Since being broke is an experience nearly shared by all musicians at some point during their careers, the thought of teaching music on the side to earn extra money is something that appeals to many. But while getting paid to share the gift of music with people might sound like a dream to some, there’s a lot of factors to consider if you’re thinking about becoming a music teacher.
Teaching is a skill
Not every musician can or should teach music because teaching and musicianship are two completely different skills. Knowing how to play an instrument is one thing, but possessing the patience and thoughtfulness to know how to communicate that knowledge is something completely different. Patience, for example, is paramount when it comes to showing a student how to play something rudimentary over and over again that you can play in your sleep. Like music, the skill of teaching can be taught, but many musicians are better off putting their talent and hard work towards other endeavors.
Making money as a music teacher means working with kids
Theoretically, you could start a music teaching business that only serves adults, but you probably wouldn’t find many clients. The vast majority of students who take music lessons are kids, and being able to work with them requires an entirely different set of skills than it takes to play music and teach. Teaching kids takes patience, passion, creativity, and tenacity. To be a great music teacher for a child means being a relentless motivator and advocate for music. Wanting to both be a great musician and music teacher is hard and often thankless work, and a lot of musicians aren’t cut out for both.
Being a successful music teacher requires business sense
There’s definitely some crossover between teaching and being a professional musician when it comes to business skills, but many musicians should think twice about adding more tedious administrative work to their plates. Making money as a music teacher requires traveling or reserving a home teaching studio, keeping track of expenses like mileage and receipts, and constantly trying to drum up new business. If you think teaching is as easy as showing up, working with a student for a half an hour, and cashing a check, you’ll be disappointed. Every musician knows how much of a hassle scheduling a band practice can be, but running a teaching business means scheduling 10, 20, 30 students every week. The laid back musician persona doesn’t bode well when a student’s parent is in the habit of casually canceling their lesson last minute every week. In addition to weekly lesson plans, you’ll also have to write up service agreements and contracts to protect your income.
Teaching is a great option for many musicians
Don’t let all of this scare you if you’re interested in teaching. Seeing a student succeed through music is incredibly rewarding, and music teachers fill an important role in our society. The important thing is being able to take accurate stock of your skills and interests to see if teaching is right for you. Not every musician is cut out to teach, but it can be a great way to stay involved with music and earn money for those with the personality for it.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.