How did you become a piano teacher?
Was it a conscious career decision or did it happen almost by accident?
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.
GIVING MY FIRST LESSON
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!
BECOMING A PIANO TEACHER
Some fascinating stories of how people came to teach the piano emerged from my research back in 2010 . 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]
DO YOU TEACH THE PIANO?
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]
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?
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