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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2004 9:27 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Teachers often ask us how much they should charge for lessons. We have written about this on the site, now we'd like to hear form you. It would be helpful if you could also tell us what part of the country (or world) you teach in.

PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2004 9:55 pm
by Mins Music
I live in Australia, NSW. The town is called Goonellabah and it's not a very wealthy region. Quite a few are out of work. The town has a universtity and a music conservatorium, two commercial music shops and two second hand music shops. There are about 35 000 residents (although it fluctuates and is growing rapidly). It's a very cultural town with thriving poets, artists, drama and music. It's hilly and very beautiful with large trees and much greenery.

My studio offers tuition in piano, keyboard, singing, group theory, group singing, group guitar. I have 27 individual students (not including those who take part in courses and workshops).

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama and Music and a Diploma of Education.

I charge $24 Australian dollars an hour. (That's roughly $18 US dollars) Most have half hour lessons. The average for this area is $18 for half hour lessons. ($13/$14) My motto is 'value for money, experienced teaching'.

Two hours up the Coast, they can charge up $55/$65 an hour. Big difference, huh?

I hated my mother paying so much for music lessons when I was growing up, and now I'm too cheap to have lessons myself (at the moment I'm teaching myself the flute. Have taught myself the guitar, and clarinet, and soon I'm buying a violin). So I hate the thought of charging people a rate I myself wouldn't pay. I'm very lucky though, because my husband has full time work, so I'm not dependent on my income to survive. This makes a big difference. I LOVE teaching and would do it for free ??? )Mmmm, but I don't)
Having said all that, I'm putting up my rates next year to $14 for half hour - You need to be a little with the market for people to take you seriously. :D

PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2004 10:57 pm
by 99-1077820195
I teach in rural Texas. I charge $25/half hour lessons in my home, and $30 for those students I teach in their home. I could easily charge more... I have a waiting list of students.

PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2004 5:25 pm
by 73-1078374881
Since I'm still a student myself, I charge $8 for a half hour lesson (most of my students are 8 or younger and can still still for only half an hour!!) :-) I don't mind not charging a lot because I'm really in for it for the experience and the FUN!!!! I'm the only piano/violin teacher in my small town, which is great- sort of. I couldn't charge a lot for lessons anyways, because in my hick town, music lessons are considered the height of frivolity. :)

PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2004 5:27 pm
by 73-1078374881
Oh, whoops- I'm from Washington state. :p

PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 2:35 pm
by 108-1079367823
I charge 15 USD (this is a conversion, i am not from the US; fortunately) / hour.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2004 1:52 pm
by Chris X
Currently, I drive to the students. I charge $20 a half hour. Eventually though, I would like to raise it.

PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2004 7:59 am
by Lyndall
I live in somewhat rural Idaho (70,000 people in the area) & charge US$15 for 45 mins in my home; $11/30 mins for beginners only for the first 2 mths of lessons. This is considered on the high end - what the best teachers charge, even though I'm not one of them. It's hard for me to charge less for my time 'cause I taught in a city of over 3 million people (Sydney) where I made more per half hour over 10 years ago when I was still a uni student. I understand the cost of living is way less here, but still.

My time is important to me & as do all the teachers who contribute to these forums, I put in a lot extra before & after each student's lesson. Plus, I feel like piano shouldn't be viewed as just another after school activity (although it is - being considered equal to dance + soccer + choir + karate + singing lessons + basketball + teeball + swimming, etc.)

I've only had one parent balk because I charged $3-4 more than the previous teacher - I shouldn't have, but I reduced the price by $1/lesson. A year later she's still at that rate. I love the student so I don't mind.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2004 2:17 pm
by 108-1094747747
I am in Orem Utah, a huge college center town. We have tons of Piano and other teacher in the area, so I charge $25 a month for a half hour lesson once a wekk. It works out to 12.50 and hour. If I charge any more my students find someone else who charges less.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2004 2:38 pm
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Welcome, lunch!

Your comment is interesting. Here in NM, we find that, up to a point a teacher can charge more than others without much change in the number of students. That's one of the reasons we counsel people not to undervalue their teaching services. Since we are a suburb of Albuquerque, where UNM is located, we face the same college town syndrome here. Most teachers here are fully booked with students, so the market may be more of a seller's one here than in Orem.

Thanks for writing about your experience there. :)

PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 1:32 pm
by pianoannie's been interesting reading the various responses. Other teachers tell me my fees are low, but many of you are even less.

When you take into account all the extra hours piano teachers must put in, expenses, taxes that must be paid, and the fact that piano teachers get no paid benefits ie health insurance or vacation time, it can be discouraging to discover how much we actually earn.

I find that for every hour I teach, I put in aproximately an additional 30 minutes of various other work. (lesson plans, trips to music store, typing newsletters, planning group classes, recital preparation, extra teaching time before competitions, teacher workshops, bookkeeping, etc.)
In general, my expenses run $3-4000 USD per year (books, tunings, business insurance, student gifts/prizes, office supplies, recital expenses).

And my taxes eat up approximately 40% of what I earn. In the US there is a self-employment tax in addition to the federal, state, local, and FICA taxes that every worker pays.

Right now I charge $25 per week for an hour lesson (in USA, midwest) and I happen to have 24 students, and I teach 40 weeks a year.

But let's look at best case scenario. I could probably manage 30 students for an hour each week, and I would be working about 45 hours per week with my additional prep work. Let's say I teach 46 weeks a year (I think 46 would be the max most families would do considering holidays and summertime etc).

In that "best case" scenario, I could bring in $750/week, or $34500 for 46 weeks; $30500 after teaching expenses. If I had to provide my own health insurance for my family, that would cost at least $800 per month (thankfully we have insurance through my husband's employer at this time, but that has not always been the case). So subtract insurance, and I'm earning $20900 per year. Take out 40% taxes, and I'm left with $12540 per year for my 45 hour work week. <gasp>

And I charge more than most of you who responded! I've really been pondering private piano teachers' pay lately. Is it just not feasible to earn a decent living teaching piano privately? Is this why the majority of piano teachers are women who teach as a supplement to their husband's income? Are we doomed to always be considered little "part-time workers" earning a few extra bucks to put in the piggy bank? When you consider the years and years of training (and the investment in years and years of our own piano lessons) even before our years at college, piano teachers really have a long road to travel before they are equipped to teach.

There certainly isn't much financial compensation at the end of that long road. Thoughts or ideas, anyone?

Edited By pianoannie on 1099266092

PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 10:15 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
You're right, pianoannie, piano teachers don't make much, but, in a certain limited sense, it's partially the fault of teachers! Now that I've gotten both the attention and ire of piano teachers, let me explain why.

I have said numerous times on the site that piano teachers should NEVER undervalue their services. Generally speaking, I suggest that teachers find out what the average prevailing rate is in their area and use that as a base price. Additional increments should be added to that for additional services and capabilities offered by the studio (performance opportunities, computer lab, competition participation, etc). Note that these should be added to the base price for all students, regardless of whether an individual student avails himself of any or all of the services, since it takes time and effort to make them available at all.

Here's what I meant when I said it's partially teachers' fault for being poorly remunerated. Any teacher can cite another teacher or teachers in their area who offer lessons at ridiculously (and unrealistically) low prices. Perhaps those teachers don't teach as their primary source of income and don't need the money; perhaps they just don't know what they are really worth. As a result, other teachers in the area feel that they have to keep their own rates low to "compete."

I will tell you that, based on my experience, you'll have a very difficult time persuading those teachers to raise their rates to more reasonable levels so that you can raise yours. Since I come from a science/business background, let me tell you about the experience of a friend I was advising about piano teaching rates.

Her rates were way too low, so I strongly advised her to start raising them, based on the extras she provided. I advised her to "sell" herself as a teacher who provided the "best" in lessons (which was, indeed, true) and market the studio the same way. In the space of three years, she had more than doubled the rates, even though the "cheap" teachers in her area kept theirs the same. She went from being one of the most inexpensive teachers in the area to one of the most expensive.

Was she able to compete? You bet. She had a drop in studio numbers (about 15%), but had more than doubled her rates so she came out way ahead. Moreover, those students who left the studio tended to be the least serious ones, while the best ones stayed. The drop in numbers menat that she had more time for students and more time for her own professional development. Similarly, she was able to recruit better quality students with the higher rates than with the lower ones. Thus, there was a very real sense in which she had been responsible for the low remuneration she had been getting. She just wasn't charging enough! A side benefit was that other teachers in the area then felt they could raise their rates. Eventually, even the "cheaper" teachers did.

Of course, the devil is always in the details. If you're in a low rate area, you won't be able to get your rates up all at once. It may take a couple years to do it. You have to think through carefully how you will justify the rates - not in terms of the rates others charge, but why YOU charge what you do. Other teachers will initially try to use your higher rates to bring students into their studios at your expense - as they are entitled to do. Be prepared for a drop in numbers, but if you make more money in the end, that won't matter. Of course the flip side of that is that you then have time to encourage your best students to take hour long lessons instead of half hour lessons.

The bottom line is: if you feel you don't make enough from teaching piano, take a careful look at why your income is so low. It might be that you are undervaluing yourself and your students! :;):

PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 12:13 pm
by pianoannie
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:The bottom line is: if you feel you don't make enough from teaching piano, take a careful look at why your income is so low. It might be that you are undervaluing yourself and your students! :;):

John, I do agree with what you're saying in general. But it can be hard to raise our prices without some people thinking we are just greedy. Some people look at what they will be paying for an hour lesson, and translate that into my "hourly wage," which, as I explained in my last post, just isn't the case. Just the other day I had a mom on the phone say to me "That's more than I earn per hour as a radiology technician!!!" Of course part of me wanted to defend myself and say that I really end up earning $6 per work hour after expenses, taxes, and health insurance is taken out, but of course that wouldn't be professional, plus I don't want to deal with someone who thinks my fee is "ridiculously high" (in her words).

When I started teaching about 10 years ago, I charged $7 per half hour lesson (stoooopid thing to do!) You see, I knew another teacher nearby who charged that price, and I figured since I was new, I coudn't justify (or attract students) if I charged more than her.
Well, I quickly learned that $7/half hour just wasn't even worth my time. So I've spent the last 10 years trying to play "catch up" with my fees. And I've come a long way from my original fee. This is the first year that I've gotten to the end of my waiting list, so I figure I must be priced at about what the market here will bear.

At this point I need to decide if all the "extra time" I put into planning and doing creative things is essential &/or worth it. By finding ways to reduce my total work hours (and maybe reduce some of my expenses--I do buy lots of extras) then my net hourly pay would be much more reasonable.

PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 2:17 pm
by Dr. Bill Leland
It will always be true that some people will gravitate to the cheapest service or product no matter what the quality. Many parents will go for cheap lessons "at first, just to see if li'l Oswald will stick with it"--same with pianos: they'll buy a junker from the Want Ads to see if it's going to be "worth it." This is understandable in a way, because they don't know good teaching or a good instrument when they see it, and because so many kids today are in soccer, ballet, music lessons and everything else, all at once, with no time or incentive to do any one of them in depth. So my feeling is that a highly qualified, motivated teacher should write off those people from the beginning, since a very high percentage of those kids wouldn't last long in a challenging studio anyway, and reach out for the good ones.

My wife, who now teaches exclusively at the University, had a private studio for many years, both here in Las Cruces and in the city of El Paso. She never compromised her quality, demands, or price, but she ALWAYS found that in due time her studio was full. Her first commandment was advertising. Sink as much into advertising as you can possibly afford. She also had other incentives, like printing a small display ad in the paper every week or month listing the Honor Roll of students who had achieved significant progress--those kids loved seeing their names in the paper, and after one time most of them were hooked into trying to make it every time.

Don't compromise your quality, and charge what you're worth! After all, there are also many people who believe "you get what you pay for."

Dr. Bill

PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 4:34 pm
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
pianoannie wrote:Just the other day I had a mom on the phone say to me "That's more than I earn per hour as a radiology technician!!!" Of course part of me wanted to defend myself and say that I really end up earning $6 per work hour after expenses, taxes, and health insurance is taken out, but of course that wouldn't be professional, plus I don't want to deal with someone who thinks my fee is "ridiculously high" (in her words).

Although I DO know a little about your area, having been born and raised in the general area, I can't comment on the specifics of the teaching environment there. However, I can tell you that, here in New Mexico, there is NO rate that a teacher can charge that some people won't object to or try to get lowered. The best response to that is usually something along the lines of "I pride myself in providing the very best teaching possible. That requires a great deal of my time beyond that charged for the lessons themselves. I believe my rate reflects both the quality of and my commitment to teaching." That will not convince those who only want the cheapest possible teaching, but, then again, do you really want to teach people with that approach? One thing is for certain: if you don't believe that you should be appropriately remunerated for your time, your students surely won't.