Over the past few weeks (maybe January Blues have been responsible) I have noticed a huge rise in piano teachers expressing their "pain points" on social media groups. Questions such as, "I am teaching all hours and have reached an income ceiling; I can't see how I can ever make a serious living from being a piano teacher", or, "How am I meant to balance being a mum and a piano teacher? My kids need me after school but that is the only time my piano students can attend lessons!"
Well I had a different but similar problem to both of those. I can relate to both issues. I was a full-time Head of Music in a highly successful girls' grammar school (with an incredibly talented and musical intake!) and I loved my job, it was my baby... Until I had my own. Then it broke my heart to go back to work once my first child, Reuben, turned 1 (yes in the UK we are lucky to have a long statutory maternity leave compared to some other countries).
I distinctly remember this heart ache a couple of weeks after I returned to work and it was Mothers' Day... I felt so sad that I wasn't with Reuben at all during the week and only really saw him at weekends. But I carried on in my role until I was due number 2, Hetty. I absolutely knew I didn't want to go back full time after I had Hetty and was incredibly lucky to be offered one day a week as a music teacher in the same school (no more Head of Music responsibilities).
I did this for a few years but as the kids got older and started school I made a few new realisations. One was that, just because they start school and are looked after all day, doesn't make childcare any easier! Now you have to find before school and after school care. Also, Reuben had started tennis, cello and swimming lessons all of which took place after school, so I had a lot of driving around to do. Plus I had a third child, Olivia, and I just knew there was no going back to working in a school any more than the one day a week I was already doing.
However the kids were getting more and more expensive! All the extra-curricular activities and the equipment you have to buy! At the same time as knowing I really needed to take on some more work, I had Reuben's friends' parents expressing their wish that there were Primary-school aged (4+) music lessons that weren't the intensive one-to-one that learning an instrument involved.
So I said I would set some up! KeyNotes Music was launched! Bearing in mind that I had experience as a Head of Music, a PGCE and MA in Music Education and was half way through a PhD, I felt very well qualified to devise a curriculum for little ones. Yes there were a few learning curves at the start as to how to manage behaviour, how to pitch the learning for this age, and how to make it seriously fun and engaging (A-Level Music for 18-year olds was my favoured teaching situation when I was Head of Music, so a big contrast!).
I started off with about eight children across two classes in my Saturday location, and then started up some lessons in a Primary school on Wednesdays and started off with about 14 there across three classes. Class numbers quickly grew, mainly through word of mouth...
Fast forward to February 2019, I am in the amazing position where all my classes are full (I teach 136 children per week!) and I have a waiting list. And unbelievably, I am earning as much as I would as a full-time school teacher, working only Saturdays and Wednesday afternoons. Imagine the earning potential if I was able to work on other days!
It's amazing that what started out as a project to pay for Reuben's cello lessons has grown to be something that actually brings in a great income for the number of hours I want to work. I can choose my hours, when I do them, how I do them... I have flexibility and a lot of fun and, importantly to me, I am able to spend the majority of my time with my children, being a Mum (and nagging them to practice their cellos!!).
So after reading all these questions in Facebook groups (and seeing that many people's answers were to teach groups), I thought I would write about my own experience and inspire the possibility in others. I do understand that it is not as easy as A, B, C! Depending on where you are in the World, where you teach your lessons, what prior teaching experience you have had and how you want to integrate it into your offering, you will have quite a journey of discovery ahead of you!
Which is where I can help. I can do as little as simply reply to your comments on Facebook, or an email asking me for advice. Or you could become your own KeyNotes Music provider. Or anything in between.
If you realise the opportunity potential and the solution to your piano-teaching problems, there are a few options. You could join our Mentorship list where you will be sent one email per week about various group piano topics. This will enable you to get to know about what is really involved on a practical and pedagogical level. You could join our Facebook group where you will find videos of our lessons. You could book a discovery call to chat through any questions or thoughts you might have. Or you could go even further and join one of our courses that will help you to launch your own KeyNotes lessons (if you take the course there is no obligation to become a KeyNotes licensee but we think you will really want to!).
Here are some links, we hope to see you very soon in one of these places:
Email sign-up: Group Piano Mentorship
Facebook group: Group Piano Pioneers
Course Information: Courses
Discovery Call: Book a Call
Our next course is a Beta course for International teachers (everywhere but the UK) and begins on 11th February (online for four weeks, one hour per week).
There is another way to be a piano teacher and we are passionate about helping you to find it.
(Intrigued as to What a Pain, Part 2 is going to be about? That will come in the next few weeks and will be aimed at the problems established group piano teachers might be encountering).