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#19238 - 02/03/03 12:47 PM Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
I've taught in a number of settings, both as a single person and a married person with children. I've lived on the East coast, the midwest and now in the central valley of California in a fairly low-income city.

A number of years ago I read a memo from a teacher in our local association who was distressed about income. He did a fair amount of research and, upon completing it, said, "It's time we stop thinking about what the local market can bear and simply charge what we're worth." He did that. He increased his tuition substantially and the enrollment in his studio also increased substantially. The reason? People started coming to him because he charged more = he must be higher quality.

I charge way more now than I did even a few years ago. I think when we stop being apologetic about our prices and charge what we're really worth (even if we think the market can't bear it), it will pay off.

There are many ways to gain income without sacrificing family time. Teaching during the day while kids are in school or napping is a great way. Teaching in groups is another. It's all about your priorities. If you want to do it or if you HAVE to do it, you can.

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#19239 - 02/03/03 01:08 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
(Moved from the Road to Nowhere thread) \:D

One of the reasons this may be a "road to nowhere" type discussion is that there seems to be no initial concensus on what a "decent living" is. And thus the endless arguing begins! :rolleyes: So let me ask:

What is, exactly, a decent living?

Part of my definition would include being able to meet basic living expenses, including insurance and funding retirement, without having to resort to a Church Job, the horror, or other weird musical parttime jobs to supplement basic income. Plus you shouldn't develop health problems worrying about making the rent or property tax payments each time they're due. And I don't think a decent living means that one has to teach waaaaay late into the evenings and on weekends to make ends meet. I know lots of seemingly successful piano teachers, but they worry me a little because they're so strung out working tons of part time jobs that add up to part of a fulltime job, comparative income-wise speaking. By my definition that's not a "decent" living, especially since I've "been there, done that" in past lives.

Jason once posted a very logical way to look at it in his inimitable black and white fashion. Unfortunately, I've forgotten the details. \:o Jason, Darling, if you read this will you post it again? I need to smack myself in the head with it for my soon-to-be-new studio!

Another means of comparison would be to make the salary and benefits of a public school music teacher. Last time I did the math I would have to work from 2:00 p.m. to midnight 6 days a week just to keep an entry level salary that factors in self-employment taxes. Too moi, at least, that is not a DECENT LIVING! But perhaps the times have changed. Alas, I am too tired, so maybe someone else could do the math for us?

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#19240 - 02/03/03 01:36 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
I don't think it's decent to worry about how to make ends meet. I've been there & done that; don't evah wanna do it again if I can help it.

I don't think it's decent to be without health & life insurance. I've been there & done that; don't evah wanna do it again if I can help it.

I don't think it's decent to work a full-time day job plus work at night & weekends. I've been there & done that; don't evah wanna do it again if I can help it.

I don't think it's decent not to be able to save for retirement.

I don't think it's decent to be able to pay bills, etc. but not have any disposable income for leisure/entertainment.

I don't think it's decent not to be able to help pay for part or all of my children's college educations.

I don't think it's decent to depend on government assistance.

Lastly, I don't think it's decent to have children & work just to get away from them. Children are a full-time job, & parents are the ones who rightfully should be doing that job, not a babysitter or day care worker. I'd rather have a smaller house & less luxuries than to work & leave my kids in the care of a stranger. That's what I now do; that's what I like.

The piano teaching profession is fulfilling, but it's not lucrative. Choose this career path with your eyes wide open, looking at the facts & considering both your personal needs/wishes & your family's needs/wishes. Don't look at it through rose-colored glasses.

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#19241 - 02/03/03 01:41 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
Originally posted by Jason:
 Quote:
I think a decent living is when you don't have to check your bank balance every time you go to the grocery store.


And not save for retirement? Whatcha gonna eat when you retire? Dog or cat food? Some folks do that, ya know. I don't think that's decent. It's not even close to decent!

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#19242 - 02/03/03 03:49 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jason Offline
Star Member

Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 2019
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Some really basic math:

Fall and Spring Semesters:
35 Students
each pays $560 tution per semester

Summer Term:
10 Students
each pays $320 tuition for the summer

Assuming the Fall and Spring semesters are 14 weeks long and the summer term is 10 weeks long, that works out to about $40 per lesson.

That's $42,400 a year.

(Of course, that's not really your salary, that's your total business income, out of which you have to pay yourself and cover business expenses.)

This, BTW, is why I like the tuition plan. $560 isn't really that much. You could probably get away with $600 if you included a few group lessons and recitals. That would bring the total to about $45,000 per year.


Also, it should be mentioned that MTNA members can take advantage of various financial and insurance services. Not exactly Allstate and Solomon Smith Barney, but better than nothing! \:\)
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


www.pianoped.com

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#19243 - 02/03/03 03:52 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Eric Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 2325
Loc: New York, NY
I just did the math myself, and then realised that Jason beat me to the punch!

In addition to the good incomes that can be earned via teaching, it is great to be able to create your own schedule and be your own boss. I think it's a terrific profession.

[ 02-03-2003: Message edited by: Eric ]

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#19244 - 02/03/03 05:26 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jason Offline
Star Member

Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 2019
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Quick point of reference:

The average salary for a teacher (K-12 public school systems) in the United States is $43,250. (Data is for the 2000-2001 school year.) I'm not sure if that figure includes benefits or not.
http://www.aft.org/research/survey01/tables/tableI-1.html
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


www.pianoped.com

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#19245 - 02/03/03 05:27 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jason:
Some really basic math:

Fall and Spring Semesters:
35 Students
each pays $560 tution per semester

Summer Term:
10 Students
each pays $320 tuition for the summer

Assuming the Fall and Spring semesters are 14 weeks long and the summer term is 10 weeks long, that works out to about $40 per lesson.


... in Lubbock, where LMTA teachers typically charge around $40/month, not $40/lesson.

 Quote:
That's $42,400 a year.


Take out 45% for taxes & pay expenses. What's left? Not enough to live on if you have 4 children, unless you rely on your husband's salary... in which case, you can't say that an IMT's salary is enough to make a living on. In my book, it's not. Well, it might be if you flip burgers at MacDonald's on the side, but who wants to do that? :rolleyes:

 Quote:
(Of course, that's not really your salary, that's your total business income, out of which you have to pay yourself and cover business expenses.)


Of course, you could always use the same books over & over again, year after year, & not update your music library. You could do without a computer lab & without games, etc. Invest nothing & bore your students to death... ;\) \:D

 Quote:
This, BTW, is why I like the tuition plan. $560 isn't really that much. You could probably get away with $600 if you included a few group lessons and recitals. That would bring the total to about $45,000 per year.


Where? You talking Lubbock? I don't think so. Not the Lubbock I'm familiar with.

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#19246 - 02/03/03 05:31 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
I like, no love, the math you came up with, but have never lived in an area of the country where one could charge that much per semester or in the summer even. In fact, I would venture a guess that many of the teachers here on the board (except for Eric, of course, who lives/works in Manhattan, enough said) barely charge that much annually.

The exception to the rule would be what I call Audition Teachers, those that make a living culling the creme de la creme from other studios and then enter them in all of the MTNA auditions as junior Van Cliburns. These teachers are highly skillful working with a certain, ahem, breed of parents as well as knowing how to deliver the goods, i.e. winners at state & local competitions. (Aside: I just found out that Overland Park, the suburb I'm moving to, has an extremely colorful war going on between two competitive teachers like this! I'll avoid the Dirty Details, but suffice it to say it's highly entertaining! \:D )

Personally, I have no desire to be an Audition Teacher, which leaves me working with a more general public that is either not interested in paying that much or truly cannot afford the rates you mentioned (especially when there are so many teachers just around the corner still charging low rates per hour.) I have found, like Jalapeno, that charging more does not always equate to the assumption by clients that one is worth it - some communities/parts of the country just do not value the arts like others.

The other issue I am struggling with is that of 45 minute lessons. I find it difficult to charge 50% more for a 45 minute lesson, the only kind I want to do, because people balk at the money and seem unable to comprehend that a) you can't compare a 45-minute fee to the 30-minute fee down the street cuz it ain't fair, and b) don't get how much better it is no matter HOW fantastically I market the concept. Suggestions, anyone?

Getting back to math \:o do you have any idea how much a benefits package is supposed to be worth these days? In other words, if the salary of a first year elementary teacher is $30,000, how much additional cash would we need to earn to keep up with benefits?

Lisa, who adds she is usually on the other side of the fence on this issue but wants to play devil's advocate due to her experiences of the past 5 years

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#19247 - 02/03/03 06:41 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
alidoremi Online   content
Star Member

Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2118
Loc: California
Just finished reading the end of the 'bragging thread' and decided to jump on in here.

I graduated from college in Texas with a teaching credential and could have easily gone into public school teaching. There were three reasons I didn't:

1. Teaching salaries in Texas were horrible at the time. I could make the same amount of money by continuing to teach group and private lessons, in about 1/2 the time.

2. We moved to California, where you have to get their credential to teach. It takes about 2 years of going to night-school to complete it.

3. We had kids; didn't want to work full-time, teaching other people's kids while mine would be in daycare.

I only teach 3 days a week right now, and the reason is because my kids are still home and need me. I could easily fill up two more days and even Saturdays with classes; the demand is there. But I'm OK with just three days, and I still make decent money. It's maybe not the same amount of a tenured school teacher, but the rate per hour is still good. Teaching piano has definitely provided my family with some 'extras' that a typical part-time job wouldn't have given us.

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#19248 - 02/03/03 06:50 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jason Offline
Star Member

Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 2019
Loc: Iowa City, IA
*sigh* nobody ever likes my numbers, so I did some searching:

Boston (NEC Prep Program) - between $547-$1095 per semester (depending on if you want 30 or 60 minute lessons

New Orleans - between $989-$1089 for two semesters (depending on the teacher)

Livonia, MI (where I taught) - around $500 per semester

Augustana, IL - $296 per semester (30 minute lessons only) or $299 per semester for their "Music Master" program (a combination of group, partner, and private study)

St. Louis, MO - $695 for a 19 week program

Fond du Lac, WI - $192 per semester (30 minutes of piano, 30 minutes of theory)

Washington, DC - $896 per 16-week semester (45 minute lessons, less for 30 and more for 60, but the program offers classes and other incentives beyond private lessons)

Central (small town) Missouri - $240 for a semester (12 lessons only)

So as you can see, my rough guess of $560 wasn't too terribly far off. I'm just trying to give averages here since these forums are read by people all over the United States. I think it's fairly obvious that "market value" will vary greatly with geography depending on the usual laws of supply, demand, and median income.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


www.pianoped.com

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#19249 - 02/03/03 06:53 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Amily Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/26/01
Posts: 547
 Quote:
Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
(Aside: I just found out that Overland Park, the suburb I'm moving to, has an extremely colorful war going on between two competitive teachers like this! I'll avoid the Dirty Details, but suffice it to say it's highly entertaining! \:D )[/B]


oooohhhh, I do so wish I could partake of the gossip on this matter! Horrible of me, I know, but you have me completely curious.

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#19250 - 02/03/03 06:54 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
dlinder Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/11/01
Posts: 686
Loc: Ohio
In most (if not all) major cities and suburbs, a family cannot survive on one income--so I could never try to reconcile teaching with supporting a family. However, I have done the math several times and have discovered that I make more money teaching 10 hours a week than I would working an office job 25 hours a week--neither of which offers benefits-unless of course, you consider working at home with a flexible schedule benefits!!
This is all the hours I am willing to work at this point until my daughter is older. I would teach more lessons if I could get more during school hours, though.
I LOVE my job!
Here's my version of the Visa commercial:
Annual piano tuition: $xxx
Professional dues: $xx.xx
Studio expenses: $xx
Benefits: priceless

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#19251 - 02/03/03 07:29 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Au contraire, Jason - I said I LOVED your numbers. Just don't think they hold up! \:D I would venture a guess that the preppy programs figures you mention for the various larger places are Audition Teacher rates, and that "normal" teachers can't get away with those rates. I also would venture a guess that the Wisconsin and Missouri numbers are more in line with what the average IMT charges. Sob, low but typical...

Priceless or not, the sad truth is that many do not really have the luxury of looking at this as permanent parttime work. As PianoAnnie and I have experienced, the sudden onset of a serious disease in a spouse brings a different reality to the picture.

If I may wonder out loud: How much better would the national averages be if every IMT conducted their business as if they needed to rely 100% on the income 100% of the time vs. using it for miscellaneous expenses as previously brought up? My guess (without impugning posters here, cuz I know they're excellent teachers!) is that there would be far greater attention to professionalism and much higher rates across the nation. That said, it doesn't mean the public would go along with it without a struggle. MTNA (and Richard in previous posts ;\) \:D ) are bucking a system, if you will, that has a long history of viewing piano teachers and semi-professional volunteer-amateurs. It will take greater efforts across the board for a looooong time until we have achieved a national unity on the subject. Carry on, Comrades!

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#19252 - 02/03/03 09:39 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Marcia Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 11/18/00
Posts: 354
Loc: Maple Grove, MN
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jason:
Some really basic math:

Fall and Spring Semesters:
35 Students
each pays $560 tution per semester

Summer Term:
10 Students
each pays $320 tuition for the summer

Assuming the Fall and Spring semesters are 14 weeks long and the summer term is 10 weeks long, that works out to about $40 per lesson.

That's $42,400 a year.

(Of course, that's not really your salary, that's your total business income, out of which you have to pay yourself and cover business expenses.)

This, BTW, is why I like the tuition plan. $560 isn't really that much. You could probably get away with $600 if you included a few group lessons and recitals. That would bring the total to about $45,000 per year.


Also, it should be mentioned that MTNA members can take advantage of various financial and insurance services. Not exactly Allstate and Solomon Smith Barney, but better than nothing! \:\)


College professors in Minnesota are getting about $60/hour in the metropolitan area, which is roughly equal to your semester rate, I think.

I really can't complain. I teach 52 students in 3 and 1/2 days, get Thursday off until 4:00, Friday, Sat, and Sun. completely off,and make more money than my husband at his 48-hr. per week job. Being able to determine my own schedule is worth quite a lot to me. If someone quits, I replace the slots in less than a week from my waiting list. AND, I am not an "Audition" teacher.

[ 02-04-2003: Message edited by: Marcia ]

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#19253 - 02/04/03 02:51 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
You go, girl! \:D

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#19254 - 02/04/03 06:48 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
I forgot to mention (but I will because I think it's important) that I know someone who moved to Lubbock a while back. From what I've heard, she is an accomplished pianist & has a degree or 2 in music. She tried to open up a studio here, but wasn't able to recruit any students, so she ended up taking a job doing something else. I felt so sorry for her. I'm sure she's a qualified teacher who would be an asset to this community. \:\(

The people of this community do not value the arts. They value sports. The citizens of this community are, at this very moment, working to make Lubbock a sports mecca. They've voted on it, so I'm not making this up. Sports is their goal. Sports is their thing. Not music. Sports. :rolleyes:

Read & understand: Recruiting students in Lubbock, & charging what you feel you're worth so you can make a decent living (i.e., support yourself without the aid of a working spouse) is next to impossible. \:\(

I'm hoping LC will be better. I really hope it is. But I've taken my rose-colored glasses off & am not expecting great things. I may not be able to teach there. I won't know until I live there & get a feel for the market.

[ 02-04-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19255 - 02/04/03 06:51 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jason Offline
Star Member

Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 2019
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Very cool!

My semester rate, btw, is $560/15 lessons = $37 per lesson.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


www.pianoped.com

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#19256 - 02/04/03 06:56 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jason:
Very cool!

My semester rate, btw, is $560/15 lessons = $37 per lesson.


That's not what most LMTA teachers charge. Not even close. And there are non-LMTA teachers who charge much less than what the LMTA teachers charge. I charge what I believe is in the middle range: $65/month for 45-min. weekly lessons. I get calls from bargain hunters, & very few people sign up for lessons with me. Of course, I like it this way because I'd rather charge more & have better clients, but I can't make a living with the rate I'm charging 'cuz the fish aren't biting. They aren't even coming near the hook. I get very few phone calls, which leads me to believe that there's not even much interest in this town for piano lessons... at any price. If there were, I'd be getting some calls. I got calls during the summer & early fall, but only 1 at Christmas time; no calls in January. My rate is not advertised, so price has nothing to do with the lack of calls. Go figure.

I've heard of rates as low as $25/month for 30-min. weekly lessons & as high as $75/month for 60-min. weekly lessons.

How many students do you have, & could you support yourself & a wife & children on that income alone, without your TTU job? My point is that the salary for IMTs is woefully inadequate, & I'm convinced I'm right. You can't support yourself & a family on an IMT's income, without a 2nd job or aid of a working spouse or something, & still save money for retirement, etc. Not in Lubbock, at least.

How many of you IMTs are prepared to do without your spouse's income? Would you still be able to live comfortably? Getting up to your earlobes in debt so you can be comfortable doesn't count, either. I'm talking totally comfortable, so you don't have to live from paycheck to paycheck.

Eric & Jason don't count, really, because they are not married & they don't have children. I'm talking to the ones who have families to support.

[ 02-04-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19257 - 02/04/03 07:34 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1572
Loc: Chicago
Well, I only want to add my comments at this time. And that is in my community, and I suspect in just about every community, there are numerous professionals making their living off music - and have been for years on end. They are raising families and providing a very nice living for themselves and their families. We could discuss endlessly what each individuals priorities and comfort level are, but I think the end result is this. If you desire a career in music you can do it. Educate yourself and be wise in your career and financial planning. Know where you're going. Talk to everyone you can who is in the business. Explore the different tax brackets and options for retirement. Explore best methods for income tax savings. There are many considerations. Set your priorities. Have short-term goals, and long-term goals. In the end, you will balance out life quality vs financial needs vs your comfort zone vs the rewards or drawbacks.

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#19258 - 02/04/03 08:29 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
Very well said, Lilla. Just remember that many Americans are over their heads in debt, with little savings, just 1 or 2 paychecks away from bankruptcy. I don't judge books by their covers; i.e., I don't look at a person's house or car to judge whether or not that person is doing well financially. Still, it takes a certain income to provide basic support for a family (shelter, food, clothing, education, insurance), & some IMTs would have a very difficult time without a 2nd job or the support of a working spouse. I'm thankful that I'm no longer in that situation. I really & truly believe that anyone thinking of being an IMT needs to know these facts.

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#19259 - 02/04/03 10:10 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
arsnova02 Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/29/01
Posts: 908
Loc: St. Louis, MO
I know people who are married and have children and support their families as musicians. \:\)

It's true that location has a lot to do with it, but if you had to make a living off of teaching (i.e., didn't have another income), then you would just move to a location where you could get more work, just as you would in any business. So, yes, location is a big deal, but it can also easily be fixed if you're really looking to make a career out of teaching.

Oh, and all this crap about "audition" teachers.... :rolleyes: I know lots of teachers who charge between $30 and $60 an hour, and who accept anyone who calls them. In fact, most of the teachers I know charge around $50/hour, and none of them audition their students. Of course, they all have D.M.A.'s and 20+ years of teaching experience, too...

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#19260 - 02/04/03 10:27 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1572
Loc: Chicago
OK, so you're dedicated and you want to make a go of it. What can you do if you can't charge straight forward tuition at a high-enough rate? Other considerations could include:

Opening a "school" of music wherein a number of teachers are employed by you.

Incorporating specialty teaching sessions, lecturing, presentations.

Running a music store wherein you gain profits from all items related to musical instsruction.

Affiliating with specific manufacturers as a representative of their products, wherein you gain in commissions or fees.

Composing or supplying specialty teaching items.

Contracting with local schools, stores, businesses to provide musical instruction/insight.

Just off the top of my head.

[ 02-04-2003: Message edited by: Lilla ]

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#19261 - 02/04/03 10:39 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jason Offline
Star Member

Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 2019
Loc: Iowa City, IA
And then there are probably the two most common "other" things that piano teachers do:

1) Early childhood music classes (Music for Young Children, Musikgarten, Kindermusik)

2) Accompanying
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


www.pianoped.com

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#19262 - 02/04/03 10:54 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
True... But if you do all those extra things to make ends meet, then you're not supporting a family by just teaching. You're working more than 1 job, & you're not at home with your children much. I said that it's very difficult to support a family just teaching piano. Of course there are performance opportunities, etc. But that's not teaching. :p ;\)

Yes, I could move to another area, but my husband could not. It's tough to find jobs in his field. The reason we moved to CR in the first place was because there were no jobs available in the U.S. During the 8 years we lived down there, no jobs became available in the U.S. until the job in Lubbock opened up. There are few positions that become vacant, with many qualified applicants to compete with. What's more, his income is so high that I'd be downright stoopid not to move where he moves. :rolleyes: I know which side my bread's buttered on.

[ 02-04-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19263 - 02/04/03 12:27 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Piano lady Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 361
Other issues relating to how much you can charge per lesson or semester.

Where I live, the average in the PVMTA is $65/month for 30 minute lessons. That's less than $20 per lesson. I can't get students at that figure. I get flyers put on my doorknob from non-association teachers for piano lessons at $6 per lesson. 95% of the calls I get are from bargain hunters. Guess where people are going. I'm not THAT anxious to have a slew of students. I have a retirement income.

I've lived in SF Bay Area where the going rate was around $50 per hour lesson ($25 per 30 minute), or around $216 per month for hour lessons or $108 for 30 minute lessons.

Now factor in housing costs. Rent for a house runs approximately $1800 to $2000 or more per month unless you live in North Richmond where no one in their right mind would go for a lesson. You would need a minimum of 20 students just to make rent. Now add other luxuries such as food, clothing, heat and electricity. You need another 20 students. So you're at 40 students. Now add the ability to pay taxes to your expenses. Add another 15 students. You're at 55 students per week. Now add in medical insurance, and THAT is a cruel joke because it doesn't cover 75% of the things for which you'd need to go to the doctor. Premiums can run about $80 to $120 per month. Fortunately they have Kaiser Permanente available there.

If you owned your home in the Bay Area, unless you bought it back in the early 1980s you're in a $400,000 - $700,000 house. This means your monthly house payments are around $3,500 - $6,000 per month. Again unless you want to live in North Richmond and dodge bullets at night.

We all know how long it takes to get established for that many students, and some of the things you have to do. Most of the teachers here live off their husband's salary -- many are doctors, lawyers, and building contractors. I've seen their 2400 sq ft houses. They are well off. This also gives way to artificially low tuition. I'm in a 1200 sq ft crackerbox that can barely hold my piano.

Bottom line: it is next to impossible to make ends meet on an IMT's income. A second source of income from a full-time job is almost required. If you're single this most likely means that if you really, really want to teach independently, you're working graveyard shift in a plant, sleeping from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm. teaching from 3:30 to 7:00 pm daily, then heading off to work. Chances are you'd be working a rotating shift on this type of job unless you're a security guard, so there goes that opportunity. So you forget about teaching and work in a cube farm and live for 5:00 pm daily.

We have 20 teachers in our chapter. The other chapter in the area has 60 teachers. This means 80 MTNA teachers in the city. There are 100,000 people in the greater area. This means one piano teacher per 1250 people. Then put the average of 40 students per teacher and that's 3200 piano students.or 3.2% of the population. This is not including non-MTNA member teachers and their students. Now if we assume there are at least as many non-MTNA teachers as there are MTNA teachers, it indicates that the market is saturated with IMTs.

Accompanying is not a viable supplemental income. The amount of time in preparation does not pay off. I think given the numbers and everything, I'd be encouraging parents to have their kids learn an orchestral instrument if they want to do anything with music in their adult lives. At least there is a chance of playing in a symphony or chamber orchestra. Or study guitar and play in a rock band for fun.

Jala, football in Texas is not a sport. It is a way of life.

Reality bites. \:\( \:\(

Income per month: $XXX.00
Expenses per month: $XXXX.00
Balancing the ledger every month there's Master Card
Bankruptcy every 7 years: priceless

[ 02-04-2003: Message edited by: Piano lady ]

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#19264 - 02/04/03 12:39 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
ChristyA Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 05/24/02
Posts: 270
Loc: Midwest
There's no way I could make ends meet without my husband. I think I charge just a little more than most teachers around here, and I have a waiting list. I am planning to slowly continue to raise my rates every year. When we moved here (N. KY near Cincinnati) from Illinois a few years ago, we had both planned on teaching (as we had done in Illinois). We found a great suburb full of kids. But we soon found out that getting health insurance when we're both self-employed was near impossible--it's incredibly expensive in this state. I think there's only one insurance carrier who even offers it if you're self-employed. So my husband has switched careers (he's an IT manager now) and is making a pretty decent salary with very good benefits. He loves his job, but I know he misses teaching too. I love teaching as it gives me plenty of time with my kids, and I have no intention of working any harder until they are older. I honestly don't know what I do if I had to support myself and my kids--probably bum off my parents?

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#19265 - 02/04/03 01:22 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1572
Loc: Chicago
I got your answer! You need to run daycare out of your home. Then you're many moolah, and you have a ready-made, captive, clientele for lessons. And just think of the perks you can offer as your daycare services. (Actually, I have a friend who ran a daycare out of her home and taught swimming as part of the service.)

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jalapeņo:
. . .you're not at home with your children much. [ 02-04-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19266 - 02/04/03 01:34 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
Originally posted by Piano lady:
 Quote:
Jala, football in Texas is not a sport. It is a way of life.


Actually, it's not just football. It's baseball & soccer & ... Sports is God to these people. Sports is their religion & their way of life. They eat, sleep & breathe sports. :rolleyes:

They'll pay for piano lessons as long as it's 30-min. weekly lessons a la cheap. :rolleyes: Only the semi-serious ones will pay my rate, & only the really serious ones will pay Jason's rate. Trying to get even close to the income you feel you need is like selling BMWs to folks who want to drive tractors.

I tried giving lessons for less money than what I presently charge, but all it got me was more problem parents & lazier students. I didn't make any profit whatsoever, & I felt demoralized.

Now I have less students & am making a little money (only 'cuz I don't rely on my piano lesson tuition to pay bills or living expenses), but I'm happy because I have more appreciative parents who pay early or on time & comment on how happy they are with my services, & students who actually enjoy piano lessons enough to practice once in a while. \:\) Still, I can't support a family on what I make. \:\(

I know LMTA teachers who tell me it took them between 7-10 years to recruit a full studio of decent students. I guess that during the years they were struggling to recruit, they relied on their husbands' incomes. More than a couple of LMTA teachers have quit teaching recently. One supplements her IMT income by selling jewelry, etc. At any rate, I'm not the only LMTA teacher who's had major problems recruiting students. The market here is downright dismal. \:\(

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#19267 - 02/04/03 02:56 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
John Offline
Star Member

Registered: 03/29/01
Posts: 2448
Loc: Bellingham, WA
Oye! A hot topic again!

When people ask what I do, I reply "I'm a musician" (I heard Zappa said the same thang). A little musical diversity and willingness to stretch out of our comfort zones can contribute greatly to one's overall income. Being a "life-long learner" also helps.

I feel that everything I do outside of my "teaching hours" only strengthens my teaching abilities, whether it's performing, accompanying, composing, collaborating, recording, public speaking, writing, etc. Volunteering has also helped my career (although that wasn't the goal!); it has opened doors to other gigs and simply placed my body and fingers out and about where I can make more meaningful connections.

Another thing to consider is HOW we present ourselves to the public. For self-employed people, personality and communication skills not only make a TREMENDOUS impression, but they may very well determine 90% of our success.

Doesn't a lot of mental happiness come from being "in the present moment", where we are aware of the the musical supply and demand of our surroundings, and adapt to merge with that reality AND/OR invent a new outlet for our musical talents that may create a new market?

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#19268 - 02/04/03 03:34 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Hmmm...in response to that last "mental happiness" question I would say, in my personal opinion, cold hard cash comes in a lot handier for making the mortgage payment than being "in the moment."

I think Mr. Micawber (Charles Dickens) has it right:

Annual income, twenty pounds; annual expenditure, nighteen pounds; result, happiness. Annual income, twenty pounds; annual expenditure, twenty-one pounds; result, misery.

Arsnova, you have interesting logic, NOT. Reminds me of a story my FIL tells about Gerhard Schmitt, a lad from prep school days of admittedly limited geographical experience, who got reemed out by the professor after making the following statements. "There are no women lawyers. There are no women lawyers in Wahlberg (Texas); Therefore there are no women lawyers." :rolleyes:

Lilla's right. There's varying degrees of what's an acceptable lifestyle. Jala, you and I just need to admit we're High Maintenance. The only solution is a Sugar Daddy if we want to keep teaching! \:o \:D

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#19269 - 02/04/03 03:47 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
 Quote:
Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
Lilla's right. There's varying degrees of what's an acceptable lifestyle. Jala, you and I just need to admit we're High Maintenance. The only solution is a Sugar Daddy if we want to keep teaching! \:o \:D


If you call living in a middle income neighborhood, driving a mid-sized car that's not luxurious, & being able to stay home with my children "high maintenance," then yes, I'm high maintenance. We still eat at MacDonald's & family restaurants (mostly salad bars so we can get our money's worth, LOL), our children attend public school, we're home most of the time, & we have only had 1 vacation (not including visits to family once/year) in the 15 years we've been married). As you can tell, we really live high on the hog. :rolleyes: ;\) But we save money, which is extremely comforting to me. I don't have to worry where my next meal is going to come from. \:\)

I've gotta admit that I don't particularly miss the "good old days" :rolleyes: when I was an almost-starving secretary during the day & musician on nights & weekends.

[ 02-04-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19270 - 02/04/03 04:33 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
arsnova02 Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/29/01
Posts: 908
Loc: St. Louis, MO
 Quote:
Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
Arsnova, you have interesting logic, NOT. Reminds me of a story my FIL tells about Gerhard Schmitt, a lad from prep school days of admittedly limited geographical experience, who got reemed out by the professor after making the following statements. "There are no women lawyers. There are no women lawyers in Wahlberg (Texas); Therefore there are no women lawyers." :rolleyes:


Actually, I believe that there are several people in this discussion who are making statements more similar to your example than anything I ever said, i.e. "It is impossible to make a living as a music teacher. I cannot make a living as a music teacher. Therefore, it is impossible to make a living as a music teacher." Talk about your flawed logic..... :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

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#19271 - 02/04/03 05:34 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
I want to hear from the IMTs who are supporting their families (self + spouse + children) ***SOLELY*** from what they make teaching piano. I want to hear from the ones that are paying all their bills (including insurance; if you can't afford insurance, then you're not making enough money), saving for retirement, & not up to their earlobes in debt. Anyone out there in cyberspace doing this?

If you have to depend on a 2nd job or on a spouse or on government assistance to make ends meet, then your income as an IMT is not adequate to make a living. If you are up to your ears in debt, then your income is not adequate to make a living. You might indeed have a combined income (from various sources) to make you comfortable, which is great; More power to ya! \:\) However, you are ***NOT*** fully supporting your family solely with the income you make from teaching piano.

Those who do not have families to support have no room to talk. Supporting yourself is completely different from supporting a family.

[ 02-04-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19272 - 02/04/03 06:55 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
alidoremi Online   content
Star Member

Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2118
Loc: California
Jala,

I can meet your challenge, but I do mostly group classes..... does that count? ;\)

If so, then I'll elaborate; if not, then we'll wait for another.......

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#19273 - 02/04/03 07:45 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Martin Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 12/06/01
Posts: 403
Loc: SOUTH CAROLINA
Speaking of living off IMT income....we were doing just that in my household about 3 yrs. ago!
my husband lost his 12 yr. job and did not qualify for unemployment. Needless to say, we managed on my income of teaching and I promise you I do not charge$50 per hrly lesson. Our college professors get that here.
Even tho I have a Master's Degree the area I live in many people work 2 jobs to make ends meet. It took my husband about 6 mths to locate new work and at 1/2 the pay he was accustomed to.
So it was still tight financially. If I were cutting and downsizing my overhead i.e. no tunings, no trophies or incentive awards, no recitals, just straight 30 min. lessons weekly yearround it might work even now.
I have such high overhead and I am looking at ways to lower it. Any ideas would be appreciated. I drive a 15 yr. old minivan - I only have my 2 pianos tuned once yearly instead of 3 times as in past years...I only subscribe to one sheet music club yearly instead of several and any extra books I have at the end of a season that look new - I offer at 20% off to students just to get the inventory out of my studio and clear up room and space for MORE music!
_________________________
RMARTIN

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#19274 - 02/04/03 10:47 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Piano lady Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 361
But we're in the middle of an economic recovery! Our president said so! Even though more people are losing jobs than there are jobs being created. There are jobs out there. They'll point to a single job in your husband's particular field in Pittsburgh and tell you that you didn't look hard enough. Job productivity continues to rise = economic recovery. Nevermind the reason productivity continues to rise is that people are doing the work of three laid-off employees for no extra overtime pay. :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

Solution? Let's bomb Iraq into the dirt. Okay, nevermind. Back to topic.

If I had to earn a living strictly on IMT pay, I'd be panhandling during the day. Oh but that's a second job. Scratch that. I'd be working full-time in IT in a cube farm and leave the teaching to those with partners who are the primary wage earners. I think I'll go watch "Office Space".

I don't think it can be done for a person just starting out especially now with the non-existant recession. The first thing people cut is private music lessons.

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#19275 - 02/05/03 06:20 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
 Quote:
Originally posted by alidoremi:
Jala,

I can meet your challenge, but I do mostly group classes..... does that count? ;\)

If so, then I'll elaborate; if not, then we'll wait for another.......


Yes, group classes are an answer... in an area that values group classes. Here in Lubbock (as far as I know; I've asked around), no IMT does group classes. I tried to start group lessons, but was unsuccessful. The prospective parents that call me all want private lessons a la cheap, even the ones with preschoolers. Marketing the group class concept is a hard sell here. It took me a long time just to get my piano students to attend group performance classes (1x/month, in addition to weekly private lessons) in my studio. The way I got them to come was by including group class in the tuition (not charging extra for it) & by calling it a class instead of a "party" (the Bastien "Piano Party" idea was a complete flop; I tried that idea, & no one showed up). A Musikgarden rep. called me a couple of days ago. I may consider doing that in LC, if there's a market for it, once Little Pepper starts kindergarten in the Fall. Again, I need to live in LC a while & check out the music teaching scene before deciding what (if anything) to do. But I don't feel confident that Musikgarden would work in Lubbock. Parents here are tightwads with piano 'cuz they need the money for sports.

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#19276 - 02/05/03 08:09 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1572
Loc: Chicago
Jala, you're setting up an unrealistic scenario. Yes, you and I and everyone on the board know that there are successful piano teachers out there. But most of us live a more normal life - that is, most households have two people working OR are making sacrifices to enable one person to stay home with the kids. So what? Does that mean we have to drag the profession through the dirt? Let us make our own choices and respectfully allow others their choices. Personally, my husband has never worked - but man-o-man can he play! That's more important to me. Our household rings with music - all three of my kids play and at any given moment the house is filled with musical instruments. I'll handle the mortgage, thank you (actually Daddy paid it off - lucky me). For some of us, there are other answers to retirement, healthcare, and other longterm expenses. (Like prayer, luck, family trusts, inheritance, side jobs, family business, blah, blah, blah.) As said previously in this thread, the most important advice given in almost everyone's comments is to educate yourself before venturing into the arena of private teaching. But, come on. Let's stop bad-rapping the profession. I'm proud to be a private teacher. I wish I had taken it more seriously at a younger age. I'm now doing the old "if you could be doing anything you want, what would it be?". And the following question, "Why aren't you doing it?" I'm making sacrifices willingly and happily. I think it's time to give due respect to those of us who choose this way of life. (I don't give a hoot about new cars, bigger houses, vacations, and I'm already living on my anticipated retirement budget.)

[ 02-05-2003: Message edited by: Lilla ]

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#19277 - 02/05/03 08:17 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Eric Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 2325
Loc: New York, NY
Jala,
I think group-teaching would be great for you. Look around and find something better than Musikgarten, or maybe even invent your own curriculum; don't settle for the mediocre, but instead make your classes the best on the market. If your group session is for younger kids, this will be the ideal place to develop your roster of private students; after a year in group, suggest (to the ones who are ready) that they switch to private lessons. I think this will be a hit in your new town. Good Luck!
Eric

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#19278 - 02/05/03 08:19 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
alidoremi Online   content
Star Member

Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2118
Loc: California
In determining if one can support himself solely by teaching piano, I think we're all in agreement that it depends on where in the US you live. From reading all of the previous posts it's clear that the market for music lessons isn't the same everywhere. So in Lubbuck, you wouldn't be able to support yourself; but in other cities you would.

There's a teacher in my town who has 80 private students; she teaches 6 days a week, 6 hours a day. And she supports herself rather nicely.

I teach 15 hours per week (plus a few extra hours for lesson-planning, office/computer work, etc... for maintaining my music school) and am very happy with my income. If I had to I could support my family. Instead, I have chosen to funnel 75% right back into by business (updating new equipment, advertising, etc...) I don't have to do this, but I'm able to do this (atleast right now).

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#19279 - 02/05/03 09:31 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
Lilla: I'm not putting down couples who both work. I worked full-time for 11 yrs., & a lot of the money I earned performing as an accompanist helped put Dr. Pepper through graduate school. I've been there & done that, & I certainly understand. I also think that it's perfectly acceptable for a woman to choose to work. That's not the point I'm trying to make.

The point I'm making is that in certain parts of the country it's very difficult, if not impossible, to support a family with only the income earned from 1 IMT teaching piano. God help the piano teachers whose husbands walk off & leave them with children to raise. What do they do? Lots of divorced men don't pay child support (I know 'cuz I've had to deal with non-payment of child support; no fun, let me tell ya), so single mothers have it rough. When it comes to dollars & cents, women married to deadbeat husbands might as well be single, IMO.

It has never been my goal to work full-time. While Dr. Pepper was in college, & while we were in Costa Rica, we lived frugally so that we could afford for me to stay home with the children. I did not stay home with our children when he was in college, & I taught a fair # of piano students in Costa Rica to help with family expenses. Now I'm home with the kids, which is what I wanted, & I don't want to go back to full-time work if I don't have to.

When I came to Lubbock (a city with a pop. of about 200,000 people), all I wanted was 10 students. At the time, I thought that was a reasonable, realistic goal. Just 10 students. Know what? Even if I retained all the students I've had that quit lessons (not counting the ones whose parents didn't pay), I still wouldn't have a full studio; I'd have over 10 students, but I wouldn't have 10 students who I could look forward to teaching. The sick part is that I've had to advertise a lot just to get the few students I have. I've sunk a lot of $$ into advertising.

I cry no tears over leaving Lubbock. No tears. I'm grinning from ear to ear! \:D Even if I never teach piano again, I'm getting out of a city that has a country bumpkin, small town mentality. I'm tired of trying to offer something that people here obviously don't value. I'm tired of it.

If in LC I can teach group classes to preschoolers during the day while my children are in school, plus a couple of after-school private lessons, I'll be fine. I don't want to hang my shingle out before I scope out the market, though. I can't afford to invest more $$ in something if I can't be reasonably sure that I'll reap a profitable return. I will not open another studio without doing a thorough market analysis first. It may take me a year or more to get a good feel for the market, but that's fine. I can use that time to get the family settled in LC. Because of Dr. Pepper's new position, I'll be expected to entertain a few times per year, so I'll be busy.

[ 02-05-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19280 - 02/05/03 11:22 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Musica Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 02/27/01
Posts: 259
Loc: Montreal, Qc, Canada
It's difficult to support a family on any one salary regardless of your job. However, as piano teachers are we not also musicians. If I were alone and worked 8 hours a day 5 days a week I can support my family. If you were a single mom I can assure you that you would not be able to spend as much time with your family as you do now regardless of your job.

8 hours x $30 = $240 x 5 days = $1200 x 40 weeks = $48000

If I was a single mom I would have to teach during the day and I am pretty sure I can fill these slots, even if it means teaching music appreciation classes, accompanying college students, etc.

A decent living means being able to pay for a roof over your head, bills, food, clothing, some entertainment or misc., and perhaps saving some $.

The point about making a living for single mom's can't be made for only music teachers. I don't know very, if any, single moms who are home all day, unless their ex's support them fully.

If you are looking to make 6 figures, looking for health benefits, looking to charge more, then you need to get a job that offers all these, or move to a location where you can build a solid studio charging more.

I was making a lot more working in sales and had all the benefits, but who would have raised my children?

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#19281 - 02/05/03 11:48 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
If I were a single mom, I would not be able to spend any time with my children because I'd be working 2 jobs. I know because that's what I had to do when my 1st husband disappeared. My 10-month-old baby & I moved back in with my parents because I could not afford a roof over my head; I paid all my other bills & expenses myself, though, including day care & car payment. The judge awarded me a generous :rolleyes: $100/month child support, which my ex rarely paid.

I know what it is to go through hard times. I know that you do what you have to do. I just think that when students who aspire to teach piano ask us for advice, we should be honest with them about what type of living they can expect to make as an IMT. Then they can choose their career path based on their personal comfort level. I don't believe we should paint a rosy picture & act like it's a piece of cake to recruit a studio full of students. In some parts of the country, that just isn't so. And when 1 spouse's income suddenly disappears (via death or diability or divorce or unemployment), supporting a family on 1 IMT's income can be difficult, if not impossible. Bottom line: Look before you leap so you know what you're getting yourself into.

Being behind the financial 8-ball is not comfortable. I've been there & done that. I don't evah want to go through that again. Teaching piano is personally fulfilling, but personal fulfillment doesn't pay the bills.

[ 02-05-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19282 - 02/05/03 11:58 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Piano lady Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 361
I think Jala has been very realistic about what it can be like in a mid-sized middle-American town. I don't know if LC is going to be better. I hope it is.

I know. All I wanted was 10 students as well. But then, I'm not good with small kids. This is *my* problem. I'm the "mean" teacher you'd get in school.

In our chapter, out of the 800 students at our Winter Festival over the past two weekends, only 20 were High Schoolers. This includes those who continued with piano as a second instrument. That means that only 1 in 90 will most likely continue lessons past Faber book 5. This is 1.1%. Of these 20, only 5 plan a music major in college: we're down to 0.0044%.

We've talked about this in our chapter. Heck, Brendel even talks about it in his books. Concert artists tend to be freaks of nature. Then toss in the digital recording techniques where you can dice and splice down to 1/10000 of a second in a recording session. This sets unrealistic standards. (NOTE: I have a "live" performance of Mahler's 8th, by Claudio Abbado and the VPO(?). This "live" performance is a compilation of several live performances cut and spliced into one another. Essentially it's fake live.)

I accompanied a vocalist last weekend. This woman is very good. She sings very musically. She has very good pitch, but not quite a bel canto soprano voice. He audition tape got rejected by Oberlin. Why? They are starting to expect studio quality audition "tapes". This means digital. This means several takes, cutting, splicing, mixing, then maybe putting it back on analog tape using a studio quality machine. This means about $1000 for a prestigious institution. Gone are the days of a home recording for an audition tape. This is just to get called back for a live audition.

A voice or string player will have their accompanist record first, this track will be spliced diced and edited first, then the soloist will record their part on a separate track while listening to the edited accompanist through a head set. This is done several times, then the two tracks are mixed for the final copy.

Of all the high quality pianist that graduate from these institutions, only a handful are going to have successful performance careers. The rest will teach.

In the Puget Sound area, I know of one "classical" performer who has even won a Grammy. Yet, I cannot find his CDs in the local stores. He's a professor at one of the colleges.

Given these numbers it is no wonder that many talented musicians choose other careers, yet keep music in their lives by supporting the arts. The fact that most school districts have cut music and arts programs hasn't helped. There will be a lecture at the MTNA conference on "Music in Crisis" next month.

I think this crisis also has to do with the music that is being composed these days. Prokofiev is an old fuddy duddy. Much true contemporary music (meaning composers who are still alive) is nearly impossible to play and offends the "sensible" ears of those brought up on the Classical and Romantic Periods. Yet how many times can you combine an permutate the 88 tones on a piano, even using orchestral instruments without getting ending up with a constant stream of dissonance?

Now regarding CD purchases. Given enough time and practice, I could probably play a Brahms piano concerto. Could I even come close to the Gilels recording with Eugen Jochum and the BPO done in the 1960s? No way in **** . Which one are you going to buy? Mine? or his? I would almost sell my soul to play like that.

Stephen Hough recently gave one of the most moving performances of the Brahms Op. 10 I've ever heard live. Yet Stephen who? I went backstage and spoke to him after his performance and told him, and his Leighton work was rivetting. His eyes filled as mine did during the performance.

Bottom line: we must do what we do for ourselves. Yes, that's selfish. I will never be a bravura pianist (same with 99.999% of pianists), and will never be able to out technique the select few, but there are those among the select few I can out play musically on select works if you overlook my clams. I can never live without music in my life. I can never imagine life without making music, sharing that experience with others through my playing and teaching. But then, isn't this the our collective goal as music teachers? To hope to bring this experience to those we teach?

I'm starting another thread here.

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#19283 - 02/05/03 03:25 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Personally, Lilla, I think you were a little harsh in your rather reactive assessment that Jala was trying to "drag the profession through the dirt." What I see is someone just wanting to be heard that making it in this profession on one's own ain't necessarily the same all across the country and it ain't always easy. I also get the impression she just wants some validation that she's not nutso for having the problems she's had.

No offense, Jala, but before I moved to DC I wondered a little if it was really all that hard there. \:o Then I got a taste of this Panhandle Mentality myself. Yeesh! Being "professional", which I know you've worked very hard at, can actually be a DETRIMENT in this part of the country. :rolleyes:

So consider yourself HEARD by many, including moiself and PianoLady (who ROCKS, btw! Love the comments. \:D ) and alidoremi. But just remember that you don't need everyone here to "get it" as long as YOU do.

Oy, I feel another story coming on. Arsnova, I'll bet you don't get this one either! :p Here goes:

In the old days, passengers in railroad sleeper cars occupied upper and lower berths. A Mr. Fortescue, tossing and turning in an upper, could not get to sleep because from the berth below came a woman's constant kvetching: "Oy, am I toisty...Oy an I toisty!"

On and on went the lament, until Mr. Fortesque got out, crawled down the ladder, padded the length of the car, filled two paper cups with water, brought them back, and handed them in through the curtains to the passenger in the lower berth.

"Madame, here. Water!"
"God bless you, gentleman; thank you."

Fotrtesque crawled up into his berth, and he was on the very edge of sleep when, from below, he heard, "Oy, vas I toisty..." \:D

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#19284 - 02/05/03 04:17 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
arsnova02 Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/29/01
Posts: 908
Loc: St. Louis, MO
I don't think anyone's contesting the fact that the market for the arts may be worse in some areas than in others. I think the issue here is blanket statements such as

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jalapeno:
I don't regret teaching piano. I enjoy it. But the ***reality*** is that it's not an occupation that could support a family.


Maybe in certain places and certain situations, but it is by no means impossible to do. There are plenty of people, including people on this board, who do it every day. It's not necessarily easy, but if your goal is teach piano and make living at it (which, thankfully, mine is not), there are ways to do it. If you have more important priorities than that, great, wonderful, it's completely your choice. But don't say it can't be done.

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#19285 - 02/05/03 05:33 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
Martin: As far as I know, you're the only one on this board who's supported a family just by teaching piano, without support from a spouse or another source such as a 2nd job. No offense, but by my definition, support means full & total support; without help from spouse or another source.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think salaries should be high enough for a family to get by with 1 income. When I was growing up, our entire family (remember: 2 parents + 6 children) was squeezed into a 3 BR, 1 BA house that was only 1,000 sq. ft. (Piano Lady, I hear ya about having to live with only 1,200 sq. ft.) & we were by no means well off. We were comfortable, though; & somehow or other my parents sacrificed to pay for my piano lessons. I don't remember ever feeling deprived. \:\)

My parents raised 6 children on just 1 income. Dr. Pepper & I raise 4 children & give occasional financial assistance to other family members on just 1 income. Not just for 6 months... for years & years. Not uncomfortably, either. We're not rich, but we're not needy. This, by my definition, is comfortable/decent.

We help rather than being helped. After having to live with my folks for a while, I can tell you that being able to give back to those who helped me feels great. \:\) I wish all IMTs well, & I'm sure that most feel they could use more money. Many on this board have said so.

Lisa: Yes, I know that many people on this board agree with me. I'm gonna quit trying to convince the ones who don't. It's amazing how the area of the country in which one has to live & work has a way of changing one's perception. ;\) When I came to Lubbock, 1 LMTA teacher did try to tell me how hard it was. I didn't believe her. She wasn't very nice to me, so I dismissed what she said. I had to find out myself. Boy, did I find out!

[ 02-05-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19286 - 02/06/03 06:03 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Musica Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 02/27/01
Posts: 259
Loc: Montreal, Qc, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jalapeņo:
Martin:
Call me old-fashioned, but I think salaries should be high enough for a family to get by with 1 income. When I was growing up, our entire family (remember: 2 parents + 6 children) was squeezed into a 3 BR, 1 BA house that was only 1,000 sq. ft. (Piano Lady, I hear ya about having to live with only 1,200 sq. ft.) & we were by no means well off. We were comfortable, though; & somehow or other my parents sacrificed to pay for my piano lessons. I don't remember ever feeling deprived. \:\)


[ 02-05-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]


We live in a 1500 sq. ft. home, is this not big enough for us 5. Are you arguing that an IMT's salary cannot help us afford big homes, or a living? I'm not sure if I should be insulted by your comment of a 1200 sq.ft home. :rolleyes: Not all of us live in 2000 + sq.ft homes, although deep down we wish we did and wish we made more because I'm sure we all would like to have expensive things.

No one on this board ever said it was easy or is easy to start up and maintain a studio. Yes these are things we should advise our students, that is why we suggest they start early to teach and perhaps do some assisting. But this advise is given to all students regardless of their choice in careers. A CEO does not become one overnight, does he/she not have to start slightly down the latter before getting there? Does a piano teacher not have to start somewhere? Where one lives has a huge impact on any career or at least most.

[ 02-06-2003: Message edited by: Musica ]

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#19287 - 02/06/03 06:49 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
Things have changed over the years, for the worse. My father was a roofer, with only a high school education, yet he raised a large family on his income. And, FYI, I don't live in a 2000 sq. ft. house. The house I'm in now is 1,750 sq. ft. Larger than many, thankfully, but not huge.

Yes, everyone has to start somewhere. That's why Dr. Pepper & I lived in UF student housing while he was in school. That apartment was only 800 sq. ft.

I just think we need to present the facts the way they are, & let students decide for themselves what to do. Don't tell them they can support a family by teaching piano when many IMTs can't. Give them a realistic idea of what they can do, based (of course) on the area of the country in which they plan to live.

[ 02-06-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19288 - 02/06/03 07:13 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
arsnova02 Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/29/01
Posts: 908
Loc: St. Louis, MO
Maybe we'd all be making a better living if we were actually working instead of cyber-arguing......

:p :p :p

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#19289 - 02/06/03 07:47 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Eric Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 2325
Loc: New York, NY
If a student asked me, when considering a possible profession, "Who makes more, a pianist, a doctor, or a lawyer?" I'd say, "What are you most passionate about, music, medicine or law?" The answer to that question is ultimately the answer to the first one: Doing what you love is worth the most!

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#19290 - 02/06/03 11:09 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jason Offline
Star Member

Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 2019
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Been thinking a lot about this:

We do have to admit that piano teaching doesn't generally pay the big bucks. There are, of course, exceptions, but there are probably some poor lawyers out there, too. (I don't believe for a second that those ambulance chasers on TV actually make a lot of money. If they're so great, why are they advertising on TV and listed as "not board certified" in the yellow pages?)

It's disappointing that music educators' salaries are low and unstable. The same is true for other educators as well. My sister teaches 5th grade in Torrance, CA, and with her salary, she had the option to either share an apartment with 2 roommates or live as a single 27 year-old female in a very dangerous neighborhood. She opted for safety.

Music is either a part-time career or a full-time lifestyle. I don't know anyone who's been (financially) successful doing music 40 hours a week with vacation and sick leave. Independent music teachers have to take on 40-50 students just to break even and even people with full-time academic jobs (like me) find themselves working 60-70 hours a week just to keep up.

I do think, however, that we can pretty much agree that what we do is important, and it's frustrating to see important work go unrewarded. Sure, it's rewarding to do something you love, but I seriously doubt my student loan officer would be particularly understanding if I called him up and said "sorry, can't really pay you this month, but I'm doing something very important and rewarding!."

I suppose the thread was originally about whether or not independent piano teaching is financially feasible. A better word might be possible. Is it financially possible? Yes. \:\) Probable, feasible, or desirable? Probably not. \:\(

Your mileage may vary, and Ars is probably right. I really should be sleeping so I can get up early and get some decent practicing in tomorrow. Recitals are coming up soon and I need to practice!!!
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


www.pianoped.com

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#19291 - 02/07/03 12:13 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Martin Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 12/06/01
Posts: 403
Loc: SOUTH CAROLINA
Hey piano guys---it can be done! I have a piano teacher associate lives right over the state line in N.C. and her studio is located in a "strip mall" with her studio being on the end.
Well, her husband once was in real estate development and he quit his job to run her business for her! She teaches group lessons of 5 - 10 from 10:00 a.m. until about 6 p.m. monday to friday and has about 250 students.
They were financed through Roland digital pianos, use the Mayron Cole piano method for groups, and teach both adults and children. Her husband bought a 15 passenger van with the name of the studio on it and he busses the private schools in the area back and forth for lessons during the day. She only teaches, returns no phone calls she says, and her hubby does the billing, newsletters, follow up phone calls when tuition is not paid. It is quite a business and they seem quite successful in it!
Lots of overhead but she is getting ready to expand and open another location in my area.....and was looking for a teacher to manage it, etc.
What do you think guys/gals?
course, I still enjoy the private one to one lesson time---however, the right blend of age and abilities can make a group of students work well.
_________________________
RMARTIN

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#19292 - 02/07/03 12:47 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Piano lady Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 361
Having music as a career and being an IMT are really two different things. To be honest, if a student love music so much that they want to make a living teaching music they should get that master's degree (minimum) and teach at a college if at all possible. From there they can get private study students. But that is still supplemental income, not sole source income.

IMTs are now providing things that the public education system used to provide: a music education for the kids. No one I know has this as their sole source of income. It is a hobby business at best.

If you can get a sponsor like Roland, great. All the more power to you, but those are few and far between. But there are strings attached. The idea there is for parents to buy Roland keyboards for the kids, and maybe perhaps get interested enough themselves so they make a bigger purchase.

I could easily make ends meet with 250 students in group lessons at $8 - $10 or per week, depending upon what the rent was at the studio. You can support a family that way, but that is not the true definition of an IMT. That is a private music school. You're comparing apples with oranges.

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#19293 - 02/07/03 06:12 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
The title of this thread is "Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching." In my book, that means teaching independently, without help from anyone & without being employed by a music school or university music dept.

Jason's most recent post is, IMO, quite accurate.

I'm not comparing the salaries of IMTs to that of doctors & lawyers. I'm comparing it to roofing, plumbing, & other occupations for which one does not have to have a college degree. The conclusion I've come to is that the reason my father could go through the Great Depression, then through WWII, & manage to support a wife & 6 children on the income he made as a roofer is because people need roofs & therefore will pay. People don't need piano lessons, so piano lessons is one of the first things to go when finances get tight.

Furthermore, as Dr. Lisa so rightly pointed out, many people still view IMTs as housewives working for a little bit of pocket change, not as professionals who deserve to make money. It's interesting to me that Uncle Sam thinks IMTs have a home business, & taxes accordingly; but piano parents don't seem to understand that.

I'm guilty as charged for cyberarguing. \:o ;\) I only have 3 students & am moving soon. I have more time on my hands than I know what to do with. I've cleaned my house until it's cleaner than clean (even a discriminating mother-in-law would approve), & decluttered to the point where there's nothing left to give away. I'm biding my time 'til we move, so I have time to discuss (at length) issues concerning piano teaching.

After I move to Las Cruces, I'll probably continue being the PT.com expert: "ex" = has been, "spurt" = drip under pressure. \:o Maybe someone can learn something from the things I've experienced & not make the same mistakes. I don't feel too good about investing so much money into a business that never really got off the ground. \:\(

[ 02-07-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19294 - 02/07/03 08:48 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
Hey, can you come over? I sure could use a cleaner house. I'm only a flight or two away! Please? \:D

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#19295 - 02/07/03 09:08 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Eric Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 2325
Loc: New York, NY
Jala,

I hope that you'll have much better luck in your new home, though somehow I suspect it will be just as difficult there. Although you've found it impossible to get your studio off the ground, be careful not to generalize your experience into a universal fact. It IS possible to have a successful studio! \:\) You wrote:

 Quote:
I don't want any of my kids to make music a career. However, my oldest daughter keeps saying that she wants to major in Music Education. I hope she's just temporarily insane. Life has a way of straightening people out, though, so perhaps she will come to her senses once she realizes how low her income is going to be.


I think you should be thrilled that your daughter is interested in music education! First of all, life decisions should not revolve so much around the dollars and cents. But even if that is held up as the most important attribute of a career, it IS possible for a music educator to make a very good living!

I know it's been hard for you in Lubbock, but that does not mean that your daughter couldn't have great success in the field. Encourage her to follow her dreams and not to "sell out" by learning a trade that will pay the bills but render life meaningless.

I think one reason that private teachers get paid so little is that they are regarded as housewives who are pursuing a hobby. Jala, when you write,

 Quote:
Then again, if she marries someone with a good-paying job (we're talking enough money to support a family; at the very least, afford a nice home, pay basic living expenses & insurance), then she can teach music all she pleases & enjoy herself.


Are you saying that people should only teach music if they plan on mooching off someone else's income? That, I think, is part of the problem. Since so many private teachers are married women, it is assumed they are being "supported" by their husbands, and therefore shouldn't charge a reasonable rate. And ya know what? They should!!!

Rates for services should be calculated by the intrinsic value of the service. One-on-one education in piano is of enormous value to a child, and parents should pay accordingly. Rates should NOT be calculated on the needs or lack of needs of the service provider. In other words, if Mrs. Miller teaches piano, but her husband is the richest man in town....Mrs. Miller should STILL charge what her service is worth.

Is this a "hobby" profession? Well, I think it can be. When people charge next-to-nothing for lessons, they are defining themselves as pseudo-professionals, as people with a little hobby. When people charge what they are worth, they will be seen (and treated) as the professionals they are.

I know this isn't possible in Lubbock, but I know teachers in California, New York, Florida and New Jersey who've been able to make it work. Who knows, LC might be the place to develop a thriving and profitable studio!! \:\)

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#19296 - 02/07/03 09:16 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Martin Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 12/06/01
Posts: 403
Loc: SOUTH CAROLINA
Hey---didn't mean to compare apples to oranges....just stating an example of a successful music studio (of course, not in the home)
In our city/county I have to have a business license to operate out of my home (to keep fly by night businesses flying on "by") It costs $50 but you'd be surprised how many of the politicians/city workers/professionals ask about it when they see the license on the wall displayed.
And yes, the taxes....another source of Hmmmmm-how shall we say nicely? raw spot in little pinky....
How do some of you home teachers keep your overhead down? I'd beinterested to discuss that..I no longer purchase extra copies of music for students in the event of forgetting books, etc. I just have supplemental work to do sheet music, theory sheets and we review memorized music also. I do have a end of the year sale on books that are not used to keep my inventory down and provide putting income back into the business for tuning, phone line and all - upgrades. trips, etc.
Many parents do not see the expense involved when we stay overnight out of town for a piano competition...and then ask for a reduction in tuition! Whoa!!!!where is the train to catch?
_________________________
RMARTIN

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#19297 - 02/07/03 10:52 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Marcia Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 11/18/00
Posts: 354
Loc: Maple Grove, MN
 Quote:
Originally posted by Martin:
How do some of you home teachers keep your overhead down? I'd beinterested to discuss that..I no longer purchase extra copies of music for students in the event of forgetting books, etc. I just have supplemental work to do sheet music, theory sheets and we review memorized music also. I do have a end of the year sale on books that are not used to keep my inventory down and provide putting income back into the business for tuning, phone line and all - upgrades. trips, etc.


What are your most expensive items in running your studio?

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#19298 - 02/07/03 11:59 AM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
I agree with Eric, that rates for piano lessons should be what we feel our services are worth (or very close to it). This should not be a hobbyist profession. As long as some IMTs charge low rates, however, the public will continue thinking that teaching piano is a hobby... & they won't understand such things as overhead.

I'm trying very hard, believe me, not to be all "gloom & doom" here. Since raising my rates (substantially, from only $50/month for 60-min. weekly lessons to $65/month for 45-min. weekly lessons), I have less students... but they're better students, with less problematic parents... & I'm actually earning more money now than I did before. \:D And I'm happier. \:D The problem is that building a studio in Lubbock, although not impossible, seems to be a very slow process that takes years... years that some newbie teachers may not be able to afford. I invested with inheritance money, so I'm not in debt (Thank God). \:\) If I stayed here in Lubbock long enough, I might eventually have a large, profitable studio... but in the meantime...

Now, Eric, regarding my daughter's career choice. I wish she'd choose a career with a steady income so she'll be able to support herself. Of course, if she decides to become a school music teacher, she'll have a steady income. That's probably what she'll do, because she doesn't play an instrument (well, a little piano, but hardly enough to count). She's a vocalist. Anyhoo, she's in college now, taking the basic courses. I'm not telling her what to do, & there's no pressure on her whatsoever. She lives on her own & has a full-time job managing apartments. She has chosen on her own, at age 20, to go to college. All the angels in heaven couldn't have made her go to college right after high school; she wouldn't hear of it. Now she's attending, & we're going to help pay her expenses, just as we promised we would. I want her to have a career she enjoys, but also enough money for her not to have to rely on anyone for financial support.

Imagine a person rowing a boat that has holes in it. The person is thinking, "I don't own this boat, & it has a lot of holes in it, so I may not make it to land... but everyone else is making payments on their boats, & their boats have holes... we're all in the same predicament, so I'm okay." Scary-boo, isn't it?

Teaching piano in Las Cruces may not be any better than Lubbock. However, I've come to the point in my life where I honestly don't care whether people look down on me for staying at home with my children doing "menial work" such as running errands, cleaning house & cooking, & for not having a title behind my name. It took me a long time to understand that what I do for my family is more important than what other people think, but I've finally come to that point. When people ask me what I do all day (they do occasionally ask), I'm just going to tell them that I sit around & eat bon bons & watch soap operas. ;\) Seriously, it just doesn't matter anymore. I'll teach piano if there's a good market for it & I feel like doing it. But I don't feel like I have to teach piano in order to feel good about myself.

As for keeping overhead expenses low, the only thing I know to do is to stick with the same core method books for all students, not have a Computer Lab (that's where I spent major bucks, & did not get the return on investment I'd hoped for), & pretty much stick to basic teaching that involves teacher + student + piano. IOW, no frills unless you're in an area where people will pay extra for them.

[ 02-07-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#19299 - 02/10/03 08:35 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
JK Wong Offline
Regular Member

Registered: 10/10/00
Posts: 91
Loc: Seattle, WA, USA
I have learned my lesson the hard way. When I first started teaching piano I thought that I would only take the cream of the crop and become one of those "Audition Teachers". I later realized that it would not work - I am having a hard time paying my bills and I end up working many jobs to meet ends need.

I don't know about you all but I just want to share my experience ... when you are an IMT, you almost have to think like an independent business entrepreneur. The first thing I did is expanding my studio. I purchase two more pianos and started group lessons for beginner. Today I have a studio of six digital pianos and am working only 15 - 22 hours a week teaching piano. I do not take many advanced students, I bring all my group piano students all the way up to Faber Level 3A and I let some other teachers teaching them. I work all day Sunday( it is my longest day), Monday morning and evening, Tuesday evening, and Wednesday morning and evening. That's it!!

One thing I learn is that you have to position yourself differently in the market. True we are competing with many teachers that will charge ungodly tuition(like $5 per 30 minutes lesson) and some teachers who just want to make a few extra dollars. For serious teaching professionals like us, we really do have to look into our market and decide who do we want to target, then we have to design a program to maximize our time and effort. I have to work on many worksheets on improvisation, orchestration, note reading, creative games etc etc. It was hard at first. There are nights where I have worked so hard that I don't really feel like putting another hour creating extra projects for my students. But it paid off eventually. Words get around and people start noticing things that I do different than other in my studio and I am having great luck with student enrollment. I do not marketing and no advertising and I have around 25 students on waiting.

I hope that helps. I think to become a successful IMT is to understand how to maximize your income potential while not spending every single waking hour teaching.

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#19300 - 02/10/03 09:01 PM Re: Financial Feasibility of Independent Teaching
Martin Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 12/06/01
Posts: 403
Loc: SOUTH CAROLINA
Speaking of rates---one of my more advanced students began taking beginner students just recently---16 yrs. old and charges $10 per lesson (30 min) she schedules 10 students per week....lives in a very rural area and gets the majority of referrals from her mom who teaches 2nd grade. So for all those that are charging $5 per lesson with a degree or without it would give you something to think about.
_________________________
RMARTIN

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