Saturday, February 28, 2015

Being A Musician's Wife

I am the wife of a musician. Not only that, I am the wife of the self-employed, business owning, independent contractor. He teaches piano lessons. It's a huge undertaking, and he spends every minute of the day he can making it better and continuing to educate himself. It is a thankless job, because a lot of people have incorrect assumptions about it. Here are a few of them.

1. Piano teachers can all teach basic piano to beginners.

Believe it or not, teaching the newest students can be some of the hardest work, and if you don't do it correctly, they don't do nearly as well later. This is why piano pedagogy is so important, and a good deal of the teachers haven't taken pedagogy. Someone who took lessons – even from a fabulous teacher – for ten years growing up isn't going to do as well as a trained teacher. There's a lot more to teaching piano that telling a student the names of the keys and how to find them when you're looking at the music. I took piano lessons growing up, and only two of my four teachers had taken pedagogy. It was obvious which two had, and I made significant progress with them. The other two were frustrating, even if they were kind and good pianists themselves.

2. It's fine to go to a cheaper teacher (or they should charge less).

The problem with cheaper teachers is that they are likely in one of two groups: they don't have the education to charge more and/or they have a base income outside of teaching. If they don't have the education, obviously there are problems there. If it's more a hobby, those teachers may be fun, but they are drawing students away from the teachers that actually need the income, and we won't get into the fact that a piano teacher whose sole income comes from those lessons is not only more invested but passionate enough to begin a job that can remain unstable for a good deal of time.

Others have told my husband he should charge less than he does – so he can get more students. The people who say this say so without the understanding of the time it takes to prepare for lessons. Like any teacher, my husband has to prepare for his students – an average of an hour per student, often more. He has figured out that 50 students is adequate to provide ¾ of the average American income at what he is charging. Were he to lower his rates to what has often been recommended ($10), he would have to teach 100 students. Even if he only teaches half hour students (which he doesn't – there are some hour long lessons in there), that adds up to a 150 hour work week, meaning he gets paid a little over $5 an hour. That's not even minimum wage. Pretty ridiculous, huh?

3. You should have at least six years of education.

I've talked about how education is needed to teach well, but how much education is necessary? Really, it depends on what you want to do. My husband wants to teach private piano lessons, and he can do it well with a four-year education. Many people have said to him: “you should go on to get your masters!” This usually comes from people who don't understand the world of musicians. You only get a master's if you want to get a doctorate, and you only get a doctorate to teach in a four-year college or conservatory. (Once in awhile, you'll see a teacher with only a master's teaching college level. These people are often the best teachers; they are there because of their charisma and passion.) There is no real advantage to furthering your education except to teach college level or to have the stimulation of other people with the same passions. My husband has no interest in this, and when people try to convince him otherwise, it is discouraging and pestiferous. He continuously educates himself further and is doing what he loves.

I think it is important, no matter what a person's job may be, to trust that they understand the education system for their own specialty and let them decide on their own. I have no clue what level of education a chef or psychologist needs, and I wouldn't presume to make recommendations to them. It can be shocking, at times, what people think they know about music education. It's frustrating when we try to explain but they argue that it would be more reasonable and financially stable to receive further education. I've come close to getting angry with people who make such judgments, assuming the matter hasn't been thought through.

Those are a few of the issues we've encountered – things that we struggle to explain to people on a regular basis. I'm sure there are similar misconceptions about all sorts of jobs out there, and our own battles make me hesitate before I give unsolicited advice to others.

Have you or someone close to you had similar problems?

No comments:

Post a Comment