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How to Become a Private Music Teacher

September 14, 2023

Sheet music used by a private music tutorThe value of music education encompasses both the emotional and cultural impact of experiencing music and the way that learning music enhances our brains. Research suggests that learning to play an instrument can enhance someone’s mental acuity and ability to retain information. This research, as well as the experiences of music teachers across the country, has even put pressure on legislators to integrate arts education into traditionally STEM-focused classes.

The field of music education provides a number of possible options for professionals interested in teaching. Many music educators, for example, choose to become a private music teacher, often referred to as a private music tutor. This rewarding career gives you a variety of options and opens opportunities ranging from working with an existing studio to starting your own music teaching business.

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Private Music Teacher Job Description

Private music teachers share many of the same core responsibilities as other educators in the field. Because they work one-to-one with students, they are able to individualize instruction, identifying and using materials that best meet each student’s goals.

Private music tutors have the flexibility to work for an existing studio, other organization, or own their own business. If employed by an organization, their responsibilities will depend on the audiences their employer works with. Teachers who pursue self-employment or entrepreneurship are able to narrow their focus to specific audiences or genres.

Private teachers who focus on individuals who are still in school often must also be aware of the relevant curriculum and standards in their students’ districts. These students will likely have goals related to their school work, such as preparing for a recital or examination.

Private Music Teacher Salary

Salaries for this field are highly dependent on the type of environment that you work in and where you’re teaching. As of June 14, 2023, Glassdoor estimates that the average salary for private music teachers is $56,657, but the projected salary range is between $44,000 and $74,000. If you pursue self-employment, you will want to research job postings and lesson offerings in your area to get an idea for standard rates.

How to Become a Private Music Tutor

The path to becoming a private music teacher is full of rewards and personal satisfaction, as teachers have opportunities to contribute to society’s understanding of culture while building talent and creativity. However, it can be difficult to determine where to start. Every individual’s route to a fulfilling teaching career is unique, so the first steps to becoming a private music teacher are about refining your passions and determining how you want to develop professionally.

1. Network with others working in your area of interest

Surrounding yourself with other professionals who have similar skills and interests can help you find new students and ways to build your personal teaching style. This step can also allow you to find mentors, who can help you set personal goals and guide you toward setting a strong foundation for your career. Sharing referrals with others, building a reputation, and establishing a strong foundation for yourself are the necessary elements of having a successful career as a private music teacher.

Networking is also one of the key benefits of pursuing a music education master’s degree, as you can connect with your peers and faculty to develop your understanding of music and pedagogy. Technology has also opened new paths for finding mentors and peers with similar interests, as there are numerous online communities that can provide quick guidance or help you develop professional connections— ranging from popular social media platforms like the music educator community on Reddit to professional membership organizations like the Music Teachers National Association.

Another excellent way to get involved in the larger community is to attend music education conferences, such as the University of Florida’s International Symposium on Assessment in Music Education, an event that focuses on the cultural context of learning music and how educators assess performance and other types of music learning.

2. Identify the skills best suited for your career goals

While decisions like determining which specific instruments and genres you want to develop competency in may seem obvious, there are myriad other music education career options to consider. For example, do you want to focus on a specific type of music or would you prefer to develop an understanding of a broad range? Do you personally play several instruments, or have you focused on one or two in particular?

As you hone in on the sorts of instruments, genres, and types of classes you want to teach, utilizing the network you’re establishing for yourself can help you build connections that lead to clients and other opportunities.

Knowing which audiences you best communicate with is equally important. For example, if you enjoy working with children and know that you do very well imparting information to young students but struggle connecting with teenagers, you may find your focus is best directed towards families with elementary-age kids.

Consciously thinking about these decisions can also help you to fine-tune your communication skills and identify your education goals—for example, a music education program’s capstone project is an excellent way to develop your skills and portfolio in working with the audience you’re best at connecting with.

3. Identify Private Music Teacher Degree Requirements

Graduate music education programs provide opportunities to build skills that make private music teachers successful. While not all private music tutors hold master’s degrees, many clients are drawn to the prestige associated with a master’s degree from an institution known for music education, so completing a relevant program can add to your credibility and build your reputation.

Furthermore, pursuing a master’s can enhance your teaching style and equip you with skills to better serve your clients. Master of Music in Music Education programs will offer coursework that delves into various strategies for teaching music as well as techniques for critically evaluating those strategies.

Music education graduate programs can also help teachers expand their understanding of different musical genres and develop their knowledge and skill in their specific focus areas. For example, the University of Florida’s online music education program includes coursework in popular music genres, in musical cultures that exist throughout the world, instructional design, theoretical analysis, and the psychology of music.

4. Identify the best environment for your success

Once you have obtained the necessary competency and education, you must decide whether you want to pursue teaching with a music studio or if you want to make a solo venture of your career.

There are advantages to teaching with a studio: most of the administrative work (billing, tracking, etc.), marketing, and scheduling is done for you. However, you are bound by the type of students and method of teaching that the studio focuses on. By pursuing solo teaching, you may have more control over your career trajectory, but you also take on more of the responsibilities of administration, marketing and promotion.

You may also consider working in multiple education environments. For example, if you want to become a private music teacher primarily to increase your earnings, you can continue to teach in a school while offering private lessons in the evenings.

5. Develop your own brand

One of the most significant steps to becoming a private music teacher is deciding how you want to position yourself as a music educator. Obtaining a music teaching degree gives you the power to market yourself as someone with advanced skills and a deep understanding of strategies for developing students. However, you can go beyond that by adding personal style and flare to the way you talk about and promote your work. For example, when first building your own brand, it can be helpful to ask questions like:

  • What is the ideal atmosphere of your classes like?
  • What first impression do you want to give when students enter your class?
  • What do you hope students get out of your classes the most?

Establishing these details at the beginning of your private music tutoring career will provide you with the focus you need to make your music classes engaging and comfortable for your students. You can continue to refine the vibe of your classes and tailor the type of professional relationship you have with students as your career evolves. Doing so can enhance not only how students learn, but how your career progresses. For example, students may be more likely to recommend a teacher with whom they feel comfortable, giving private teachers that build strong connections a competitive edge.

Becoming a private music teacher is about developing yourself as much as it is about elevating the creativity of your students. By building your own teaching style and better understanding the clients you most want to teach, you can create a highly successful and fulfilling career.

About the University of Florida’s Online Master of Music in Music Education

The University of Florida’s Online Master of Music in Music Education program is designed with the evolution of music education in mind. In addition to covering a broad array of music genres, the program’s curriculum explores advanced concepts in music education psychology, instructional design, and technology in the music classroom. The faculty include instructors from a diverse range of professional backgrounds— from professional musicians to internationally recognized music education researchers and authors.

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