Why music teachers don’t drive BMWs

How do you get a musician off your porch?

Pay for the pizza.

It’s not that bad for some of us, especially those of us who teach. But if you’re paying $25 for a half hour lesson, and it seems like your teacher has a lot of students, shouldn’t she be driving a BMW and living in a 10,000 square foot house in <insert expensive neighborhood>?

Well, no.

Yeah, you could find someone through Craig’s List or Kijiji who charges $15 for an hour lesson. Is price the only way to choose a music teacher? It’s like doing all of your grocery shopping at the dollar store. I hate it when someone responds to my ads with only one question, “How much do you charge?” (On the flip side, it doesn’t mean that if you pay a lot more, you’re going to get Eric Clapton.)

dollar store

I’m a writer and performing musician, but teaching is my bread and butter. On the surface, it may appear that I make a load of dough, and while I once heard about a guy who had 80 private students per week, I wonder if each student got high quality instruction. Maybe he had a BMW. I drive a four year old Toyota that I share with my partner, and I make certain that I don’t have any more students than I can handle. I charge more than $15 an hour, however, you’re getting someone who’s played the guitar for 40 years and taught for 10.

Much of my time isn’t spent with students. Today, for example, I spent an hour making a video for a Skype student. (Contact me if you want lessons via Skype.) I uploaded it to Dropbox and that took an hour and a half. While that was happening, I filed music and cleaned my studio. I found a piece of sheet music for a ukulele student and played it through. I listened to a YouTube link that another student sent. I answered emails, mostly about scheduling. At the start of most days, I look over my list of students and prepare for each one. Sometimes I need to run through a piece they’re learning. Everyone has overhead and music teachers are no exception. I’m not complaining, it’s just part of the job.

I can’t speak for teachers in regular schools – band teachers, choir directors, general music instructors, etc. – because that’s not what I do. However, my friends who do that kind of work talk about all the extra hours. Sometimes, in addition to their regular day, they have marching band practice, consultations with parents, and more.

Next time you’re tempted to respond to a music teacher’s ad with only one question, “How much do you charge?” don’t, okay? Unless your query comes with a pizza. Extra cheese.



Want to find out more about finding a music teacher? Check out this post.


About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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2 Responses to Why music teachers don’t drive BMWs

  1. gigsmarter says:

    I like your writing style and I’m glad I stumbled across your blog! But hey! No fair…I drive a BMW and had 60 kids in my studio at one time – it is certainly possible – just brace yourself for some serious time management when it comes to practice time.

    I’m new to the blog scene and technology isn’t exactly my strong suit – do you mostly do Skype lessons?
    – M

    • jamiebobamie says:

      Most of my students come to my studio. I recently started Skype lessons so I don’t have many of those kind of students yet.

      Sixty students! Wow! All private? I could handle that many kids if some were in classes.

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