Music Teacher Salary, Job Description and Career Information

Music Teacher

Once you know something, like how to play a popular song, someone will inevitably ask "how did you do that?" A smart entrepreneur will recognize that as an opportunity. An observant educator will recognize that as a "teaching moment". Either way, this may be your chance to earn a music teacher salary.

The teaching of music is as varied as music itself. You have the high school band music teacher, classical piano teacher, popular guitar teacher and the in-home private music teacher to name just a few. There is no shortage of ideas for teaching music. Each of these requires a different mind set, a different student, a different music teacher job description and in some cases different credentials. If you are looking at a career in the music industry there is no better or more respected music career than that of the music teacher.

Music Teacher Salary

What kind of money can you make? When I was a travelling music teacher I did great. Considering I traveled a couple hours to get to my music students (using an economy car to keep expenses low), I made more in 5 hours of teaching (in the early 1990's) than the average web programmer made per day in the dot com era. Needless to say that's a good music teacher salary!

For eaxmple, someone who teaches guitar out of a music store at a modest fee could easily make $3500 a month in a small market. In many areas this may be more than you could make teaching band in a high school. If you diversify and teach another instrument, teach out of your home in the evenings or take some time and be a travelling music teacher, you can easily earn more money then you know what to do with.

Can you expect that kind of music teacher salary across the board? No. Factors such as market saturation (how many well educated or popular teachers there are teaching in your area) and student demand play a big role. You'll find that even seasons cause the number of students to fluctuate for a private teacher. Conflicting activities such as baseball and other sports in the spring cause numbers to dip. Commencement of school in the fall cause numbers to rise. Number of students affects the overall private music teacher's salary. It's good to diversify if you want to take this route. For example, it is common for elementary school music teachers to teach private music lessons after school in their home.

You can get a good idea of the average private music lesson cost by shopping around at your local music store and see what other teachers are charging. I'm currently in the very competitive L. A. market where your best bet at a high rate is teaching a student who knows you personally, or you have had a successful past career or have taught popular students.

As far as teaching for public or private schools as a credentialed teacher, those salary rates are posted with each school district and are based on level of education. These fluctuate wildly based on your geographic area, your eductation, experience and any extra work you do for them. You can usually download these from their web site. In most places if you are specialized in a field such as music (or math or science) you command a higher rate. Although, if you took the route to get the credential I'm sure you already know what the going rate in your area is.

Job Description for Music Teachers

Traveling Music Teacher

The traveling teacher is a fantastic experience for the single person. To use a fishing analogy, it's like tossing a hook into a pond full of fish. Sure the pond is small, but you are the only food around and that means every hungry fish wants you. It's very easy to get students if you live in rural areas and are able to travel. If you live in the big city and are willing to travel to the home of your students that will command a little more cash as well.

If you are on the road keep in mind that you need to carry supplies with you. For your first session with a student you'll need to carry a wide variety of materials because you don't know their level of ability yet. You'll want to have different types of music teacher resources with you, from various theory, song and workbooks, to guitar picks and straps, strings, reeds and anything else that could break or be required. As a music teacher resource you should consider a local music teacher supply and material store. You can probably work out a consignment or commission deal where they let you carry what you need at all times and get a cut of the sale. Once you are familiar with the common items that you use or sell the most, use a quality online music resource. You buy your supplies online at discounted prices, and then mark them up however you like when you resell to your students, making a little extra profit for yourself....more likely to help pay for new tires and an oil change. Because you deal with students at their homes or in remote locations, they are willing to pay for the convenience of having items brought to them. If you have a few students then even a moderate markup can increase the amount of money you take home.

I'll never forget the time I spent as a traveling music teacher. I would pack up my car with gear and a lunch and head out to some remote town to teach private music lessons after school. It was a great time. I'd be on the road about 2 hours there and 2 back, usually getting home about midnight. On the way I'd listen to all the new music giving me exposure to my contemporaries. It was also a good time to review songs I was writing and listen to the studio session tapes.

Once I got to the destination it was down to business. I taught a variety of students from kindergarten to late adulthood, each with varying goals. The key in this situation was to answer everyone's questions and fill in the gaps of their knowledge. It was also the hardest form of teaching because I wasn't teaching out of any particular book or lesson plan. I had to mix and match past curriculum with every student. I had a good music teachers resource and that helped. It was a challenge but it always strengthened my own skills.

In-home Private Music Teacher

The in-home teacher is great for those with children of their own who stay at home. It means you set the hours around your family schedule and you control the pace and ambience of the environment. As a child, my very own first several teachers for guitar, piano and clarinet were this type of teacher. If you can get the niche of this market, coupled with a reputation, you can clean up. Get a prized student who places well in a recital (along with the accompanying newspaper attention) and suddenly you'll have a waiting list. (Although, having a prized student who appears in the media increases business for any type of music teacher.) There really is no job description for music teachers that work from home, you just need to focus on your students, and your students need to experience success and progress. However, it is usually a more formal teaching environment from my experience, one step below the classroom.

Career Music Teacher

If you wish to pursue something like high school band teacher you will obviously need some kind of degree in education or music as well as a certificate, accrediation or credential, and this varies by state, province and country. There will definitely be a job description for this music teacher and is usually broad in scope. Discuss this with your local accreditation board before making arrangements to pursue this as a career. Likewise, some areas may require any vocational teacher to be licensed no matter where they teach. Getting vocational certification to teach at a community college (for example) is usually a trivial matter.

Music Store Teacher

Working out of a music store is great if you want to tell your friends that you work in the music biz. You probably get a paycheck and there's some visibility with other musician's, techs and other colleagues. It's also a great sideline for the gigging musician because they usually attract the odd student from a show. I've known people in this music industry job who had a student go on to get a record contract with a small label and put out an indie album. As a result business skyrocketed as word of mouth got around. It's very possible to make more money in a situation like this than it is in a traditional career. Just remember that the store probably takes a percentage of what you charge to cover rental of the facilities or equipment that you use for the lessons. It's not usually a big deal because some of them will also give you 10% commission if you can sell some books, effects units or a guitar to a student. The store loves it too because your students are usually hanging out on the floor playing with instruments before and after their lesson. Sooner or later, with that kind of exposure, you know they will buy.

Final Thought on Teaching Music

Teaching is a legitimate way to make money in music and still look like a respectable member of society. A benefit from teaching music is that you help reinforce the fundamentals for yourself. This often helps you break out of ruts and see things from a new perspective. It's a great way to keep up your chops and put bread on the table while you are working on other musical endeavors such as playing live, writing songs or trying to get your band signed to a recording contract. Find out more about music teacher jobs, or check out the requirements in your area and give teaching a shot in your pursuit to make money in music.

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