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Becoming an Independent Music Teacher

For people who love their instrument and wish to cultivate that love in others, becoming an independent music teacher can be a great career path.

While most college students don’t find their career path in grade school, often those who go on to become independent music teachers begin their training early—often as early as age six! And for people who love their instrument and wish to cultivate that love in others, becoming an independent music teacher can be a great career path.

This is how to make it happen. An expert on the subject explains:

How might a student's interest in teaching music shape his or her college search? 

Most often, students interested in a career in music teaching or performing begin formulating college plans in their pre-college years. Students can begin music lessons as early as preschool, setting into motion almost 12 years of formal study both with independent music teachers as well as school and community teachers and ensembles. Therefore, a student’s goal of becoming a college music major often crystalizes way before most other majors.

Because they’ve had close contact with music professionals early on, students who want to pursue music teaching as a career often know where they want to go to college and with whom they are going to even while still in high school. Often music teachers are involved in the selection of schools and help make contacts with college faculty. Collegiate music schools and departments also require auditions, usually conducted during the senior year of high school as part of the admission process.

Independent music teachers are not required to have certification like public school music teachers (although the MTNA Professional Certification Program exists to improve the level of professionalism within the field of music teaching). However, certification helps readily identify competent music teachers within the community.

What might a typical day or week for a music teacher look like?

Independent music teachers generally own their business and will have the flexibility to design a schedule conducive to client needs and availability. Typically the teacher’s clients are pre-college students, so independent music teachers are often teaching from after school until after dinner. Some also teach adults and preschool students, and that can lead to a more diverse daytime schedule as well. The rest of the day is filled with practicing, lesson planning, meeting with other teachers, developing new program ideas, choosing repertoire, and professional development activities, like research and reading.

What are some of the most notable challenges and rewards of teaching music? 

In today’s society we have seen an upsetting decline in the importance the general population places on the arts, even though scientific evidence confirms the overwhelming benefits music study provides students. Combine that with demand for teachers who can be a “jack of all trades, master of none” and there is an increasingly difficult uphill climb for independent music teachers to keep themselves relevant.

Sports activities, working parents, bulging schedules, academic competition, and technology have all played a significant role in the decline and lack of interest. Students are over-scheduled and find it difficult to practice. The inherent isolation of both a lesson and practicing can also make studying less attractive.

Of course, there’s a flipside of that same coin. Student who take lessons, practice, and commit to their instrument—and who have parents who support the process, not just the product—can find success and overwhelming joy in their music. That success and joy is shared first-hand with their independent music teachers, and there is nothing like it.

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