How to Be a Music Teacher and Superstar

Teaching Music: How to be a Music Teacher

People say things like, “I don’t have these extra university degrees [or qualifications], so I won’t get hired to teach here.”

Enter the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t believe it, then it’s probably not going to happen because you’ve given up already.

Getting the job you want isn’t about coveting qualifications you don’t have, but presenting what you have, in the best light.

Here are my top 4 tips for getting hired to teach:

1. Help people for free

Let’s say you’re a piano teacher whose students are mostly middle-school kids. You want to teach college students, but you don’t have the time nor money to get the music degree that increases your chances of getting hired at a conservatory or university. We know those jobs are diminishing anyways.

To get hired, you have to show that you are better than everyone else.

There should be something that you aspire to– not that you’re discontent with what you have right now, but you want to be constantly evolving, to your best self that is ever-changing.

Getting to your next goal might mean sharing your skills for free.

When you help someone for free, you have the freedom to explore different sides of the same task. You can break into new territory.

You only need to work with 3 people before you instinctively know whether you’re a fit for teaching that type of student. I gave free lessons to beginner pianists through Skype and realized that beginner piano needed to be taught in person, there was no way around that.

2. Clean your resume

A resume has two purposes: a) getting you hired, b) giving you the confidence to pitch yourself.

Music teachers are not usually job-hoppers, so the resume tends to get neglected. However, your resume really helps gauge where you stand in relation to where you want to be. When you’re looking to move up, comb through your resume to make sure every single word deserves its place.

From there, you can craft a good elevator pitch. Who knows? Maybe when you’re pitching to someone new, you’ll find an new opportunity.

3. Speak, don’t squawk

Ideas are nothing if you can’t convey them properly. Learn to speak in such a way that people want to listen– let your true self shine through. If you’re funny, then be funny. If you’re not, then be energetic. Or vulnerable. Sprinkle stories into your speaking–humans love stories.

Practice it in the mirror, record yourself, and ask whether you hear it the way you say it.

Speaking is one thing that any type of public practice will improve, however difficult it is. If you mess up 10 times, your 11th time will be slightly better. Then you’ll find a new mistake to work on.

I used to be a nervous speaker, shy when approaching people. Time ticked at hyper-speed– my mistake was speaking too quickly. (Speaking too quickly is one of the most common mistakes; other people can’t digest information when it’s spewed too quickly. The adage goes that you can bracket people’s age by how quickly they talk.)

Then I learned two things:

a) Your emotions aren’t as obvious as you think. Studies show that people who perform onstage tend to feel more nervous than the audience sees them to be. I call this the glass wall effect— emotion (especially when nervous) doesn’t come through as easily as you think.

b) Action shapes the way you feel. If you want to feel powerful and confident, then act this way. As you’re putting on your ‘game face’, spending 2 minutes in your favourite superhero pose will help you feel more confident. Amy Cuddy calls this power posing.

4. Stand out for your ideas

Universities are looking to hire people who are superstars or people who will be superstars. This means, a mere degree doesn’t cut it. They are looking for people whose ideas will change the game over time.

You can be that game-changer by writing a great blog. When you frame discussion around a topic, you will become the authority in that area– and that’s exactly who universities looking for. If your ideas are truly revolutionary, people will keep sharing them while referring to you as the expert. You’ve won half the game when a thousand people are behind your ideas.

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