Making a Living as a Guitar Teacher Part 2

Episode 3 – Getting work

If you read the first episodes, you’ll remember that I’d got some work in an Investment Bank, during which time I’d auditioned for the local Education Authority’s Music Services team and we’d agreed to start working together.

Tip number 5 – Getting the Music Services job doesn’t guarantee you any work

That’s an interesting statement; let’s look at how it works.

Some County Music Services teams will phone you and say “Can you do this day at such and such a School?” Either you can, or you can’t, and if you can’t then do say what days and times you can do. Where I’m based, there is a newsletter that comes out just before the end of the School Term, listing the vacancies available for the next term. Luckily, Kathy, my partner, was at home the day the first newsletter came in and she sent it to me at work.

I got a bit excited when I read the vacancies list; three schools local to me all looking for guitar tutors. I replied to Music Services that I’d take them, and when I got a reply with the phone numbers and contact names I started phoning round. By the end of the day I’d filled three mornings so I dropped Music Services a note to let them know.

There was a fourth school, but they were difficult to get hold of and wanted to fill up another morning whilst I wanted to fill some afternoons; I spoke to Music Services and they told me about another guitar tutor they had who wanted that school himself and was looking to drop two smaller schools to fit them in. I called the guy; we arranged a swap – he took the school I was after because it was close to where he lives and I took the two smaller schools he wanted to drop. Fortune favours the brave; five schools. I was still looking…

Let me tell you this – some schools are fairly relaxed about things, and some have ideas. Music Services were very clear about it; the entire syllabus was my choice. The Thursday Morning School’s admin people, on the other hand, had one very specific instruction – “We don’t want students learning pop songs from Tab” they said, but they softened up a lot when I played my ace card; “I have a Distinction at Classical Guitar Grade 8″³ I told them. “That’s all right then” they said.

So, it had been a successful few days. There was one other school, but they had already decided they wanted a guitar teacher with “Qualified Teacher Status” – it’s what you need to be allowed to teach curriculum in classrooms here – and my 30-odd years of playing, performing and teaching experience simply wasn’t enough.

I told my boss at the Investment Bank I was going part time at the start of the September term. He didn’t care; he’d just resigned to go travelling in Africa.

Episode 4 – “You must be Eddie”

“Yep,” he replied.

“Come on in, Eddie, and join the party,” I said, and he sat down. “Tell me, Eddie; have you got a guitar?”

“Yep,” he replied.

“Okay,” I said; “where is it?”

“It’s at home,” he said; “I didn’t think I’d need it today.”

Thus went my first conversation with my first student at my first School on my first day as a visiting guitar teacher. The School had some guitars, but they were strung right-handed and Eddie is a left-hander; so that first lesson was a bit of an improvisation.

I went to get my second student. “He’s sick today,” said his class teacher. A great start to my new career. Luckily, the School had loaded me up with 12 students for 12 lessons each, so I was cautiously optimistic about the place. I survived.

The School for that afternoon was one I’d taken in the swap with the other guy. He said there was about 45 minutes work there; three students.

Tip number 6 – Get friendly with the School Admin team. They put your details on the School Newsletter which is how the kids and their parents pick up on the fact that they can get guitar lessons at the School.

The ladies in the office had done a terrific job; seven students (and by the end of that term I had eight there.)

Tip number 7 – If you take sugar in your coffee, have some sweeteners in your bag. If you’re a man, it’s 90% certain that you’ll be the only man working at that school apart from the caretaker, and 99.99999999% certain you’ll be the only one who takes sugar in your coffee.

What a day.

I got a call from the Music Services people. “We’ve had a tutor drop out, can you take another School?” I called the School and went to see them. Six Schools, tick in the box.

This advice first appeared in Volume 4 # 3 of Guitar Noise News. Sign-up for our newsletter to receive more free tips like this by email.

© 2011, Alan Green

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