Private music teacher: job description

Private music teachers provide lessons within home, educational (eg schools) or virtual settings, teaching pupils of all ages to sing or play musical instruments.

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Some private music teachers work for county or private music services but many are self-employed.

What does a music teacher do? Qualifications and training | Typical employers | Key skills

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • planning and preparing lessons in relation to individual pupils' needs and examination syllabuses
  • acquiring appropriate teaching materials and resources
  • teaching music theory, aural skills and practical techniques to pupils
  • entering and preparing pupils for examinations
  • motivating pupils and encouraging progress
  • liaising with academic staff and parents
  • creating and maintaining a network of contacts to ensure work continuity
  • ensuring up-to-date knowledge and awareness of examination requirements
  • assessing pupils’ abilities, providing feedback and writing reports
  • arranging recitals and concerts for pupils' families and friends
  • keeping financial, administrative and business records
  • advertising or publicising the business.

Because many people take music lessons as a hobby in their spare time, the job commonly requires working evenings and weekends. It may be possible to teach music privately in addition to holding down a day job.

Qualifications and training required

Although there are no qualifications required across the board for private music tutors, you will need to demonstrate your knowledge of music. In particular, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of – and aptitude for playing – the instrument(s) you will be teaching. Therefore, a degree in music can be extremely beneficial, and grades that indicate proficiency in an instrument are likely to be expected.

You will also need to show that you can teach. Gaining a qualification that involves training in this area, such as the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators (CME), is a great way to do this. The CME is offered by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and Trinity College London. Alternatively, a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) or postgraduate diploma of education (PGDE) could set you up well if you already have a degree in music. Particularly if you are looking for work through a website specialising in matching tutors with students (eg Tutorful), however, you may find that some relevant experience in teaching (even tutoring a family member) is sufficient.

The professional body for musicians, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), and the Musicians' Union (MU), the trade union for musicians, offer a range of networking and professional development opportunities, as well as access to resources such as business and legal advice.

Typical employers of music teachers

Private music teachers are typically self-employed. Often, these will teach pupils at their homes, the teacher’s home or via video calls. Others are employed by schools or county music services, and teach at schools.

It may take time to build up a client base and become fully established. Websites that match tutors with those who want to learn, such as Tutorful, could be useful channels for getting started. Some private music teachers combine teaching with performing or other work.

Vacancies with schools, colleges and higher education institutions are advertised in newspapers and publications such as the Times Educational Supplement and their websites. Work with local authority music services may be advertised on the local government jobs website, and it is also worth making speculative applications to schools, other educational institutions and local authorities. The ISM music directory lists music teachers who belong to the ISM.

Key skills for music teachers

  • Ability to motivate others
  • Communication skills – the ability to adapt your communication to suit different people is particularly important
  • Organisation
  • Patience
  • Creative thinking – including, for example, the ability to build lesson plans that will suit different individuals.

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