How To Be A Successful Music Teacher

Finding success as a music educator can be one of the most rewarding endeavors in the field of arts. Reaching scores of students to help them find their voice, build confidence, and enjoy a stimulating creative outlet is a special and incredibly meaningful professional pursuit.

Music is a common denominator that connects people of all backgrounds and ethnicities, young and old. Music tears down walls, builds bridges, and helps communities heal. Creating music heals wounds, fills hearts, and stretches smiles from ear to ear. The desire to learn music will never go away, and because of that, there will always be a need for exceptional, dedicated, and dynamic music teachers to educate each new generation of melody makers about music of the past, from the far distant to songs of today. 

When considering a career in music education, building success will go well beyond an understanding of notes and measures. From stylistic nuances and methodologies, to the five C’s every educator needs to be an effective music teacher, this is an in depth look at how to find early and sustainable success in an otherwise unsteady field. 

Is a music teacher a good career choice?

Pursuing a career path as a music teacher is a great choice! Music teaching is one of the rare fields of work that combines both sides of the brain at an extremely high level, and makes an enormous social impact on both children and adults alike. The importance can not be understated. Helping others learn music is a gift that also helps individuals improve their performance in other areas of their lives. It’s the only profession that, when executed well, can make an adult feel like a child and a child feel like an adult. The respect and admiration of students and peers is heartwarming, and the relationships built last a lifetime. 

How do I become a successful music teacher?

Music teacher working with student on keyboard lessonIn order to become a successful music teacher, it’s critical to have a deep background in music and music education. Teaching in public and private schools require state certifications, but it’s no secret that there are no requisite qualification barriers to entry, no required tests to take, and no industry-wide verifiable credentials that can prove someone is an actual private music teacher. To this end, anyone can post a sign soliciting services and anyone can make money teaching music. But in order to truly find sustainable, long term professional and financial success, there are certainly things that one can do to ensure its realization.

Going to school for music is a perfect first step to build your foundation in music education. Completing a strong degree program in a field of music with at least basic coursework in music education will help develop an understanding of methodology and effective approaches to teaching and learning music. Taking years private lessons from an experienced teacher will also help develop an understanding of the learning process in a one-on-one environment, and how curriculums can be tailored to individuals rather than a classroom setting. 

Creating and implementing enrichment programs for children is a very accessible way for young music teachers to gain entry into the field. Schools and community centers are often starved for arts development, and welcome those earnest in their interest in helping others. Curriculum planning is an invaluable experience, as it provides teachers with experience working with students of varying ages, skill levels, backgrounds, and interests. 

Gaining experience teaching by working with a reputable music education organization is a vastly underrated element and stepping stone to ultimately finding success. A company like Forbes Music Company excels in resource management, teacher support, curriculum planning, and administrative capabilities, all things that contribute to helping teachers find the most success possible. 

One element that can not be understated is the need for professionalism in every aspect. The most successful teachers are not always the best musicians. And in order to be a successful music teacher, it’s not necessary to be the world’s greatest musician. Most of us are aware that musicians have rather unsavory stereotypes as lazy, fickle, unreliable, unmotivated, unresponsive, poor communicators. The most successful music teachers are those that are prompt, dedicated, committed, consistent, driven, thoughtful, and excellent communicators. Lacking any of these qualities will diminish your ability to find the success that can be so easily realized. 


“It has been a pleasure working with both the administrative staff and students. My students at Forbes Music are dedicated, hard working, and passionate about their music education.”

Geraldine V.

Piano and Voice Instructor, Forbes Music Company

“The office staff is extremely accommodating. One of the greatest things about FMC is they connect students with teachers. This allows the teachers to focus on doing what they do best, teaching music.”

Nick L.

Guitar Instructor, Forbes Music Company

“I absolutely love working for FMC. The company feels like a family that I’m proud to be a part of and the whole admin team has been a pleasure to work with.”

Ethan S.

Guitar and Piano Instructor, Forbes Music Company

Can you make a decent living as a music teacher?

Music teacher working with student on cello lessonContrary to some common thought, it’s not difficult to make a living as a music teacher. There are many ways to utilize a skillset as a music teacher, all of which combined can lead to a reasonably lucrative career. Those that struggle financially from a career in music education simply lack the knowledge of how to build their practice successfully. 

The most successful music teachers find that building their career and their income requires many roles and wearing many hats. Being open to and exploring a variety of activities, all within the field of music education, is what separates those who struggle from those who are able to support themselves. 

It goes without saying that a career teaching music in public or private schools is one way to earn money. This certainly will not break the bank, but it’s a healthy foundation upon which to build and the consistency is attractive. Most music teachers who teach in public and private schools will often supplement their income by teaching private lessons. 

Teaching private lessons can often be far more lucrative than teaching in any school system. Hourly rates are significantly higher, although the total hours available to teach can often be limited due to the fact that most students are children and youth who are unavailable during the day/school hours. Again, working with a reputable organization like Forbes Music, that specializes in helping teachers build their brand and their teaching business, can often lead to faster and more significant success than venturing alone.

In addition to teaching private lessons, teaching group classes is another way to put your education and resources to use and earn income. Forbes Music promotes teacher-developed classes open to the public at large. This is yet another way to promote your brand to a target audience who may have an interest in learning from you, that you may otherwise not have access to. Additionally, after school enrichment classes can be effective ways to connect to the community and parents looking to involve their children in music activities. Finding schools that have opportunities like this is a great way to earn additional income, while further promoting other tangential services that can earn income as well. 

What qualities does an effective music teacher need?

The best music teachers have a combination of five very important qualities that include consistency, commitment, communication, connection, and capability. Most music teachers have some of these, but a strong grasp of each of them is what separates those who struggle with those who excel. 

An effective music teacher prioritizes consistency with their students. Teachers who cancel regularly, reschedule lessons, or downplay the importance of consistent lessons will find the same behavior mirrored by their students. Without consistency, students will fail to prioritize the lessons, take them seriously, and will eventually lose motivation and interest.

Commitment to students often separates successful music teachers from those who struggle to find results. When making the decision to work with a student, it’s critical that teachers understand the student is placing a great deal of trust in the teacher’s hands. Finding creative ways to bring the music to life, sticking through the challenging lessons, and going beyond the notes to help students understand difficult concepts are part of what makes successful teachers so irreplaceable.  

Communication skills are an integral component to any effective music teacher. The ability to break down difficult concepts and passages into small, digestible elements, and explaining them in a way that a student of any age can understand is critical. 

The ability to reach a student on a personal level is another component that separates the best from those mediocre. Making a personal connection helps the student tear down walls so they can be open to advice, instruction, and direction from their teacher. Without that, students can often remain obstinate, unwilling, and disinterested. When teachers are positive, encouraging, thoughtful, and set a good example, students often begin to see them as a role model and make the extra effort to improve. 

Obviously, it goes without saying that teachers must possess the capability to demonstrate any necessary concepts and performance skills to students. Having the scope to cover material that may cover a wide range of styles from Renaissance and Baroque, through Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century music, in addition to jazz, pop, rock, folk, and contemporary music can further separate the most effective music teachers from those less effective. When a teacher can’t demonstrate concepts or play the music they are teaching, students will see through the veil and lack the motivation or interest in learning from someone they may consider second rate. 

What should I consider when becoming a music teacher?

Young boy taking online guitar lessonWhen becoming a music teacher, there are quite a few considerations to keep in mind. Importantly, the commitment necessary to make an impact is a major factor. Students mirror their teacher’s behavior, so if a teacher lacks the commitment or consistency, or doesn’t take it seriously, students will follow suit accordingly. 

Being a great teacher requires an investment of time, energy, and money. Teaching in person may require travel time, equipment or access to materials to share with students. Certainly, teaching online comes with significant challenges. If teaching online, creating an extraordinary online experience will require additional audio and visual equipment to enhance the experience to improve the ease of learning. 

While opportunities are definitely welcome, new teachers often fail to realize that opportunism can be risky. Cancelling lessons if or when gigs come available can often have negative repercussions. If this becomes routine, students will typically feel less important, inconvenienced, frustrated and eventually quit. It’s important for teachers to see forest through trees so-to-speak, and understand that building a studio takes time, commitment, but will build steady, lucrative income if treated as important as performance opportunities. 

Versatility is a virtue. Having expertise in many styles will give teachers the ability to take students who may be focused on a wide variety of things. Whether classical or contemporary music, method books, repertoire, theory or transcribing music, these versatile skills will widen the palette of any student roster and keep the work very interesting for any teacher! 

Every music teacher must consider the age groups they will be working with. The majority of music students will likely be youth, so building a strong studio or student roster will lean heavily on kids and children. Having a strong understanding of how children learn, various learning methodologies, and being able to connect with young people will be a crucial step to finding success as a music teacher.

Lastly, the business side is usually one aspect that eludes many teachers. Finding success means considering rates and billing, and methods of delivery, whether in home, in studio or teaching music online. Those who may wish to forget this side of the business would do well to work with an organization who specializes in it. Forbes Music is a concierge for music teachers, assisting in administrative responsibilities so teachers can effortlessly build their student roster and focus on doing what they love every day- teaching! 


“Being an instructor for Forbes Music Company has been the best experience. Their support for their staff transcends to the success we as instructors are able to deliver to our students.”

Kelly B.

Voice and Piano Instructor, Forbes Music Company

“Working with Forbes has given me the wonderful balance of having the personal freedom to call the shots, while retaining the luxury of having a team in place to support me when I need it.”

Garet R.

Guitar and Piano Instructor, Forbes Music Company

“I couldn’t be happier to be part of such an incredible organization. The support from the office administration gives teachers all the assistance and tools they need to succeed!”

Nica S.

Piano and Voice Instructor, Forbes Music Company

What are some ways to be a successful music teacher?

Woman taking online guitar lessonIf you’re looking to be a successful music teacher, consider these tips for teaching music, and suggestions to improve versatility, widen appeal, and give yourself the greatest chance of rapidly building a roster of consistent, dedicated students.

Become familiar with both traditional classical music and popular, contemporary music. The more styles a teacher can teach, the more students they will be able to work with. Be flexible with curriculum. Strict adherence to a certain method will ultimately be a turn off. There are students who may wish to follow a specific method, but an understanding of many methods can give teachers the tools they need to help students get over a hump, and reach different kinds of students with dramatically different learning styles. 

It’s important to remember that the goal is motivating a student to want to sit down and play. Strict methods, cold delivery, and being hard on students will not yield successful results. Teachers who can find creative ways to inspire students with music that the students find interesting will have the most success and keep students longer. Know how to dangle the carrot, and use popular music students love as an incentive to practice the hard parts. 

Remember that small victories are important. Getting students to play a simple song on their first lesson will do wonders with their confidence. Building up a student’s confidence will keep them playing their instrument with a big smile. Establish a follow up routine and homework process. Send an email follow up to parents with notes on all the successes during the lessons, and include notes about homework to keep them engaged. Be positive. Be encouraging. 

Helping students fund success means finding performance opportunities for them as well. Recitals are a great way for students to showcase everything they have learned and share their music with their families and friends. Music is a language, and we use it to communicate feelings and self expression. A venue for students to share their gift of music is a great way to continue building their confidence and see the fruits of all their hard work. 

How do I get started to be a music teacher?

Getting started teaching music can be an intimidating task. If you’re pursuing music education in public or private schools, having an undergraduate degree in music education will be a required step, in addition to local and state certifications necessary to teach in the schools. With the certifications, teaching internships or assistant positions will be required, and serve as a foot in the door to eventually land a teaching position. 

As a private teacher, reaching the community with your services is a challenge. Finding a reputable organization like Forbes Music is a great option to find the support necessary to build a roster, and get started down the road of becoming a successful music teacher.

Forbes Music is always looking for great talent

If you are interested in joining our team then please take a moment to learn more about the benefits of working with Forbes Music, and check out our current list of music teacher job opportunities.