The High Cost of Music

By Lain Ehmann on 11 November 2009 (Updated 1 March 2010) 72 comments

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.

This is a post from our sister blog, Parenting Squad. Visit Parenting Squad for more tips and news for your family.

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Guest's picture
Guest

I'm not sure what the overall point to that post was - it takes years of practice and dedication to become a proficient pianist (a precursor to teaching), so I think that 60 dollars / hour is a reasonable return for the time and effort they've taken to get to that stage. I can definitely recommend it, having been the recipient of Piano lessons myself.

Guest's picture
Andrea

Well, I've done freelance tutoring, and my rates included the following: 1) travel to my students between every tutoring hour, something that a working musician doesn't have to deal with--just two commutes --there and back. 2) Making basic living because (due to #1) I couldn't be *tutoring* 40 hours a week, and because people drop out ... one week I would have many students; the next I wouldn't. 3) Covering my own health insurance.

So paying the free-lance musician the additional $13 over the average employed musician seems reasonable to me when I factor in travel to students' houses, self-insurance, making allowances for #of students, and the training needed to be a music professional (the last included in the per-hour of the employed musician, too). Computer consultants and other people get far more than $60 an hour. Massage therapists often charge at *least* $60 an hour, and I have to go to THEM.

But while I think the piano teacher's rate is reasonable and in line with what other similarly-self employed professionals charge (if anything, too little), that still doesn't mean I can *afford* to pay $60 an hour. What about exploring lower cost alternatives? Piano students at your local university might give introductory lessons for less, and there might be some available at the local community center.

Guest's picture
Brent

$60 is actually not that much when you consider what end its at. That is gross income. If the teacher comes to you there is travel expenses, if you come to the teacher there is rent. But if you think that its a ridiculous amount to charge think about it from a business perspective. who advertises? who does the accounting and taxes? who cleans the space? If all you did 40 hours a week and not a second over was teach lessons at $60/hr you might make really good money, in reality there is a lot more work going in than that.

For comparison last time I checked for my job(software engineer) I was contracted out at the rate of 127/hr. But this isn't just my time, its the office, supplies, the computer, receptionist, break room, education, travel, Marketing, HR/payroll, security, and support. 127/hr is a ton... but then my company is well in the black.

Guest's picture
Nate

Piano teachers do have expenses. Pianos are not cheap and need regular tuning and maintenance. They can either rent a room at a studio or use a room out of their home, both of which cost money. If they're traveling to the student's home there the travel time and gas. And I would guess that very few actually teach 40 hours of lessons a week. There's also time they spend doing billing, looking for sheet music for the kids, planning competitions and recitals, etc. Since they're self-employed, they pay more in taxes than those working for a company, plus they have to pay for health insurance on their own, have no employer funded retirement plan, etc. To say they pocket $60 an hour is pretty wrong.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with the first guest. It takes years of dedication and practice to actually reach the level of profiency to teach lessons, and more often than not, private teachers have taken at least one course in pedagogy as well. They aren't all "out-of-work musicians", unlike the impression you seem to have.

Also, many private teachers work far fewer than 40 hours a week. What kids do you know go to piano lessons during the school day? Most of the time the lessons are taught at night. And like Andrea pointed out above, the hourly rate needs to cover the teacher's travel time, insurance, taxes, etc. I'm also curious how you reached your calculated annual salary for a piano teacher. If teaching private music lessons gave the teachers a salary of $120,000 a year, then students would be flocking to music conservatories to learn the craft. My mother taught private piano lessons out of our home when I was a kid and was busy from about 4:30-9:00 each evening with a studio of about 35 kids and I can assure you she was not making a fabulous salary doing that.

Guest's picture
Guest

There are group lessons for small children. There are student teachers (as someone mentioned). There are guild teachers and non-guild teachers (who charge less). There are teachers who may be open to barter or skills trade. There are friends and family who had lessons as a kid and who could buy a beginners book and help your child along for a few months.

There's also the fact that early music training improves cognitive development, even in children that do not go on to be musicians... something your high-priced haircuts have clearly not done for you.

The point of this site is to think creatively about saving money while enjoying life... not to whine about things that you think are unfair.

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Mary

Piano lessons cost more than ice hockey? Really!!!! I suspect that you have no idea what ice hockey costs. In my area (east coast), you can spend a couple thousand a year. My kids' piano lessons are much, much cheaper than ice hockey.

Your article would have been more useful had it included ways to make music lessons more affordble (bartering for lessons, finding music students in college who offer lessons, group lessons, etc) than merely to complain about the cost of lessons from a highly trained professional.

Guest's picture
Jon

I once attempted to add up all of the money I had spent on my children's musical endeavors; piano lessons, violin lessons, drum lessons, trumpet lessons, trombone lessons, not to mention the instruments themselves, and concluded that if I'd put the money away in college funds, they could have had a free ride.
I think, however, that the true value in all of this turned out to be the experiences for our family over the years. I attended hundreds of concerts. The kids were both involved in worship music at our church while they lived at home, and my daughter and her husband still are very involved in music ministry at their own church now. Their lives and ours have been enriched and enhanced by music.
In response to the person who commented that early music training increases cognitive development. I'm not entirely convinced that that's a cause/effect relationship. What we saw over the years was that the children who were involved in music had very involved parents. We would see them not only at musical events, but at football games, soccer games, baseball games, tennis matches, awards ceremonies, and eventually at college parents weekends. I think that the encouragement and involvement of parents in children's intellectual and aesthetic pursuits probably had a greater effect than the actual study of music.

Guest's picture

WOW!! Those rates are blasphemously high!! i did not know that music school was that expensive. You ask that why are they so expensive. I think that the teachers reason that if you do have the next mozart of beethoven, you will take all the credit and fortune on yourself and forget that they are the ones that brought the talent out. So they would rather get as much from you as they can. But i really hope that you do not have the next mozart or bach or whatever. These very talented musicians all seemed to have real issues. Some died at very young ages, others were really sick all the time, others were deaf etc etc. Am not mentioning names y'all :)

Guest's picture
L

Are you serious? You really just swallowed that blog post without stopping to check how legitimate it was? I think you need to have a look at the other comments on this post.

Also, you know why those Mozarts and Bachs died at a young age? Coz they lived 300 years ago and everybody died young back then!

Guest's picture
L

PS - My comment (#50) was in response to kenyantykoon (#9)

Guest's picture
Guest

Neither Bach nor Beethoven died at a young age. I'm just saying.

Guest's picture
Guest

I definitely think your post was way off the mark this time. Unless you're employed with a pretty well-to-do group, almost every musician I know does not make a fantastic salary. That $60 an hour is not just for the insurance, taxes, travel and other misc. expenses that almost always comes with teaching, you have to consider the fact that this person may have started his/her own musical training since he/she was 4 or 5 years old. That's a lifetime of training you're asking this person to pass onto your child for a mere $60 a week. That's a lifelong love and passion for an art that your asking them to teach your child, who may only be interested in it as a passing phase, for a mere $60 a week.

There's also the fact that most people do consider this a mere hobby, meaning the lessons stop whenever the kid loses interest, so it's not steady income. Plus, most piano teachers I know of have mentioned parents canceling whenever they have something "better" to do. Piano lessons are indeed a luxury, but musical training, even if only for a short while, cannot be valued monetarily. It gives you the ability to appreciate the intangible, an understanding of things that can or cannot be stated in words.

Some things simply cannot be quantified with a monetary value. If you are worried that your child will likely lose interest after realizing how much work must go into musical training, then start lessons with music student or a local high school kid with talent. Once you know your child is serious about continuing their training, or you see they develop a love or passion for it, then invest in a professional instructor or send them to a music school.

Honestly, I find your post to be filled with a complete lack of understanding of what a musician's life and lifelong training is like. It's fine if you didn't know, but to assume that they're just pocketing lots of money and rolling in dough is upsetting to musicians that really are struggling out there - and there are LOADS of struggling musicians out there! It just feels like you really don't respect their personal talent and years of practice just because you don't want to pay that much for lessons. Money isn't everything, but if that's how you feel, at least try not to be so insulting towards musicians.

Guest's picture
Guest

It is hard to understand why music lessons are so expensive. I was once an oboe teacher (and a student!), but had to quit teaching lessons because I was very disrespected by the parents of the students. Often, they would forget to pay me, would not show up to lessons and leave me waiting for thirty minutes, would not show up with the proper materials, or would show up and had not practiced since the lesson before. I explained my policies in the beginning, and was in understanding they understood too! However, I think they disrespected me because they thought I was too young, and not charging enough.

Since I was a college student teacher, I only charged $10 for an hour lesson. I wasn't making much money at all, especially considering what I had to deal with the parents. One reason music teachers may charge a lot, is to make sure the student is serious, AND the parent as well. A parent is much more likely to respect a teacher if it means $60 an hour. Granted, there are cheaper music lesson teachers out there. However, it takes many years to become trained enough to be a good musician, and especially someone with the gift to teach. And...musicians are often freelance, which means they can't work 8 hours a day, come home at not think about their job anymore. It's more like a 24 hour a day job, with random hours.

After all, the arts is very important for children to stimulate their creativity and feel a sense of accomplishment. If a student goes though lessons and enjoys them, wants to take them, then you should consider yourself privileged. Many children are made to take lessons, and they end up despising it. Consider it a WONDERFUL! investment if you child wants to take lessons and follows though. After all, if they stick though it and want to continue, then it's a great return for the money.

Guest's picture
Rick

This may not be an option for you but this is what we did:

My wife taught three of our children piano herself. Eventually a point was reached where our children would not practice or pay attention. So our three children were traded with a neighbor for her three children, that is, just for piano lessons :). We found that both sets of children learned better from another mother.

Eventually my daughter outstripped her tutor's abilities. She then took inexpensive lessons from a neighbor who was home raising her own children. My daughter eventually gave lessons herself to raise money for band trips abroad.

Most of the cost of education we have spent on our five children has more than repaid itself productivity wise now that they are grown.

Guest's picture
A.O.

I am so glad to see that everyone else's comments reflect how inaccurate many of the statements made in this post are.

Piano teachers study their whole lives in order to be qualified to teach. Personal trainers, private tutors, personal chefs, etc. all charge similar rates. When you're an expert at something, that's what you do, you charge accordingly.

Learning piano as a child benefits them in so many priceless ways. It builds confidence, improves brain function, improves grades, and more! Not to mention that once the kid learns how to play piano, they can usually learn almost any other instrument on their own (talk about savings)!

Guest's picture
JohnK

Simple test: look at the teacher's house and/or car and then tell me if they're charging too much.

I have yet to see any music teachers laughing their way to bank. Same goes for martial arts instructors.

These people do it for the love of teaching. I have yet to see anyone get rich off of it, let alone make a decent leaving...which is why I only do it part time.

Others have touched on it, and I won't go into great detail, but music adds so much more to one's life than just learning how to bang out a few notes on the piano.

Quick example: At a local high school football game the other night, the school recognized the senior band members. When they read off their accomplishments and where they were going to college...wow. Quite impressive. And most were not pursuing music or music education.

Guest's picture
Meg

Teaching music and performing are two very different things. While a teacher is expected to be a fairly good performer, performers aren't expected to be good teachers. Consider that just because some can do math doesn't make them good at teaching math. Teaching takes additional skills and many teachers have additional training as teachers.

Also, teaching music is rarely a regular 9-5 sort of job. It takes a lot of prep work behind the scenes that you don't see, and a lot of people who give lessons are doing so on the side to supplement their income. Music teachers often have spent a lot of money on materials, tools and instruments, as well. They might also have to pay to own/rent a studio or travel. And as music teachers are often self-employed, their taxes and lack of benefits do factor in (so, we're not comparing apples to apples with those other jobs).

But anyhow, I think it's fair to say that wages aren't necessarily based on how physically demanding a job is or even how much training one needs. If it were, construction workers and most teachers would get paid more. What it comes down to is what people will pay for the work and what others will work for.

Guest's picture
Guest

With a lot of the posters here. $60 is not an exhorbitant rate for lessons. If you shopped around you could definitely find a cheaper rate, and if your hair cut is so important to you then find someone cheaper than $60 an hour. It's also good to go cheap at first, just to see if the kid's interested and wants to continue.

I think this article's priorities are in the wrong place, if an expensive haircut is more important than their children's education. Piano lessons may indeed be a luxury but so is that hair cut.

Guest's picture
MC

Wow, that post just had me unsubscribe your feed. The value of good music education goes beyond dollars and cents. The fact you can't understand that probably explains why you're self prescribed tone deaf. I would hope your children deserve a chance to appreciate the beauty of music.

Additionally, freelance musician does not work 40+ hours a week and often requires high level of education / training. I'd recommend doing a bit more research than lazy Google search of average salary.

Guest's picture
Guest

If that teacher is traveling to you, those 40 hours a week are not 40 hours of teaching.

I've yet to meet a teacher that manages to actually have enough students to work "full time" that's not also working every night of the week, plus weekends (crappy hours) - AND in most cases working a part time job during the day to pay the bills.

And probably doing badly paid and uncomfortable gigs on weekend evenings as well.

Being a private music instructor is not easy: people don't show up, they don't pay you, they "accidentally" pay to little, they are late, they disrespect you, they cancel lessons, they "forget", they don't show up prepared (I had a student not bring her instrument to a lesson once, and then her mother refused to pay me when I couldn't actually have a lesson with her) and at any time they can stop coming and you have to find yet another person to do the work for you.

Add to that your own continuing training, the fact that YOU have to be practicing to keep up with all of your students (especially if you're teaching anything beyond elementary/intermediate stuff), and your own practicing so that you can continue to be an effective musician?

You seriously missed the boat on this one.

Guest's picture
Beth

I agree with previous comments about this post being erroneous because there are so many expenses and other factors to consider. I really think this post could have been better researched and less "how dare they try to rip me off!"-style rant.

I was expecting a reasoned listing of expenses (like the lessons, maintenance, renting or owning an instrument, etc), or tips and alternatives to foster a child's love of music while sticking to a budget. I was disappointed to see someone who claims to support the arts essentially trashing them and not making any attempt to understand the industry.

Guest's picture
Guest

Why would you put a child in private lessons when just starting to learn? Group lessons through a local school, church or community group would be much cheaper and would give your child a chance to see if they really enjoy playing. The more expensive lessons could then come later, if your child shows real interest.

I agree with the comments that $60 is not high for private lessons, for the reasons given.

I paid $50 per 30 minutes vocal lessons in 1995. The teacher I went to was the most reasonable in town too. So, $60/hour seems quite reasonable to me.

Guest's picture

I'm not sure what to say exactly. I recently posted an article encouraging people to Quit Collecting Crap and Get a Real Hobby. The "real hobby" I suggested was learning to play a musical instrument. When you consider the benefits associated with learning music, it goes way beyond dollars and cents. Once you learn to play, you will reap the benefits and enjoyment over the course of your lifetime.

Think of it as teaching a "man to fish.."

Guest's picture
Barbara

Wow, did this ever strike a sour chord with me (and others as it seems from the comments).

My children's piano teacher only charges $19 per half hour lesson but she is worth her weight in gold. She is far more than a piano teacher – she's a life teacher. She teaches patience, learning from mistakes, the value of practice. She teaches stepping back and breaking things down when they become tough. She teaches them to laugh at their mistakes and not take things so seriously. She teaches encouragement and positive attitude.

My daughter says she teaches “that everything takes time, but if you put your heart into it and work hard you can do it.” I want her to take that message through her whole life.

Yes, kids try a lot of things as they grow up – a good but expensive thing. I would discuss with your daughter the commitment required to learn to play the piano and see if she is still enthusiastic. Then I think you and your daughter should meet and interview several piano instructors and discuss their methods and what they would require from her. See if you're a good fit with any of them. Then let your daughter think on it all and see if she wants to pursue the piano.

A good instructor is far more than a competent musician. It takes a special person to teach. They deserve the extra money.

I haven't even delve into the benefits of a good musical background – piano especially – but they're immense. My kids create their own songs which sound like songs and not random notes. That's wonderful for me to hear.

Neither my husband nor myself play an instrument and my husband can't carry a tune in a bucket. It hasn't held them back.

My children started their lessons at 8 years. My daughter is now 12 and my son is 10. It hasn't always been easy, but it's been worth it.

Guest's picture
Juggler314

If you hire someone to teach you any skill/sport it will cost you anywhere from $40 to hundreds/hour (depending on your relative skill levels). Be it tutoring, skiing, music, even things you might think of as totally frivolous - for instance I play pool pretty seriously, i'm NEVER going to make any serious money playing - yet instruction at a serious level will still run you at least $50/hour.

The thing is that it takes years and special skills to be able to teach another human a skill/craft.

Guest's picture
Kestrel

Forty-five years ago I started taking clarinet lessons from a professional musician (he'd played in the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, as well as for the Glenn Miller Band). The rate then was $10 for a 30-minute lesson. I'd say the cost of music lessons has scaled quite nicely in the intervening years.

Perhaps next time, a little research might be in order.

Guest's picture
Guest

In what world are music teachers "out of work" musicians?

Guest's picture
Connie

...and I didn't make $60 an hour. If your kid goes to practice weekly, that is 3000 a year. Way more than I have ever paid for hockey. My kids did guitar lessons for a while and while it was a endeavor in finding out what they didn't like.

These people are making more than the people teaching your kids reading and writing and math. Hmmm.... which is more likely to pay off?

Guest's picture
Guest

If you really believe that private lesson teachers are successfully charging a dollar a minute and working 40 hours a week, then it would seem that music lessons really do 'pay off' better then time spent learning 'reading and writing and math'. Perhaps you should then have your children take all the music lessons they can so that they too can reap these enormous financial benefits instead of encouraging them into low-paying fields like engineering or school teaching.

The per hour rate of a private music lesson teacher is higher then that of a classroom teacher, but except in very rare cases the weekly rate or pay is very much lower without even taking into account vacation/ personal/ sick days or any sort of health/ dental/ vision insurance package.

Were it possible to teach 8 hours a day then I would be doing quite well (and my rate is less then $60 an hour). However, I challenge anyone to find a teacher who actually has 40 hours of teaching scheduled each week. In my experience it is rare for teachers to manage 20 hours consistently and most of us are able to maintain less then that.

Effective private lesson teaching is a difficult skill to develop. Besides the years spent studying my instruments and years spent earning an undergrad degree in music and a graduate degree in music education, I have also worked to develop inter-personal skills. Unlike traditional classroom situations where if a student doesn't like (for example) their Chemistry teacher or Chemistry in general they are pretty much committed to being there- if a student or parent decides they don't like me or practicing- they aren't coming back next week.

Guest's picture
LRB

Let me do the math slightly differently. Most music teachers have a hard time getting students to stick around in the summer months, when school is out. School (at least in my part of the world) runs from September through June, with about four weeks of vacation, plus miscellaneous holidays. So, let's call that nine months of teaching. Multiply that by 4.3 weeks per month, times 40 hours per week, times 60 dollars per hour, and you're at a number just under 93K. A far cry from $160.

Then subtract to allow for the fact that most piano teachers -- even if they work 40 hours a week -- don't have students to fill those 40 hours. Some of that time is spent in preparing for lessons and running a business.

Now, factor in the years of training, the cost of buying a piano and keeping it tuned, the hours spent practicing to stay current and nimble. Then subtract out private-pay health insurance or medical bills, retirement savings, and the other costs associated with any self-employed business. And suddenly the hourly rate really isn't that far off of the ones you list above.

(disclaimer: my kids both take music lessons, and my two best friends teach the flute and the piano).

Guest's picture
Guest

I don't think you have set the right goals for your child when it comes to learning music. Music is not JUST about becoming good at an instrument. It's about character and general intellectual development as well, especially at an impressionable young age. There are a myriad of skills that contribute to being an excellent musician which can apply to other facets of life, especially during a time when academic excellence is of importance. Overall, I think you were a little out of tune with this music-bashing.

Guest's picture
Guest

If my parents had "balked" when I was seven and showed interest in playing the piano, I wouldn't be a professional composer today.

Of course there were pursuits I gave up as a kid, but my parents had a simple rule: they would fund the basics for a while until I either moved on or stuck with it. And after a few months if they saw I was passionate about something, (in my case, guitar, piano, and mandolin) they would invest in better instruments and more training.

I think I'll call my mom and thank her for respecting my request instead of "doing a little research, for comparison's sake."

Guest's picture
Comparing Apples to Oranges

You are comparing apples to oranges. The comparison rates you show should be adjusted to their "fully loaded" rates.

Any usability cost-benefit analysis should value people's time based on their fully loaded cost and not simply on their take-home salary. The cost to a company of having a staff member work for an hour is not that person's hourly rate but also includes the cost of benefits, vacation time, facilities costs (office space, heating and cleaning, computers etc.), and the many other costs associated with having that person employed.

All of those costs are absorbed into that music teachers $60 an hour rate because they essentially are doing all of those things. If you added all those things into the other rates I think you would be surprised at what they are.

Guest's picture
Matthew

This article is completely misguided. As other posters have mentioned, the teacher has to pay for their own healthcare, travel costs, and travel time. Any freelancer who works on an hourly basis will charge more than someone that has 40 hours per week of steady work (and probably benefits). The freelancer also must pay their own taxes, so there is a large part of the wage that they don't get to keep.

It's fine if you don't want to pay someone $60/hour to teach your daughter basic piano skills, but don't have such an awful attitude about it. What don't you understand about why piano teachers (who are not just out of work musicians) make more per hour than another musician with a more reliable performance gig? I want to stop reading this blog after reading your description of piano teachers as out of work musicians. What a naive, senseless, and stuck-up point of view.

Guest's picture
Erin

I'm with most of the other commenters, and I find this post insulting. I have two degrees in music -- bachelors in Music Ed, and masters in Trumpet Performance. I teach private lessons and also freelance (which is NOT the same thing as being out-of-work, btw).

When I am booked to play a gig, say at a church for christmas, my minimum pay requirement is $200. If there's a ton of music, its more. The author of this post obviously would take this to mean that I get paid $200 an hour, which "logically" puts my annual salary at $400,000.

Sorry, I just fell out of my chair laughing.

For every 60-min church service I play, I spend a minimum of 10 hours practicing the music, 1 hour rehearsing with the choir (or whatever) at the church, and about 45 minutes each way commuting to the church. (I'm not even factoring in the years of training that allowed me to be talented enough to GET gigs.) Let me do the math... ah, I make about $16 dollars an hour, which is *gasp* less than a logger! And that's before taxes!

Lain, put in a little thought and walking-in-another's-shoes before you start judging. You just made yourself look foolish in front of the entire world.

Guest's picture
Guest

I own a music store and give private lessons. On average I will see anywhere from 30 to 65 students a week. My expenses well exceed over $40,000.00 a year. Rent, utilities, advertising etc. not including other expenses listed by other posters. I charge $30.00 an hour in a large city in Ohio. Several of my clients have been telling me that I should RAISE my rates because they find me to be worth more than what I currently charge.

There are less expensive ways to learn music, but $60.00 is not unreasonable, considering a friend of mine charges $125.00 per hour.

Do more research and you will find something that best suits you.

Guest's picture
Guest

I am a piano teacher with a full studio. I've trained for over 20 years to become an expert in my field, including countless thousands of hours in solitary practice, a ton of performances, student loans, traveling around the country--indeed rearranging my entire life--to study with the best teachers, etc. I average a little bit over $60 an hour, and my students keep coming back. I'm proud of every penny. If someone doesn't understand why tutoring from someone at my level is worth the money then I'm sure they will get what they pay for!

Guest's picture
Kelly

Having spent a majority of my youth taking music lessons for piano, french horn and guitar, I can say that it was definitely well worth the money that my parents spent on it.

Arts & music help give kids a sense of accomplishment and boosts self-esteem. It also, from my observation, gives them something to do and keeps them out of trouble.

My daughter looks forward to her piano lessons each week. I can assure you that I pay nowhere near $60 a lesson. In fact, that's only a little less than what I pay per month for lessons from a highly praised and well-known music teacher.

In these economic times, we have had to cut back on certain things in order for her to take these lessons, but it's well worth every dime... the smile on her face would make me happily give up a "high rent bi-monthly hair-cut"... but maybe I'm just selfish...

Guest's picture
StaceyT

I'm glad you've had so many well-thought out responses to this ridiculous post. As a private tutor who has chosen to make this my career (I do not consider myself to be out of work, and I doubt your piano teacher does either), I found your post to be ignorant and offensive. It probably would have been more helpful before your rant to speak to some music teachers and ask what costs are involved in running their businesses.

In my business, self-employment tax (on top of normal income tax) and health insurance are two biggies. My rates are also about $60 per hour, and I'm in the LOW end of the range that tutors in my area charge, $50-120 per hour for regular tutoring, more for SAT/AP/ACT test prep. My husband has worked extensively with professional musicians, and 10 years ago, when he was running a recording studio, professional musicians would charge anywhere from $150-250 per song that they record. It would take an average of an hour to set up, and then after that they could do about a song per hour. My husband and many of his friends work as musicians and, on average, charge about $400 per night for gigs like weddings, playing at clubs, etc. This is PER MUSICIAN. Most of these gigs run about 3-4 hrs. So, a "working musician" often makes about $100 or more per hour. Incidentally, many of his acquaintances also play at churches. Churches get the bargain rate of $40 per hour. Now, as has been stated many times, that's not take-home pay. There are still taxes, insurance, and commute costs to figure in.

Even at the peak of my business when I was working long hours and had a waiting list for new students, I was at most billing about 30-33 hrs. per week, 36 weeks a year...in my profession, this is considered extremely successful. I could not have squeezed in more hours unless I could stumble upon a colony of home-educated children who were available for tutoring from 7am to 3pm. At that pace, I was far too busy; once I figured in commute time, admin-work (billing, scheduling, lesson prep, etc), I was putting about 50-60 hrs. per week into my job. Now, my schedule is more "normal" (its unusual to have enough students to fill 30 billable hours per week), and I'm tutoring about 20 hrs and putting in closer to 40, 33-36 weeks per year. Let's see, that's about $39,600-43,200 BEFORE taxes, health insurance etc. I still have to pay my house payment, maintain my car, and eat with what's left.

I encounter your sort of attitude a lot in my work, and would advise you to either START to see the value of what your providing for your kids (you obviously value your hair-cuts, so you're capable of this), go find someone cheaper (a high school or college-aged music student maybe), or skip music lessons all together. Your piano teacher doesn't need the headache that comes with clients who don't value his/her work.

Financial Samurai's picture

First of all, what a great topic. I've been wondering why it's so expensive myself? I've resorted to teaching myself guitar via YOUTUBE and online guitar tablature.

The reason teachers can command so much is that people have dreams of music, but so few become good at it. Second, ever try and teach the wife or husband how to drive? Fights and divorces happen!

It takes a lot to be a good teacher, and people are willing to pay for it, otherwise, they wouldn't make so much!

Keigu,

Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Andrea Karim's picture

I think that $60 is a fairly reasonable rate, given that most teachers do not work 40 hours a week, but I agree that it can be a bit much to swing. If you think about it, that's about $3,000 a year if lessons are taken once a week. I'm not saying it's not worth the investment, but I can see where a parent would balk at paying that much money.

Some of the comments about taking group lessons are a really good idea! That's the way it was done when I was growing up.

The good news is that people are almost always giving away pianos on Craigslist, so you can probably find a used piano fairly cheap if your children become proficient enough to warrant their own instrument. Sure, you'll have to have it tuned, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of a new instrument. Also, there are so many keyboards out there now that are good for practice.

Lynn Truong's picture

I took piano lessons for 2 years, at $90/hour, once a week. My parents also bought me a brand new piano. Sure I can read some notes and have some knowledge of music theory, but I had no appreciation for the art, nor the talent, and I don't think I'm a better person for having that limited music knowledge. And I can see now how difficult it was for my parents to pay that money. It was a sacrifice on their part, and not one I believe paid off.

I also begged my parents to take violin lessons. It was actually a program at school, so the lessons were very cheap, but I had to bring my own violin, which they bought for me, brand new. I went to two classes.

I don't think that people who never took music lessons are worse off or lesser people because they weren't fortunate enough to have parents who were able to pay hundreds of dollars a month for them to "try out" music. I think parents who know their kids well enough can make a good value statement of whether it'll be actually worth the money. Learning a musical instrument might seem an "invaluable" lesson, but so is seeing parents make wise decisions about money.

Guest's picture
Kathryn

What needs to be said has pretty much been said already, but let me add this: if you yourself are a writer, then surely--surely!--you must understand that anyone providing freelance services is not actually earning hourly x 40 x 50.

It's probably true that "any old sidewalk musician" could teach your kid to bang out a few notes on the ole pie-anney for the 6 or so months that you think you can keep her interested, and if that's all you're interested in, then I bet you can actually find someone willing to do so for less than $60/hr.

Guest's picture
Guest

I was surprised by a couple of things: that a 9-yr-old beginner would be taking an hour-long class (30 minutes a week would be more appropriate) and that you think $1/minute is outrageous. I won't reiterate what other posters have already said about the business costs of the professional teaching your child, but I will touch on one item that no one has mentioned so far. That is that a professional music teacher will teach your child proper technique in playing an instrument. Technique is important in order to avoid repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. Technique also important in producing the quality and musicality of tone in an instrument.

I agree with the suggestion (stated above by several posters) that you actually do some research by interviewing professional music instructors.

Guest's picture
Guest

At the university I attended there are plenty of music ed majors who would love to teach for 20 dollars an hour. There are group lessons where kids pay 30 dollars for a semester to attend a lesson twice a week. Summer camps are avalible for 300 dollars including room and board. You'll also find that out that alot if not most musicans want to pass along the gift of learning an instrument so much that they will work with you. I mowed my teacher's lawn for 3 years until he moved for half off my lessons. You also don't have to buy a new insturment, alot of place rent and even rent to own intruments. 60 dollars may be steep for you, but like anything else you buy, a little research will save you money.

Guest's picture
Guest

Wowwwwwww is all I have to say to this. You really have not got the first friggin' clue what you're talking about, do you? Of course, it's your prerogative to choose your haircut over your child's education, or simply to think that $60/week is too much to pay for an extracurricular activity. Fair enough. But you seriously have no understanding about what these realities are like. For many years, I was a figure skating coach, a service for which I also charged $60/hour. I can't think of a single week in my years of coaching that I worked anything even approaching 40 hours a week. Besides which, I had to buy my own insurance, pay commission to the rink, put up with parents not paying on time, deal with multiple changes in my schedule on the whims of others, take the time and pay for the gas to drive between rinks, work at 6 am... yeah, real cushy existence! I was only part-time, because I was also in college, but if I broke $10k/year, it was a great year. Six figures... yarite.

I also took piano lessons for most of my childhood, and I believe the rate was about $60 (keep in mind that this was almost 25 years ago). Granted, I went to a music school that was by audition only and had the clout to charge more, but it was undoubtedly an enormous investment by my parents. And my piano teacher, as many others have posted in here, was so much more to me than a piano teacher. She was, simply put, the adult in my life who was closest to me outside of my parents, one of the people who understood me best in the world, and a true mother-figure, confidant and advice giver. My life would be very, very different had she never been in it, and I am eternally thankful that my parents chose to sacrifice what they needed to and give me that opportunity. Your understanding of the situation is so completely flawed that I pity you. Like at least one other poster, I'll be unsubscribing from this feed solely because of this post (unless, of course, there's some sort of recant or apology).

Guest's picture
Beth

I agree that this post shows a gross misunderstanding for music teachers, but I think the point the author was trying to make is a good one: is it worth spending the money for a child to try a hobby they may or may not stick with?

I think there are many ways to children to try music -- churches, lower cost lessons, group lessons, etc. But just because they don't get it when they are young doesn't they won't love music later on. My mother learned piano as an adult, and went on to be involved with music at her church. My brother learned music through classes in high school, and developed an appreciation for it that's always stayed with him. Both entered lessons at an age where they could weigh the costs and benefits themselves, and I think they had a different kind of appreciation for it as a result :)

Guest's picture
Guest

This was in my opinion, honestly a strange post. Of course things in good quality are expensive. Or, .. you could hire a dedicated student for much cheaper .. and see if your child has a knack at music or not before you go for the big investment. You named your own solution, but made this huge complaint about paying someone what they're worth.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with the majority of the comments prior to mine.. This post was very sad and ignorant.

Guest's picture
Guest

Maybe things are different where you live, but here in Australia all casual jobs pay a higher hourly rate than a salaried job because the salaried job includes holidays, sick pay and superannuation (compulsory retirement fund payments). The casual employee funds those things themselves.

Music teaching is a casual job. Nothing is guaranteed. They are not likely to have 40 hours worth of students in a week, and still need to spend time maintaining their skills as a musician.

I just paid an electrician $1100 for four hours work, and well under $400 of that was materials. That's a lot more than $60 an hour.

But that's just dollars. What has been happening in Australia recently, and probably where you are too, is that a dollar value is placed on everything. Arts education in schools is getting increasingly less funding because it doesn't have the same obvious outcomes as maths, science and literacy education does. Volunteer work (including stay home parents) is getting increasingly devalued because it can't have a dollar value placed on it. Spending money on community events and facilities is criticised because it doesn't make money.

The value of music education is in the value itself. It's a big risk. Your child may not get any value out of it. Or they may develop a lifelong love of music, or they may just get the side benefits of a music education.

You may see a hair cut as more valuable than a music lesson, but please don't speak as though music teachers are just unsatisfied money hungry musicians.

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

To those who teach our youngins how to rock, I salute you.  =)

 

Guest's picture
L

(Disclaimer: This is from an Australian point of view).

Oh, use some common sense. Most music lessons take place after school hours, so a music teacher would get, at the MOST, 4 hours of work a day, or 20 hours a week. Also, many students do not have lessons over the school holidays, so you can then subtract 11 weeks off your 50 week figure. That comes down to 20 hours a week, 39 weeks a year. Which comes to $46,800. And that is IF your teacher is even charging $60/hr. A lot of music teachers out there are not actually officially qualified to be teachers (eg. they may have reached grade 8 in flute but haven't taken the actual teacher examinations) and so they would not charge that much. Also, if a student gets sick and can't attend lessons for 2 weeks, it's not like you'll still get paid for that time.

Also, music teachers do not get paid sick leave, paid holidays, or paid carer's leave. They don't get any sort of health cover from an employer and don't ever have a work vehicle supplied. Your physicists, loggers, and psychologists probably have most of those benefits.

I and all my siblings (I'm 21, they're all younger) learnt piano. I learnt for close to ten years, sister #1 a few years less, brother #1 for only a few years (he picked up the trombone under the tuition of a school instrumental teacher) and sister #2 is still going (she's probably been learning for 5 or 6 years now, and she also plays clarinet under the tuition of a school instrumental teacher). We had half-hour lessons, and neither of the teachers we used charged $30 for a half hour. Granted neither of them were fully trained as instrumental music teachers, but they had both achieved grade 8 in piano and both held a Bachelor of Music (and one even held a Bachelor of Education, too).

It's also really rude to suggest music teachers are out-of-work musicians. Some people don't WANT to be musicians. Some people WANT to invest in our children who are the adults of tomorrow.

Also, my experience is that students who learn (and stick with) an instrument tend to do better academically. They learn dedication and perseverance even when things get hard. I was at my brother's highschool awards night the other week, and pretty much all the highest achievers were also musicians. The school continues to pump out some of the city's highest-achieving students (relative to the state) and also happens to have one of the best music programs in the state (and no, it is not a dedicated music school).

If you can't afford it, that's fine. But don't act like the music teachers are being unreasonable and you don't have to be so rude about them.

Suggestion: find a tertiary music student for the first year or so that your kid wants to learn. They'll be far cheaper. My piano teacher was a student when I first started learning from her, and while I'm sure she raised her fee when she graduated, she gave my family a discounted rate because we had, at any given time, 2 or 3 siblings learning from her and had been loyal for so many years.

Guest's picture
Jules

So...you'd rather get your hair cut by some snooty salon that's probably indistinguishable from a lower-priced salon, than give your kid an experience that she can use (if she chooses), possibly get her into college, and if she is talented--way to undermine your kids before they start, BTW...my dad's tone deaf as well but my sister has perfect pitch--that could land her scholarships...

Someone's got messed up priorities.

Guest's picture
Kate

My dad's a musician who makes some of his income as a piano teacher. I can guarantee you we didn't make $120,000 a year, but he and my mom working together managed to support our family while allowing my dad to do something he's passionate about.

I think the other fifty something comments have summed up well enough how ridiculous this post is, so I'll leave it at that.

Guest's picture
SheRa

The arts should be supported and respected. Have a half hour lesson, which is $30 a week. Don't blame music teachers if you don't make your children practice. How much value do you put on your child and his or her personal growth? If you aren't willing to spend any money on furthering their interests, goals, and potential, that says more about you than it does about musicians.

Julie Rains's picture

Call me wacky but I took this as a humor piece and not an indictment on music teacher charges or the true value of teaching; as a parent of two boys (one a musician and one a sports fiend), I can validate that having a sense of humor and perspective (and a notion of when to sacrifice and when to fully support with time and dollars, the trickiest part of parenting IMHO) can help avoid high cost of medication (for the parent, not sure about the child) and save some cash. Great teachers for serious students are priceless.

As for Great Clips, they came to my rescue several years ago when my youngest son opted for just half a haircut at home (he got scared of the noise the clipper made) and didn't laugh, snicker, etc. when I asked them to finish the job, noiselessly of course. They did, however, charge me full price for the half-cut, but I'm not complaining. You have to decide what's worth it for you and what fits the needs of your child and family -- not as easy as it sounds sometimes. 

 

Guest's picture
Guest

I found this to be very uneducated and I want to address several aspects to this article: First, though you may not have a little Mozart on your hands, you never assume a child is going to bad at something. You give him or her the opportunity to learn and grow, as children have an immense capacity for, and then see where their strengths are. You don't send him to a school that is rated poorly because you suspect he's not particularly intelligent. It is a common attitude to take a child to a "neighborhood teacher" to "see if they're any good" at music before investing in a musical education with a trained professional. However, if the first teacher is no good, there won't be a second teacher.

And what about the joy of expressing your self and having a creative outlet as an adult? The value lies not only in having skill, which some people have more of to be sure, but in the opportunity to be artistic and creative and to be able to go to an instrument and express yourself in a way that is unlike anything else.

I would also echo the comments that have been posted about teaching rates etc. As a pianist and teacher myself, I have put in thousands of practice hours, 7 years of undergraduate and graduate school (which is very expensive), dealt with

And lastly, it really isn't possible to teach 40 hours a week due to all the other work that is involved (travel, admin, advertising, billing, obtaining supplies, planning and executing recitals/competitions etc., responding to parents, scheduling....need I go on)?

Guest's picture
Jasileet

- A proficient piano teacher doesn't become so overnight. They probably paid dearly for lessons as well, studied and practiced very diligently to arrive at their current skill level.
- Do you really imagine that a piano teacher (especially in this economy!) works 40 hours a week?
- Music teachers are not necessarily out of work musicians. Performing musicians have a very different lifestyle/ work schedule that is not easy or possible for most people, especially people with families.
- As you've said there's no job security, no health insurance. There's a cost of advertising, materials and tools they must cover. Have you purchased a good piano recently?
- Children are darling, but devils to instruct. Teachers are seriously undervalued and underestimated in our society.
- The arts are very important. They encourage culture, community, self-discipline, teamwork and so many other higher qualities. Please do not discourage your children from learning as much as they can.

Honestly, if my child was truly interested in pursuing any instrument I would gladly give up whatever it took to enrich their lives. I hope you're not selling your child short thinking so little of their possible talent and interest.

Guest's picture
Juno Suk

I am a software developer at IBM - and am taking a year leave away to start a violin teaching business. Let me join the chorus of commenters here that you are not factoring in the tremendous time commitment it takes to get to a level of ability that is sufficient for teaching music.

Since the age of 3, I have been practicing the violin faithfully between 2 to 3 hours, everyday. 3 hours a day from the age of 3 to 5. Then dropped to 2 hours as I made my way through middle school, then upped back to 3 in high school. In college and post-grad, I majored in Computer Science, thus practicing the violin took a back seat and only practiced 5 hours per week. And then for the past 10 years as a software developer, I've upkeeped my ability to play by continuing to practice 1.5 hours / day. Now that I'm teaching, I've brought it back up to 3 hours/day.

So, you're 40 hours/week measure cannot apply here. Currently, I devote 60+ hours/week to "working" in music teaching, and that's not even including the administration of starting up a new music school. Add to that the years and years of sweat and tears to the discipline of mastering the art, and you come to realize that time committed to learning and teaching an instrument far surpasses those other professions, whether they be medical, technical, judicial.

Getting my M.S. in Comp Sci a took a mere 4 years undergrad in Urbana and 2.5 years post-grad education - Columbia, with a spattering of programming practice in high school. Honing my abilities to play the violin has taken me a lifetime. In the overall cumulative cost/time ratio, at $60/hour is FAR LESS than what I was making as a software developer in my technical career at IBM and Lucent before that.

Then why did I make the switch? BECAUSE it is far more rewarding in terms of what I can give to the community and to our children. Programming in front of a computer only benefits corporations in improving their efficiency and ROI and all that. A "stable" posh salary and good benefits, but is it worth it to be one who grinds away as a cog in a big corporate machine? And all that software we churn out goes obsolete in a few years since the technical arena is constantly evolving.

At least with music, we can pass on to our children the joy of music- a legacy that has traveled through the annals of all human history.

But recently, in our hyperkinetic online generation, it is being carried on by fewer and fewer people as only those who have the discipline to brush aside all the overwhelming distractions can stay focused and committed to the long and rigorous path of truly mastering an instrument. So $60/hour? Not enough by any means! But we do it because we love music and we love teaching our kids, and knowing that we can leave an indelible impact in a generation where indelible things are an endangered species.

Guest's picture
Guest

We've spent quite a bit on private lessons for our three children (trumpet, saxophone, french horn) and after watching them grow in discipline, passion, and excellence, we are now beginning to see the money come back in terms of college scholarships. Don't underestimate the residual lessons of a music education. Paying for music lessons has been one of our best investments.

Guest's picture
Amy

I have to say, I agree with Julie above. I thought this was more of a tongue in cheek piece. It might have been insensitive, given the shocking number of readers who happen to be musicians, music teachers, and music students who seem to read Wise Bread, but it's not something that's to be taken literally. At least I didn't, and my mother REALLY IS a piano teacher.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with "seriously!" as far as better academic achievement. There is fascinating research that shows when children learn an instrument it increases the cerebral cortex of the brain which in turn literally increases intelligence!! These children can then have an edge over some of the others.

I am an adult piano student. It has taken my instructor a lifetime to learn her art. I play at about a grade 7/8 level and the more I learn about the piano the more I realize I don't know! Many of these instructors have incredible knowledge and skill and I gladly pay what they are worth.

Guest's picture
Guest

How can you be so cheap? The mere thought of you only willingly supporting your child's hobbies if they are cheap for you is absolutely appalling. I understand the theme of this site, but this post is way off base. You need to seriously consider what these other people are saying about this post.

Guest's picture
Beth

Perhaps it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but it still should be factual. Otherwise, the author just comes off as looking ignorant, not amusing.

Guest's picture
Christina

I think your child's education should be more important than your haircut.

And keep in mind that it's difficult to book a solid schedule for most teachers, so to assume a 40 hour work week is completely unreasonable.

Guest's picture
Guest

The conversation seems to be focused on the $60/hr rate. How about the fact that to get to the $120,000/yearly salary figure, a piano teacher would have to give eight lessons a day, five days a week, for 50 weeks a year.

LOL. Really.

Guest's picture
Guest

Others have done a valiant job of correcting and rebutting the numerous misrepresentations and myopic ignorance of the article above, so I include their comments (below) by reference. However, I couldn't bring myself to leave this page without registering my disgust. If the author really does think that music lessons for her kid are less important than her haircut, then it's clear why she doesn't understand what goes into music lessons, what their value is, and why they cost what they do.

Guest's picture
Guest

You really do not understand what teaching is about if you think someone can teach for 40 hours per week without dying of fatigue.

Guest's picture
Guest

I teach private lessons and there are so many expenses involved. Private teachers have to pay a high percentage of self employment taxes usually 30 percent, their own retirement, health insurance, fixing and maintaining instruments, and get no paid time off, or vacation days. Typically muscians are highly trained with many years of school, lessons and performing experience. Other professions like a doctor or lawyer may have the same amount of experience but make much more money than a private teacher.

Guest's picture
Guest

I was agasp to read the post by Lain Ehmann. I was alerted to this by other piano teachers. Here in the UK piano teachers are respected ... they are not merely 'out of work musicians' and I strongly object. It was obviously meant to be provocative. I charge £30 an hour and NO ONE has said that's unreasonable - does she not realise that we too are subject to tax. Here in the UK they take quite a bit of our earnings and because many of us are self-employed we don't enjoy packages offered by employers, such as pensions. Footballers, film stars and the like get much more money and it's interesting that people who query other people's earnings don't seem bothered by this. I work hard to get people through grades and I think some novelists get far too much money.

My daughter learns piano, violin and voice and wants to be an opera singer - in order to subsidise earnings she will need to teach. I would not take that away from her - and when she wanted to take up dance lessons, which are just as expensive (and on top of that there are costumes to buy) I had no objection, even when I lost my job as a teacher in a secondary school.

Perspective is missing from this blog entry and I feel offended, as do many of my colleagues.

I notice this post has disappeared from your sister website 'Parenting Squad' and would be grateful if it could also disappear from this one.

Guest's picture
Guest

As a teacher myself, I can tell you that music lessons are only really worth about $30 per hour. The other $30 is necessary to compensate for mental anguish that comes from the ignorant, uncooperative, self-righteous, and downright rude parents that plague us day and night.