How did you become a piano teacher?

Was it a conscious career decision or did it happen almost by accident?

piano teacher

We know that there are many routes into becoming a piano teacher.

For me, having just graduated, it seemed like the obvious thing to do and crucially there was a ready-made opportunity for me to do some piano teaching.

This week I’m going to share my memories of the first ever piano lesson I gave and after that you’ll be able to read some other stories about how individuals started to teach the piano.


So back to that first lesson – it was on a Danemann piano in a large instrument cupboard (I am pretty sure you can picture the scene!). I was there because I knew the Head of Music from college days and he needed a piano teacher.

The student entered the room with her piano tutor book which was Piano Lessons Book One by Fanny Waterman and Marion Harewood. To gauge her level I asked her to play me something but it quickly became apparent that she understood very little of what was on the page. I had the dawning realisation that musical notation, which had been my ‘second language’ for so long, meant absolutely nothing to this young student. My journey as a curious piano teacher had begun!


Some fascinating stories of how people came to teach the piano emerged from my research back in 2010 [1]. As you will read the responses were very diverse.

‘I began teaching piano in secondary school, when I had the necessary pianistic ability (though not much pedagogical knowledge) and wanted to earn money to pay for uni. I’ve kept at it because I love it and have acquired enough pedagogical knowledge to be a good teacher’. [R: 263]

‘I got made redundant, had wanted to teach the piano for a long time and this gave me the opportunity to do it’. [R: 279]

‘It seemed like a natural progression alongside class teaching’. [R: 568]


Out of all the reasons individuals gave for starting to teach there was one that came up again and again. In fact, over a quarter of the respondents had been asked by friends and acquaintances if they taught the piano.

‘Someone who knew I was a grade 8 player asked me to teach their child!’ [R: 22]

‘A friend’s daughter needed some basic lessons, and then word got around’. [R:270]

‘An adult asked me to give her lessons on the piano, and I hadn’t passed Grade 8 at that point, so decided to try and then liked it. She got through some grades so I couldn’t have been that bad’. [R: 98]

‘Friends started asking me to teach their children, and I found I enjoyed it and it suited my lifestyle’. [R: 125]


So becoming a piano teacher appears to be both straight-forward and accessible if you already play the piano. Or is it? How does it make us feel though in terms of our professionalism? Do you find you suffer from the ‘imposter syndrome’? Here’s a TedX talk that will reassure you that you’re not alone!

Do join me next week when I will be considering some of the ways I think we can all work together to become more valued and respected as a profession.

This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, Co-Founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers


  1. Maggie W

    I started at a time when I had little money of my own because I’d just had my first child and given up work as a primary school teacher. A friend of mine was at a similar stage in her life and we traded our skills – I taught her son piano in exchange for her editting a book my sister was preparing to publish (that was my gift to my sister for her birthday). I continued teaching him, word got out and it grew from there.

  2. Susie

    I was on a career break after having children, and wondering what to do work-wise, as I wasn’t sure my previous job would work around children. A friend knew I played piano and asked if I would teach her son. Then a few days later, another friend asked if I knew of any local piano teachers. A serendipitous moment! That was four years ago, now I have nearly 50 pupils!!

  3. Neil Browning

    I’m mainly a guitar teacher, but teach piano occasionally, usually if existing guitar pupils want to try piano too. My first was the sister of one of my guitar pupils, and she had done up to grade IV, and wanted to do grade V- but really wasn’t getting on with her teacher. Would I take her on, please?
    I remember the thought that was in my head the whole time in that first lesson was: “am I good enough to do this?” It worked out okay, and she got her grade V, but the whole experience taught me that the pupil/teacher relationship can be a make-or-break factor for the pupil’s development.

  4. Sioned

    My piano teacher regularly kept asking me to consider teaching for well over ten years! But I had another career and children to care for at the time and so I dismissed the idea. To be honest, I didn’t think piano teaching was “me” at all. I can’t honestly say I was “hooked” from the start as I was very nervous and very conscious of what I didn’t know and so I started to delve a little deeper into the subject. I stumbled across your blog Sally and found out that you were planning to launch the Curious Piano Teachers. I signed up immediately and now I’m really hooked! I still have my ‘other career’ but piano teaching is far more satisfying!

    1. Sally

      Thanks Sioned for sharing your story and great to know how much you are enjoying your time as a piano teacher!


    I began teaching a when I finished Grade 8 and my piano teacher thought it was time I began to give piano lessons. Within 2 weeks I had my first pupil…a neighbours child. I was hooked! And still love teaching.

  6. Alyson

    Started teaching a family friend 10 years ago and then decided to do it part time along with my full time (non musical) job. Now own my own music school and doing it full time.


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