I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question since last June when my book Six-Word Lessons for Exceptional Music Lessons was first published. The answer has never varied – because I wanted to assist teachers in helping the parents of their students understand the nature of the business of independent music teachers, and to help the parents understand how they can help their children have a successful experience.
So much has changed in the music teaching industry from the time I took private lessons. Most often the teacher was a man or a woman “teaching on the side” to earn a little pocket money. That may be the case for some teachers still today, but in general, more private teachers are supporting themselves and/or their families with their teaching income. That changes the playing field, at least it did for me.
I take my responsibility to teach music in a private setting far more seriously than when I started out in 1980. Because I handle my teaching career as a business, and charge tuition accordingly, I have a dedicated responsibility to be the best teacher I can be. That responsibility includes, but is not limited to, continuing my education, taking advantage of today’s technology in the teaching environment, being organized in my business, and produce students who achieve the goals they want to achieve.
What has been a struggle over the years is, a lot of parents grew up in the same environment I did where music lessons were just kind of “something to do.” Plop the five-dollar bill down on the piano and wait in the car while Junior took lessons with Mr. Smith. Everything has changed, which is what precipitated my desire to write a book. I call it a “conversion” book – helping parents with the conversion from the old way of doing business to the new way of doing business. My goal was to market the book to independent music teachers, so they would, in turn, sell or give books to the parents of the students in their studio.
Not every teacher works the way I do, but the principles and philosophies of the business pretty much ring true for all of us, especially those of us who make a living doing what we love but also have the responsibility of supporting ourselves. My truest desire in writing the book was to help maintain healthy relationships between teachers, parents and students through the understanding of how the business works. I firmly believe that reading the book and following the principles within, as well as understanding the “why” behind policies and procedures, will eliminate confusion and frustration for teachers and parents alike.
That is only part of the book though, and that was the main focus behind writing it. But as I began writing, I found myself wanting to include helpful tips on things such as getting the most out of a practice session, how to have the most beneficial environment at home for practicing, the importance of good equipment, and how to stay focused and positive through the process of teaching and learning. I am so appreciative of the parents who really invest not just their money but their time and energy to making sure their child(ren) succeed so I found myself writing to those parents with additional ideas on how to continue and enhance what they are already doing. I also felt that those same ideas would be so helpful to parents who may have never learned an instrument themselves or had to deal with practicing and the struggles in learning music. What started as a book to help teachers help parents understand the nature of the business, also became of book of suggestions and encouragement.
The last chapter ended up being a love letter to my colleagues, whether I know them personally or not. I wanted independent music teachers everywhere to know that I know what a great job they are doing. We private music teachers are quite busy and don’t seem to ever have time to sit down and talk about our trials, failures, and successes. We don’t take enough time to share our ideas and encourage each other. That’s how the last chapter came about – my desire to sit and talk to other music teachers.
It is a wonderful opportunity in this life to be able to do what you love and make money at the same time. No one talks about the struggles and pitfalls along the way though, and that’s what I was hoping to address, and help alleviate, by writing the book. I am grateful for all the support I have received and for all those who are helping me achieve my own goals.
Sally Palmer owns Sally L. Palmer Music Studio in Bellevue, Washington. She has over 40 years experience as a piano and vocal teacher and coach, and is an accomplished accompanist. She is the author of Six-Word Lessons for Exceptional Music Lessons.