carping about BAD TEACHERS for the last several years. I've even started a thread on that very topic. The level of incompetence is sickening.

smokin cursing
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2249202 - 03/20/14 03:45 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Maechre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/12
Posts: 242
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
We wish you luck, and keep us posted.

I'm curious: for the one student you have now, what percentage of his or her tuition goes to you and what percentage goes to the "school via a contracting company"? (That's a pretty clumsy phrase, by the way - I don't really know what it means.)

But we have had many discussions here about the merits of teaching on own's own or through a music school, and our discussions were only about the US, so it would be nice to learn about your situation in Australia.


(It means the woman who pays me has contact with schools, and can get me into schools to teach. The parents pay her, and she pays me.)

I don't know what the percentage is, but I only get $16 for the lesson. She pays me an extra $16 for petrol cost, but if I get a second student, that won't increase my pay.

It's not an awful thing -- it's given me a year's worth of experience and some extra money -- but there's a big difference between $16 and the $25 I can get in my own studio.

However, in the future I'd consider going through a company for in-school teaching, then at night time doing my private teaching. That's if I can't get into the schools myself.
_________________________
I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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#2249254 - 03/20/14 04:36 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
compianist1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/13/13
Posts: 121
Loc: Banned
whatever, I agree wink

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#2249746 - 03/20/14 10:21 PM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: AZNpiano]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 899
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
I just accepted a transfer student who had been studying with a teacher for 2 years and didn't know her finger numbers, what any clef was, didn't know any types of notes (quarter notes etc.) and of course no letter names. 2 years!

There are shocking levels of incompetence out there.

Welcome to my world!

I've been carping about BAD TEACHERS for the last several years. I've even started a thread on that very topic. The level of incompetence is sickening.

smokin cursing


I think somehow I was avoiding seeing it for a long time - and probably many other teachers have done the same thing. If you're set up in a community where people know you, often we mainly start students from the beginning or accept transfers from a student who moved and wants to stay in CM.
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Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2251327 - 03/24/14 10:06 AM Re: Is teaching piano viable as a sole income for an individual? [Re: Maechre]
Rebecca Piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/02/13
Posts: 51
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Maechre, I hesitated to answer assuming that you, like many posters here, were American... if you were located in America then I wouldn't know much about teaching, income and all the things that go with that. I am in Sydney... and I hope to move to Melbourne eventually, but I can tell you, I'm in my fourth year of my Bachelor of Music degree at the con, I work less than some of my friends in other fields but I earn a lot more in terms of my hourly rate.

I don't want to purely only teach piano though, I do intend to start following my other dreams (in the hospitality industry) by getting an apprenticeship in commercial cookery (chef studies).

If you want more students, there are a few ways around it: 1. Advertise 2. Join an already established music studio... but I just really wanted to say that there is a lot of flexibility in music. If you can't see yourself doing studio teaching all the time, then working in schools, getting involved with Kindermusik programmes (there is another one in Australia called Jellybeans music). Otherwise accompanying for AMEB and university entrance exams (they call it the HSC in Sydney, I know it's different in Melbourne) makes good money.

I'm in my fourth year... so all of the issues that revolve around employment are quite real but so far the universe has been nice to me... In the space of six months, I have gained 11 new piano students. I have also found work in the hospitality industry (I need to be in the kitchen as much as I need to make music!) so I am satisfied.

If you really don't like teaching music, you can always get into something else and do music after hours. There is totally nothing wrong with that.
_________________________
Independent Piano and Music Teacher
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New Topics - Multiple Forums
What is the purpose of learning a song's chords?
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a solo transcription for Debussy' Petite Suite?
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Halloween Fantasy and Tag! - student level pieces
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