Improving the image of the independent piano teacher

As a follow up to my article An Image Crisis in Independent Piano Teaching?, in which I revealed the somewhat alarming results of my survey Perceptions of Independent Piano Teachers, I would now like to explore ways in which independent piano teachers can improve the overall image of the profession. This will also tie in with a presentation I am giving at the Oxford Piano Group meeting at the end of the month at which we will be exploring ideas of “professionalism” within the field of piano teaching.

Music teaching in the UK has had a very bad press in recent years, with the disturbing revelations about child abuse, physical and emotional, in some of the top music schools and conservatoires. But even before the activities of certain teachers were brought to public attention, private instrumental teachers have suffered from negative stereotypes (“little old lady down the road”, “eccentric person with cats and cardigans”, and worse). The interesting thing about my survey was that the majority of respondents were independent piano teachers and it was they themselves who revealed these negative perceptions of the profession.  And yet many of the piano teachers I know are normal people, who run their teaching practices in an efficient and professional manner. As is usual in all walks of life, it is the minority of poor teachers who give the whole profession a bad name.

Rather than me write a long article in which I outline ways in which I think the profession can improve its image, I would very much welcome contributions from readers. Please feel free to leave comments below, or if you would prefer to respond privately, use the Contact page to get in touch with me. All responses will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Thank you in advance for your help.

3 thoughts on “Improving the image of the independent piano teacher”

  1. I’ve been a private piano instructor in the US for 25 years (along with 10 years teaching in higher education). I’m in my mid-forties and have always considered myself a professional . Imagine my surprise when I heard “Oh no! And our dog sitter just quit too!” after informing a studio mom that I was moving and could not longer teacher her son. We’re fighting the same image battle here in the states!

  2. I agree with Jess. Teachers operate as individual from home so it’s very easy for them to feel isolated and consequently demoralised. Attending training, joining organisations such as EPTA and following blogs such as the present blog are ways out of this isolation and individuals should decide what works best for them.
    It’s easy to forget that a good piano teacher can make a huge contribution to individuals’ lives and to the community. I was fortunate to study with a superb teacher forty years ago. I still feel that this was one of the best things in my life. My teacher concentrated very hard and gave the learner her undivided attention during lessons. I felt that I had to reciprocate by working very hard and that helped my progress. My respect for her as a teacher and my admiration for her as a pianist ultimately helped me. Teachers should remember that by commanding the respect of their learners they help the learners. I am sure that many readers will have had similar experiences.

  3. Hi Fran – since your last post on this topic I’ve been thinking about this, and the fact that the negative responses you got in your survey were mostly from piano teachers confirms my opinion. I think it has a lot to do with how we see ourselves – if we don’t value ourselves and our profession, and as a result, don’t behave as if we think we deserve to be treated as professionals, then we won’t be viewed as professionals. For me, the most important thing is confidence. I gained a lot of confidence by completing the EPTA Piano Teachers’ Course, so I think a combination of training, the chance to get constructive and positive feedback from people I admire and networking with other piano teachers is what has given me the confidence to come across as professional (even if sometimes it’s just an act!). As well as giving me heaps of ideas for improving my teaching, the course made me think of myself as a piano teacher, and this is why I think that training and professional development is a huge part of being professional – not just because of what you learn on a course, but also because it can improve how we view ourselves and our profession.

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