The Price of Private Music Lessons

September 23rd, 2011 by

One of the most challenging aspects of being a private music teacher is running the studio as a business. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a private music teacher is dealing with payments. Many students and parents do not understand the price of private music lessons, what it means and what it includes. Situations involving late payments, non payments, cancelations and make-ups, are not uncommon in the life of a private music teacher. Who was it that said for every hour of lesson given, at least an additional hour went into preparation? I recently went to a doctor’s appointment; while chatting with the doctor I learned that she arrives at the office everyday at least two hours before her first appointment – to read patient charts and review lab results. It is common knowledge that you pay the doctor not just for the actual contact time you spend with them. The same is true for us music teachers. The price of private music lessons includes so much more than the 30 min or whatever time frame the student signs up for every week. Let me attempt to list some of the things it includes:

1. Teacher Qualifications and Experience

I will start with these two obvious ones. It takes years of private training, and then more years of formal study, to become a qualified music teacher. Then, not everyone with a music degree is experienced to teach different levels and age groups.

2. Instruments

Here is another obvious one. A good instrument is expensive, and some teachers have more than one. Then there is depreciation, insurance, maintenance, tuning and repair.

3. Supplies

Whether music books are billed separately or included in the tuition, time is spent researching and shopping for repertoire for each student. Most private studios also stock an extensive lending library, flash cards and various teaching aids. Then there is general stationary – folders, paper, pencils, ink cartridges. Then there is student incentives and awards – stickers, prizes, refreshments, medals and trophies.

4. Lesson Preparation and Reconciling

Time is spent before and after each lesson given. Time is spent planning for the lesson, making the most of the lesson time; time is spent (often subconsciously) thinking about the student after the lesson, on how well or not the student did and how to help the student improve.

5. Communication

Time is spent answering parent questions, phone calls, emails, giving advice on instruments, practice tips, writing progress reports, studio newsletters, setting up and maintaining studio website.

6. Professional Memberships and Subscriptions

There are many teachers associations and music organizations that offer student opportunities such as recitals, auditions and competitions. Most of them require a paid teacher membership fee on top of student registration fees. This can quickly add up, if the teacher wishes to provide a varied program for their students. Another category is the subscriptions to music magazines, programs, and softwares such as Music Teachers Helper.

7. Professional Developments

Continued learning through attending teacher meetings, workshops, conventions, private lessons, masterclasses, concerts, acquiring and maintaining teacher certification status, reading music education journals, publications, learning about new teaching methods, even taking the time to read this blog post on Music Teachers Helper!

8. Volunteer Work

Some teachers hold office at local music teachers associations – totally a labor of love! Sometimes a teacher is required to volunteer their time in order to enter students for certain events – example California Certificate of Merit.

9. Overheads

This can include studio space rent, utilities, home office expenses, and traveling costs. Then there is tax responsibilities, self-employment tax, private health insurance, lack of benefits and sick days. Biggest risk is instability – students go when they please, and do not always abide by studio policies.

10. Extras

This can include additional features offered by the teacher such as computer lab time, use of music softwares, recording facilities, group classes and performance workshops, as well as time spent planning for and attending student performances in recitals, auditions and competitions. Some teachers are also active performers and/or adjudicators.

Now that I have compiled my list, I think for every hour of lesson given, at least two additional hours are involved! The fact is, every musical activity we do has an effect, directly or indirectly, on the way we teach.

What do you think is included in the price of private music lessons? What factors do you consider when setting YOUR price? I look forward to your comments!

Posted in Financial Business, Studio Management

About the Author

Yiyi Ku
Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National As... [Read more]

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