Daniel Louis Duncan, Trumpet

Daniel Louis Duncan, Trumpet

Monday, September 14, 2015

Finding the Best Teacher

Over the past 10 years, with the growing use of internet access, a lot of big conglomerate music lesson organizations have cropped up.  While they offer the convenience of having the teacher travel to your home, what they don't tell you is they are making minimum of 1/2 of what you pay for these lessons.  While that might not be your concern it creates two problems.

1st:  most highly qualified teachers have been teaching for some time and won't be interested in teaching through these sites as they get paid so poorly.  So, what you get are usually students right out of school, most likely eager to start teaching.  You may get lucky and get a decent teacher.  Most likely you will get someone like myself (years ago) right out of music undergrad who has student loans to pay off and now is looking at a field where they can't usually make enough to help pay those bills.

But, how long will they stay with these big companies, many based no where close to the state they are actually teaching.  How long before they figure out they are traveling all over on their own dime for one lesson in one town on one day for $12.50 for a half hour (example).  They may get lucky and have 5 or 6 half hour lessons in a 15 mile radius.  Now they are up to $75 for their day.  This is most times only during the school year, so summers are slim.  So you can see where this is going.

2nd:  These big on-line lessons sites usually put their net out all over the country.  You can see where this is BIG business for the organization.  In my opinion, this is such a disservice to musicians/teachers who have a very hard time making a living in the music business anyway.  Teaching has always been a great resource for artist to supplement their income and many find out they love teaching so much they do it full time.  They used to be able to make a modest living doing so.  Not anymore.  1/2 of their meager earnings are now going to these big companies who have found a way to capitalize on our means of making a living, which was meager to begin with.

Most schools have cut funding for music programs so much that their may not even have a band program anymore or at best only after school.  There are some schools out there supporting music, but they are getting fewer.  Add that safety of the schools has become so strict after school lesson programs have almost vanished.

Personally, I have been teaching private lessons for more than 30 years.  I started while still an undergrad student. While I don't think I was bad during this time I had loads to learn.  Only in the last 10 years have I felt  that I have honed my skills so that my communication about the concepts I believe in are not a mystery, not something unobtainable, and address all the playing problems that can occur for anyone, no matter their level of proficiency.

So, I would recommend any parent or adult who is overwhelmed with trying to find a good teacher for their instrument first seek out individuals in your area who are either recommended to you or have a good web presence and ask for at least one reference that you can call, such as a parent of a student, or an adult student who can explain what they feel their experience with said teacher is or was like.  Good teachers have lots of people willing to offer their reviews.

If you can't find someone individually in your area go to your local music stores for recommendations.  They have usually worked with many individuals who teach in the area and can help you.  They may also have studios at their stores with private teachers.

Last, in some areas there are very good "music schools" either independent or associated with a university or college.

Please consider our artist life style is in dire need of support by all of you who use us to care for your child's music education or for the adult who just wants to establish an artist outlet.  While $60-$80 per hour (example) may make you think we live a good life.  We can't teach from 9-5 for several reasons.  Teaching 8 hours in one day is tremendously exhausting.  You must engage and inspire in each lesson intensely for an hour, sometimes along the lines of an intense circus clown!  Most people can barely handle 20 hours a week of teaching IF you're lucky enough to have that many students.  Most teaching is seasonal, leaving you with a very blank summer income.  So, if you use the best scenario and teach 20 hours a week at $80 an hour for 32 weeks a year...drum roll...$51,200.  Personally, I don't know anyone with that scenario.  So, that would be the executive type salary for private teaching!  My dream job!

For most highly qualified teachers it's more like 10-15 hours a week.  Hourly rates can range depending on expertise and most importantly the area where you teach.  Your usually not going to make $80 an hour in rural areas where that would be unobtainable.

Happy hunting!

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