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How to Start Teaching

Most musicians end up teaching at least a little, in order to help make ends meet. Some teach as their primary source of income. The thing is, to the young musician, there is no real guide to how to start teaching in the first place.

It can be confusing to begin, I know, but as someone who has started teaching recently (look at the top of the page! There’s my teaching stuff!) I promise that you can figure it out.

Find a teaching space. Before you even begin to think about teaching, figure out WHERE you will be teaching lessons. You need a space to comfortably house at least two people and their instruments, possibly with a piano. You need it to be relatively sound-proof. You need it to be somewhere people are willing to go to for the lessons – avoid places that might seem creepy. It needs to be clean. If you are incredibly lucky, you may already live in a nice house with a music room and don’t live with someone who would mind having lessons taught there. If you aren’t that lucky, you can usually ask community centers, schools, or churches if you can borrow a room occasionally. I currently teach out of the practice rooms at my college.

Decide how much you’re going to charge. Do a BUNCH of Googling. Find out how much other teachers in the area are charging. If there are no teachers of your instrument in the area, check other instruments or other areas. Don’t lowball yourself – a good starting price for your lessons would be somewhere in the middle of all the prices you see online.

Get in contact with local schools and religious spaces. Choir and band directors, at schools or religious spaces, are going to be some of the best peopel to refer students to you. Most are happy to keep you in mind if anyone asks them about area teachers. They’ll also be good resources for information about other teachers in the area.

Protip: do not expect endless help from someone with nothing in return – refer people to them! Attend concerts! Help their students! Be nice!

Make an attendance policy. People will take advantage of you if your policy on lessons is “meh, we can make it up later” or if you don’t push for payment. They won’t do it to be mean – they may do it by accident, or because they don’t understand the value of your time. Have an attendance policy, stick to it, and in general ask for payment in advance.

Schedule lessons! I am someone who is awful at time management. If it is not in my schedule, it literally does not exist. You might be the same way. So keep lesson times sacred, along with at least a half hour on either side. If you’re trying to be professional about something, you never show up late, you never leave someone waiting, and you never duck out early. Put times in your calendar, and make SURE that you’re always there on time and prepared.

Starting to teach lessons can be scary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. The hardest part is starting. So get out there and start!

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