Throughout my college experience, I wanted to become a private flute/music teacher. I wanted my career path to focus on teaching private lessons either through a community school, for myself or perhaps for a college or university.
That career goal fueled my desire to go back for my masters in music after a year and a half out of school. And at the end of my first semester of grad school, I landed a job teaching private lessons. But it wasn’t what I expected.
I taught lessons for about a year before realizing it wasn’t the career path for me. Here are the signs I should have paid attention to so that you can learn from my experience.
1. My Initial Job Search
During my break from school, I worked full-time for a bank. I’d moved back home with my parents and found a job at a local bank.
But my grad school of choice was out of state, so I couldn’t keep the job even part-time. So I started looking for jobs I could get while pursuing my masters.
Yes, I considered teaching private lessons, but my initial gut reaction was to find writing jobs. I’d enjoyed writing during and after college, and I figured I could get a job and make money writing.
I did make a list of schools where I could apply to teach lessons, but that search can after I landed my first freelance writing gig.
2. The Schedule Wasn’t My First Choice
I enjoyed teaching lessons, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the schedule. Most students want lessons after school or on the weekends. But with a full-time grad school schedule, that left me with little free time.
It also didn’t help that I never had more than two students at a time. Whether I was teaching through a local school or through my own studio, I usually had one or two consistent lessons…not enough to make it a viable income or career path.
Plus, when I did have lessons, I had to build my day or afternoon around them. I had to stop practicing, studying or writing with enough time to prep for the lesson. It ended up requiring a lot of unpaid time that I could have spent on more productive things.
3. I Kept Looking at the Clock
At first, I would enjoy the lessons. The half hour would fly by, and I would even go over by a few minutes. But as the months pressed on, I found myself looking at the clock more and more during a lesson.
I was waiting for that half-hour mark to come. So I could leave or switch from teaching to something else. So I could switch to something I didn’t…dread, if I’m being honest.
Looking at the clock isn’t always a bad thing, and it can help you stay on track when teaching. But I was looking at the clock WAY more than I should have.
4. I Wasn’t Sad When Students Quit
I “lost” my first student in September 2019, but I don’t count that one. She’d been studying with another teacher and had already told the school she was quitting, but they needed me to finish out her remaining lessons.
I lost my first “real” student in February because she wasn’t enjoying playing music. She was young, and I could tell she didn’t want to work on music.
But even when I lost more dedicated students, it felt more like a relief. I had that half-hour back.
Yes, I was sad at the thought of losing the small amount of money each student brought me. But overall, it wasn’t as sad as I expected.
5. I Didn’t Actively Market Myself
Sure, I promoted my lessons on my blog and social media. But I never reached out to band directors or other teachers.
And I didn’t build an audience that would want lessons. On Facebook and Instagram, most of my followers are my peers: professional or aspiring musicians.
I didn’t make the effort to learn more about marketing to parents or beginner flute players. Not because I didn’t know that’s how I would recruit more students.
But because I think I knew deep down that teaching wasn’t what I truly wanted.
Even after I initially realized teaching lessons wasn’t for me, I clung to that identity. I didn’t want to be a “failed” musician. Private teaching was my goal through undergrad and most of my masters.
In classical music, there seems to be some shame for musicians who leave the field. But we fail to recognize that music is TOUGH. We also fail to recognize that interests can change, and it’s okay.
I’m still involved in music. I play every day, I write for this blog each week and I’m pursuing more writing work within music and culture.
Recently, I started offering music journalism and content writing services for musicians and brands.
Finding My New Career Path
Once I started focusing on journalism/blogging, I new it was the right choice. I’ve been so much happier over the past couple of months. I have more control over my schedule and income, and I can still prioritize music and school.
After paying attention to the signs, I found the right career path for me, at least for right now. I have MAD respect for private music teachers, and I’m open to teaching in other ways, like masterclasses or recorded courses.
But I’ll leave the live private lessons to people who are more passionate about it. And I’m here to help those musicians use digital press to grow their studios.