The High Cost of Music
I’m all for the arts. I try to encourage my kids to express themselves: I hang all their “masterpieces” on the fridge, I listen to their kazoo solos, and I even let them play with Play-Doh (though I hate the stuff). But I had to balk when my nine-year-old told me she wanted to play the piano.
It wasn’t the playing, per se. It was the learning. Why is it so darned expensive to hire a piano teacher?
Now, I’m a writer, so I know the myth of every novelist living in an unheated garret is far from the truth (my garret is heated quite nicely, thank you). So I figured the myth of the starving musician was equally false. But then I started looking into hiring a piano teacher.
If you haven’t been in the market for someone to teach little Kendall or Kyler “Chopsticks,” brace yourselves. You thought you had it bad, saving for college. Forget that — the going rate for music teachers is A DOLLAR A MINUTE. To foot the piano bill, I’d have to trade in my high-rent bi-monthly hair cut for Great Clip's $9.99 Thursday special.
You heard me, $60 an hour. Which computes to about $120,000 a year, assuming the teacher is busy 40 hours a week and gets time off for good behavior. Let’s do a little research, just for comparison’s sake:
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Loggers average $16.83/hour
- Animal breeders make $13.46/hour
- Hospital psychologists earn $46.12/hour
- Physicists in university settings bring in $40.15/hour
- Performing musicians and singers average $31.13/hour
First question: Why do the out-of-work musicians (i.e., piano teachers) make more than the in-work (i.e., performing) ones? Just something to think about.
Granted, it can be quite stressful for the teacher when Flynn hasn’t practiced her scales. You do need specialized training to teach music. There’s no job security or benefits. But c'mon, the physical risk is low, and the overhead even lower. Can piano teachers honestly say that their job is really almost FIVE TIMES as much work as it is to get two bison to mate in a timely and productive manner? I know which career path I’d choose, given the option!
Another point: It’s not like I’ve got Mozart on my hands here, either. Chances are, Kinsey has inherited her parents’ tone-deafness and will take a few months’ of lessons and then move on to greener pastures — ice hockey, maybe, or knitting (both cheaper options, by the way). Any sidewalk musician could probably teach her to identify her notes and bang a few chords.
Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Instead of playing for pennies outside the Red Line subway station, I bet I could convince them to help my daughter for $20 and a hot meal. And if (and that’s a big “if”) Kinsey makes it through this introductory period, practices on her own, and shows some talent and dedication, then I’ll break out my wallet for the big guns.
But don't expect to see me at Great Clips any time soon.
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