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#2704300 - 01/12/18 01:56 PM Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years  
Joined: Jan 2017
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squidbot Offline
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OK, I'll admit it's a bit of a click bait title, but it's something I'm really considering. I've been playing as an adult beginner for just over two years, and I'm absolutely loving piano. I have an previous long background in classical music as a singer (choral, opera, etc.) Both of my kids who also play, though my 10 year old has really just started getting serious about it, and in fact we take lessons with the same teacher. As my teacher is aware of my musical background, we decided to maximize technique, I would teach my son theory. My son also likes me to sit with him during his practice to help keep him focused and aware of what's important for him to work on.

As it turns out, I'm really loving doing this. I've always thought I might do some sort of teaching when I start "retiring" and I'm thinking teaching piano might be a thing I could do. This would probably happen 10-15 years down the road though, as I obviously still have a lot to learn, I'm just a beginner myself. So I have a few questions for teachers, and maybe a reality check smile

1. My thought is I would specialize in beginning students. I don't have any illusion that in 10-15 years of 1-2 hours a day of practice is going to qualify me to teach anyone beyond beginners. I'd love to do a very low stress, inexpensive sort of "intro to music and piano" type thing. I would figure out a point where a student is ready to move beyond me and refer them to someone who has dedicated their life to teaching piano. Is this even realistic as a thing? Would anyone want this?

2. If I were to pursue this over the next decade or so, what would you recommend in terms of training? I"m certainly amenable to going back to school for a bit, though it would probably be online/extensions/night school type things. I actually looked at the University of Washington requirements for entering the music education program and I'd squeak by at my current skill level. Do you think this would be necessary? Are there other good institutions or coursework to consider versus full on college?

3. I'd be especially interested if anyone here has done something similar, started teaching later in life and hear your experience.

Thanks so much!


Instruments: Yamaha CLP-685, Kawai ES110
Pieces In Progress:
  • Chopin Waltz in A minor Poshumous (almost performance ready)
  • Chopin Mazurka in B flat Major Op 7 (very much W.I.P.)
  • Beethoven "Easy Sonata" 20 No. 2 (just started)
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#2704374 - 01/12/18 06:06 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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Hi Squidbot,
It's a realistic goal, but I would not go to college. Instead, focus on finding a piano teacher who can teach you HOW to teach, which is called pedagogy. Take one lesson each week for your own music, and one lesson each week on how to teach piano. Do not be afraid to spend a lot of money on private lessons. Somewhere in there, you will need your theory requirements too. History and Harmony would be preferable but not really in demand til children are advanced players.

Beginners require the best possible instruction. You can teach beginners but remember, you have to do an excellent job of it, and be super-prepared for your job. Just because the notes look simple doesn't mean that the teaching of music at that level is easy.

Because you have kids, you may have an easier time with managing the children's behaviour.

Remember, don't skimp on lessons. You may spend a lot of time studying repertoire at that level too.

#2704384 - 01/12/18 06:30 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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People often talk about teaching beginners when starting out, in the belief that this is the easiest thing to teach, because the actual things like being able to play 5 notes in either hand is something they themselves can do well. But "beginner" is when every foundation that will be used from then on is established, and where every concept, every skill, is brand new and unknown. It is one of the hardest things to teach well, one of the easiest to botch up. I agree wholeheartedely with Candywoman about learning how to teach ---- pedagogy. Level of student (as per what your teaching instructor guides you) would probably be some level of intermediate, i.e. a student whose foundations are already solid.

#2704400 - 01/12/18 07:04 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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And if you eventually get a transfer student who is playing intermediate music, but whose foundations aren't solid (believe me, Squidbot, that happens more often than one would hope), you will gain experience in learning how to help the student overcome the bad habits that weren't corrected before. It's a real learning experience for the teacher in that circumstance, because it gets one to thinking about how to teach beginners to avoid developing those kinds of problems in the first place.

I agree with both Keystring and Candywoman: a firm foundation established from the beginning is important, and studying pedagogy from an experienced teacher is a good way to learn how to lay a strong foundation in beginning students.


Last edited by Andamento; 01/12/18 07:06 PM.
#2704707 - 01/13/18 10:42 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: Andamento]  
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Whizbang Offline
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Originally Posted by Andamento
And if you eventually get a transfer student who is playing intermediate music, but whose foundations aren't solid (believe me, Squidbot, that happens more often than one would hope)


All the time from what I gather here.

I know, of course, that the outliers are the events that are interesting so I don't think I get a true view. Percentage-wise, what do the teachers here think the ratio of omg-that-teacher-destroyed-this-learner to meh-needs-work is? How much can you chalk up to the student versus the previous teacher?

Are transfers mostly wrecks?


Whizbang [Linked Image]
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#2704715 - 01/13/18 11:36 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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I almost wanted to start a similar thread a few days ago. I've worked up to the late intermediate / early advanced level, and thought that perhaps in 15-20 years, as I would be approaching retirement, could teach piano. That gives plenty of time to learn about pedagogy and improving my own piano skills.

As an adult re-starter, I've never worked with teachers who spent a lot of time on things like technical exercises. The teacher I work with now prefers to have me learn things like scales/arpeggios within a piece of music, rather than doing exercises.

So my questions...

How important is it to reach virtuoso levels of technique if you're going to be teaching mainly beginning to intermediate students? I wouldn't be the right person to teach whiz kids who are going to win piano competitions or successfully audition for a conservatory.

What should I be reading to learn about piano pedagogy? Any recommended books/authors?

What other skills / qualifications are needed to teach piano? Teaching piano is (at least in the US) a largely unregulated profession. Many people look to have piano teachers with a master's degree from a music school, but with the prohibitive cost of college (as well as some nonsense in academia), there are a lot of piano teachers who don't have these credentials. Though I would think anything I need to learn in order to know how to teach piano I could learn outside the halls of a university - through books, private lessons, on-line courses, etc.


Last edited by Colin Dunn; 01/13/18 11:38 PM.

Colin Dunn
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#2704733 - 01/14/18 03:12 AM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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Thanks all for the replies so far, lots of food for thought. I'll definitely be speaking with my teacher about learning to teach from him (hopefully we'll be able to continue for the next 15 years, he's fantastic, but I worry he might retire smile

Colin, happy to see I'm not the only one with this notion!


Instruments: Yamaha CLP-685, Kawai ES110
Pieces In Progress:
  • Chopin Waltz in A minor Poshumous (almost performance ready)
  • Chopin Mazurka in B flat Major Op 7 (very much W.I.P.)
  • Beethoven "Easy Sonata" 20 No. 2 (just started)
#2704736 - 01/14/18 03:39 AM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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There are already some alarms going off in other posts...

Originally Posted by squidbot
1. My thought is I would specialize in beginning students. I don't have any illusion that in 10-15 years of 1-2 hours a day of practice is going to qualify me to teach anyone beyond beginners. I'd love to do a very low stress, inexpensive sort of "intro to music and piano" type thing. I would figure out a point where a student is ready to move beyond me and refer them to someone who has dedicated their life to teaching piano. Is this even realistic as a thing? Would anyone want this?

This is a very prevalent misconception. And, yes, I get a ton of Transfer Wrecks from teachers like this, and from teachers who have college degrees and still can't teach.

The "low stress, inexpensive" attitude is one that many parents also possess, so they start kids in kiddie programs to have fun. They don't realize what damage these kiddie programs can do, and sometimes it would take me literally YEARS to un-teach what was taught and re-teach what should have been taught.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#2704755 - 01/14/18 08:51 AM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
There are already some alarms going off in other posts...

Originally Posted by squidbot
1. My thought is I would specialize in beginning students. I don't have any illusion that in 10-15 years of 1-2 hours a day of practice is going to qualify me to teach anyone beyond beginners. I'd love to do a very low stress, inexpensive sort of "intro to music and piano" type thing. I would figure out a point where a student is ready to move beyond me and refer them to someone who has dedicated their life to teaching piano. Is this even realistic as a thing? Would anyone want this?

This is a very prevalent misconception. And, yes, I get a ton of Transfer Wrecks from teachers like this, and from teachers who have college degrees and still can't teach.

The "low stress, inexpensive" attitude is one that many parents also possess, so they start kids in kiddie programs to have fun. They don't realize what damage these kiddie programs can do, and sometimes it would take me literally YEARS to un-teach what was taught and re-teach what should have been taught.


On the other hand--given that the "low stress, inexpensive" attitude isn't going to go away, isn't it better that these students start piano, even if they later need fixing, when realistically the alternative is that they will not learn to play at all? Then a highly trained teacher would never see them, even as "transfer wrecks."

I remember a family friend telling me that they had acquired a piano and he was going to get some piano-playing kid he knew to start showing his kid how to do it (for free or maybe cheap). I could not persuade him that he should get a real teacher at the very beginning.


1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Chopin, Waltz in E minor (op. posth.)
Schubert, Op. 90 no. 2
Mendelssohn, Op. 19 no. 2
#2704757 - 01/14/18 09:21 AM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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What I hear in AZN and jdw's posts is that offering a "low stress, inexpensive" activity is something a "teacher" could do for him or herself, rather than as a way to participate in the development of people who play piano competently.

Why not teach Kindermusik or some fun music activity with little kids where you play piano and they march around or dance and play a variety of rhythm instruments?


Having power is not nearly as important as what you choose to do with it.
– Roald Dahl

#2704767 - 01/14/18 10:20 AM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: jdw]  
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Originally Posted by jdw
On the other hand--given that the "low stress, inexpensive" attitude isn't going to go away, isn't it better that these students start piano, even if they later need fixing, when realistically the alternative is that they will not learn to play at all? Then a highly trained teacher would never see them, even as "transfer wrecks."

I don't suppose you've ever gone through the hellll of needing to undo that kind of mess as a student, or parent thereof? Btw, is that "learning to play"?

What about this? We know that some people are just going to gorge themselves on tons of sugar. Unless they actually develop diabetes, why not just let it be, give no warnings, I mean why does it matter?

#2704844 - 01/14/18 01:48 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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Food for thought:

In my area there is a guy with a degree from Juliard. Does he play well? No idea. I've never heard him play.

But I've gotten students, already ruined by him. And I mean RUINED, as in not only having zero success but borderline abused, emotionally.

So degrees and training are no guarantee, and I've seen people who play well who are horrendous teachers.

In comparison, my grandmother, who had no degree, who didn't know a lot of things, was a way better teacher than most.

The obviously best solution is to start, from day one, with a teacher who plays very well and who is an expert teacher.

But how many of those are around, anywhere?

My answer: very very VERY few.


Piano Teacher
#2704845 - 01/14/18 01:51 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: Whizbang]  
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Originally Posted by Whizbang
Originally Posted by Andamento
And if you eventually get a transfer student who is playing intermediate music, but whose foundations aren't solid (believe me, Squidbot, that happens more often than one would hope)


All the time from what I gather here.

I know, of course, that the outliers are the events that are interesting so I don't think I get a true view. Percentage-wise, what do the teachers here think the ratio of omg-that-teacher-destroyed-this-learner to meh-needs-work is? How much can you chalk up to the student versus the previous teacher?

Are transfers mostly wrecks?

Let me answer your question a bit differently. Out of the last 10 to 20 students I've gotten, not one of them could read notes in both clefs. Most did not know the names of the white keys and were playing using only finger numbers, in hand positions.

Balance that against the likelihood that students with good teachers stay with those teachers, so I don't see or hear those students.

The exceptions for me have been students coming to me when other good teachers have either retired or moved.


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#2704849 - 01/14/18 02:06 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: keystring]  
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Originally Posted by keystring

I don't suppose you've ever gone through the hellll of needing to undo that kind of mess as a student, or parent thereof? Btw, is that "learning to play"?




I have been taken back to basics on multiple instruments to undo previous bad habits. I'm not sure if I should attribute them to poor teaching or just incomplete knowledge (which any teacher might suffer from--no one knows everything) or my own failure to absorb instruction fully. Yes, it's hard. Would it have been nice if I had learned the perfect way from the beginning? sure! Would it have been better never to sing / touch a piano / play a flute before encountering the ultimate teacher? I would have missed out on a huge wealth of musical experience.

I do not think the following is a fair analogy:

Originally Posted by keystring
What about this? We know that some people are just going to gorge themselves on tons of sugar. Unless they actually develop diabetes, why not just let it be, give no warnings, I mean why does it matter?


As mentioned in my previous post, I attempted as persuasively as I could to tell my friend how important early instruction is and how much better off his child would be with a qualified teacher. I am not at all arguing that no one should warn of the hazards of poor early instruction. However, as some have noted, many "qualified" teachers are not doing their students any favors either.

The folks coming online to ask about teaching are asking how best to become reasonably qualified. They seem to be well aware that just knowing how to play a bit themselves does not mean they know how to teach yet. In other words, they are way ahead of the wider public, in which many parents will still go to the kid down the street. Would I rather have all kids get great teachers at the start? Absolutely. But I would still rather they play if they have the urge. (Would we rather they eat nothing, or at least keep themselves alive on less-than-ideal nutrition until they can get something better?)


1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Chopin, Waltz in E minor (op. posth.)
Schubert, Op. 90 no. 2
Mendelssohn, Op. 19 no. 2
#2704852 - 01/14/18 02:16 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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Keystring,
I believe that you were dabbling in teaching from some of your recent posts? If this is correct, these other members that are interested in teaching it appears would benefit from hearing how do you prepared yourself to teach the piano. I know you have prior experience in teaching in public schools, but was there anything else that you needed to do to teach the piano specifically?

I don’t get the impression that anyone here who is asking the question about teaching wants to begin Without adequate skills And pedagogical training. The original post was regarding teaching in 10 to 15 years, which indicates a desire to have all the required skills prior to teaching


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
#2704860 - 01/14/18 02:28 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: jdw]  
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Originally Posted by jdw
The folks coming online to ask about teaching are asking how best to become reasonably qualified.

Yes, I understood the spirit of the post.

However, some of the wording reflects a lackadaisical attitude toward beginner instruction, which seems (at least to me) to be universal. And that's a bad thing I'm trying to correct.

The music teachers here in California are, at a minimum, trying to self-regulate by popularizing a state-level exam system. It has its pros and cons, but at least we get to weed out the finger-number kids and kids who play 3 pieces all year and can't sight read. There are "dabblers" who attempt to join our organization, and they learn very quickly that the kids must learn something in order to pass.

I seem to throw around the term Transfer Wrecks loosely, but it's remarkably true! The great majority of the problem comes from the kiddie programs and "music schools" that are more like factories than actual places of learning. You can't fathom how many times I've told parents that we need to go back 3 or 4 levels (or start over) just to fill in the holes.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#2705067 - 01/15/18 10:03 AM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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For the OP, the Royal Conservatory of Music here in Canada has online piano teacher courses at three levels: elementary, intermediate and advanced. You can take exams in piano pedagogy just as you would take the regular practical piano exams and receive a certificate. Not sure how much RCM is available in the US, but it's an option that doesn't involve going to a university, just a private teacher and online work.


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#2705138 - 01/15/18 01:11 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: squidbot]  
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Check out MTNA.
You might get some answers there.
I see you're in Washington, maybe check this out,
https://wsmta.org/


Piano Teacher in Training
#2705146 - 01/15/18 01:28 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: pianist_lady]  
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I definitely don't want to wreck anyone! I do actually plan to study and not just jump in and start teaching tomorrow (if I did that it would be just an "intro to music" kind of thing not attempting to teach any instrument, just learning a little theory, having fun with music, introducing them to different instruments and singing, I've actually done a small class like this with homeless kids.)

I guess my comment came more from the fact that even in 15 years, I 'll be no where near the level of my instructor who has been playing since he was 10, graduated from a top school, etc, so I wouldn't feel equipped to train students who would possibly outpace me! So are you saying that it's not fair of me to think that after 13-18 years of playing and 10-15 years of studying teaching I would still be ill equipped to teach beginners as I would still only be a beginner (compared to my teacher for example?) That's a little disheartening to hear, but I can understand the argument.

Originally Posted by pianist_lady
For the OP, the Royal Conservatory of Music here in Canada has online piano teacher courses at three levels: elementary, intermediate and advanced. You can take exams in piano pedagogy just as you would take the regular practical piano exams and receive a certificate. Not sure how much RCM is available in the US, but it's an option that doesn't involve going to a university, just a private teacher and online work.


Interesting, my wife grew up in BC (I worked there for a few years) and did RCM when she took lessons. I'll check it out, thanks!

Originally Posted by hello my name is
Check out MTNA.


Thanks!


Instruments: Yamaha CLP-685, Kawai ES110
Pieces In Progress:
  • Chopin Waltz in A minor Poshumous (almost performance ready)
  • Chopin Mazurka in B flat Major Op 7 (very much W.I.P.)
  • Beethoven "Easy Sonata" 20 No. 2 (just started)
#2705246 - 01/15/18 06:32 PM Re: Becoming a piano teacher in 10-15 years [Re: Whizbang]  
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Andamento Offline
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Originally Posted by Whizbang
Originally Posted by Andamento
And if you eventually get a transfer student who is playing intermediate music, but whose foundations aren't solid (believe me, Squidbot, that happens more often than one would hope)


All the time from what I gather here.

I know, of course, that the outliers are the events that are interesting so I don't think I get a true view. Percentage-wise, what do the teachers here think the ratio of omg-that-teacher-destroyed-this-learner to meh-needs-work is? How much can you chalk up to the student versus the previous teacher?

Are transfers mostly wrecks?


Hi Whizbang,

Interesting questions, and good responses on this thread. I'll add that, in my experience, nearly all of the students I've acquired who have already studied had noticeable deficits that needed remedying, and far more often it was due to the way the student had been taught (or not taught) previously.

For example, very early in my piano-teaching career, while I was still doing my undergrad degree, I inherited the students of a piano teacher who decided not to return to teaching after her maternity leave from a music store was ended. (I was originally hired as a temporary, for the time of her leave.)

Anyway, none of those students was a strong player at the outset, and some had glaring problems with keeping the pulse, understanding rhythm, and reading notes (especially in bass clef). In time, and with focused work in their weak areas, most of the kids came around and started showing signs of promise by the time I got married and moved out of state, leaving them behind after about 4 or 5 years of teaching them.

Two of the students I remember, though, did not progress well. A poor home situation with one--she'd often get dropped off but not picked up in a timely manner, and/or would request that someone at the store (usually me) give her a ride back home.

There were other issues, too, with the family. Sad. I think the girl was mostly continuing piano for the weekly one-to-one with an adult that lessons afforded her, not that she was particularly interested in piano itself.

Another girl--a young teen--at one point wasn't at lessons for a several-month stretch. When she came back, she told me she'd been in rehab. She really wanted to make a turnaround with her music upon her return, but, unfortunately, that didn't happen.

Neither of those students progressed, due to issues that are beyond a piano teacher's ability to address, but for the most part, the other students improved once their musical weaknesses were addressed. I felt the previous teacher had glossed over important fundamentals and moved her students through their method books too quickly, before they had a firm grasp of necessary concepts to play more advanced music well. This happens a lot--students get to a point where the music becomes incomprehensible due to their weak foundation.

I'll skip a bunch of other examples, but nearly all of the transfer students I've had had some problem areas to correct. (There have been two outstanding exceptions over the decades I've been teaching, but successful transfer students are few and far between, largely because, as Gary D correctly notes, students tend to stay with good teachers.)

I've found it useful to ask transfer students if any previous teacher had told them such-and-such a thing before about a particular weakness I witness. The answer would give me a clue about whether it had been addressed before, and maybe the student just wasn't getting it yet, or, far more often, the student would look at me, puzzled, like, what are you talking about? Then I'd know, in the latter case, that previous teachers had not worked with the student at all or in an understandable-to-the-student way to remedy a particular deficit. That's not the student's fault.

Apologies for the length of this post. Great questions, though! Now to head over to the Transfer Wrecks thread.

Last edited by Andamento; 01/15/18 06:53 PM.

Moderated by  Ken Knapp 

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