Notes for Private Music Teacher

Notes for Private Music Teacher

Hello dear music teaching colleagues,
My good friend (and brilliant musician) Rodney Haynes found an old J. A. & S. Print, 1980 publication “NOTES for PRIVATE MUSIC TEACHERS” by the Federation of Australian Music Teachers Associations. It doesn’t have any copyright restrictions, so I’ve decided to save you the $2 Rod spent on it and print it here. You never know when you may need something like this. Enjoy! Also, if you have useful resources for music teachers teaching privately… you are welcome to shear it here.

Notes for Private Music Teacher

Prepared by the Federation of Australian Music Teachers’ Associations.

THESE NOTES prepared by the Federation of Australian Music Teachers’ Associations, hereinafter referred to as “the Federation” are published in order to give music teachers in private practice, both those who are new to the profession and those of sane experience, guidance in professional matters.

1. The Standard Conditions

Many points raised in these Notes are covered by the Standard Conditions for Private Music Tuition. These are set out in Appendix I[1]. The use of these Conditions will settle many possible difficulties and is strongly recommended. A copy of these Conditions should be given to new pupils or their parents before lessons are commenced, preferably at the first interview; in the case of present pupils, a copy should be sent with the first account rendered after the adoption of the Conditions, together with a note that in future they will apply to all lessons.

2. The Course/Term of Lessons

Some teachers teach by the “Term” of 10 or 12 lessons, more or less coinciding with a child-pupil’s school term. This limits the possible number of lessons per year to about 30 to 36. It is difficult to earn in that time an income sufficient to keep one for 52 weeks; it is also difficult to teach a pupil effectively on as little as 15 to 18 annually, especially as the break between one “Term” and the next often causes some loss of progress which must be regained before further progress can be made.

It may be considered that private music tuition should be entirely separated from the school term. It could be given by the Course/Term of ten lessons, each Course/Term to commence one week after the end of the previous one or as soon as possible thereafter, allowing for holiday periods. Under this system each pupil may receive 40 to 45 lessons per year, to the great benefit both of teacher and pupil. A suggested form of letter announcing the change-over to such a system is given in Appendix II[2].

Lessons should be of such duration as the teacher, in consultation with the pupil or parents, considers appropriate to the pupil’s age and capacity, and the fee should be adjusted accordingly.

Holidays: The pupil or parents should be notified that lessons will be suspended during such periods in the summer and at usual public holidays as the teacher shall announce; and also during any further period of which the pupil gives at least four weeks’ notice of absence from home and inability to attend lessons. (This is covered by the Standard Conditions[Appendix I]).

3. Fees

The amount which a teacher is able to charge must be governed by several factors, the district in which the teacher practices and the demand for his/hers services, but there is an economic limit below which no teacher can afford to teach, irrespective of district. It is advisable and now usual to make fees due and payable in advance, and this should be made clear in the teacher’s prospectus and statements of account. A suggested form of letter announcing an increase of fees is given in Appendix III[3].

4. Theory and Musicianship

The Federation sees no reason why theoretical tuition should be charged at a lower rate than instrumental tuition. There is, however, often insufficient time for both theoretical and practical instruction to be given in the same lesson, except so far as theoretical points arise during practical work. Where separate theoretical tuition is necessary the teacher should not hesitate to tell the pupil or parents that it cannot be covered by the payment for practical instruction, and if the teacher is unable to give separate theory lessons another Accredited teacher should if possible be recommended.

5. Missed Lessons

All Accredited teachers are advised to adhere to the following recommendations: “When a student does not attend for a lesson, with or without notice; this usually causes direct financial loss to the teacher. The Federation, therefore, recommends private teachers to charge for such missed lessons, unless the circumstances, in the teacher’s opinion, warrant seme special concession”. (See (c) and (d) in STANDARD CONDITIONS[Appendix I]).

Such concessions should normally be made only in the case of genuine illness or other compelling reason for non-attendance.

6. Notice to Discontinue Lessons

Before any lessons are commenced, the pupil (or parent) should be expressly informed that half a term’s notice of discontinuance is required, preferably at the beginning of a Course/Term of lessons, and that failing such notice, payment of fees for the period will be requested. (See (g) in STANDARD CONDITIONS[Appendix I]) .

7. Specialisation

Accredited Teachers should not accept pupils for musical subjects in which they have not been Accredited.

8. Progress Reports

Many teachers find it useful to give a Report on the pupil’s progress at the end of each course of lessons. A concise form of Report is given in Appendix IV[4]. It is suggested that the Report be sent to the pupil or parent at the end of each course, together with the account for the coming course.

9. Examinations and Competitive Festivals

A pupil should not be entered for an examination or competitive festival without the approval both of the pupil (or parent) and the teacher. If parents do not wish their child to be entered the teachers should, respect their wishes; but otherwise the teacher should make it clear to them that they must accept his/hers opinion as to what examinations and festivals are suitable at that stage of the child’s studies and development.

10. Debt Recovery

Where fees are not paid in advance, a teacher occasionally has difficulty in obtaining payment. Action through a Court is not well adapted to comparatively small claims, as the legal expenses may far exceed the amount of the debt and are not usually fully recoverable from the debtor. Even when judgment has been obtained it is often hard to enforce payment.

11. Publicity and Advertising

The private music teacher should lose no legitimate opportunity of publicity, and this may take the form of personal contacts, concert work, participation in the musical life of the community, advertising in the press or local church magazine, etc. The teacher should have a prospectus printed stating the terms upon which he/she is willing to teach. (See paragraph 16. The Teacher’s Prospectus).

Attention should be paid to professional etiquette. It is, of course, unprofessional to offer one’s services to a pupil known to be already talking lessons from another teacher but such a pupil may be accepted if he approaches one, having given due notice to the earlier teacher.

Press advertisements should be confined to facts such as name, degrees and diplomas, address and telephone number and subjects taught.

Accreditation and Membership of a Music Teachers’ Association should be mentioned, using the words “Accredited as a Private Music Teacher for (instrument) through the Federation of Australian Music Teachers’ Associations”.

Announcements of examination and festival results may be published from time to time in the local press. “Trade” or “Classified” Directories need a little care. Inclusion is valueless unless:

(a) the Directory has a considerable circulation in your own area,
(b) you are permitted to state the exact subjects taught.

Be wary of unsolicited letters from Directories claiming to have national circulation; if you return their forms completed, you may later receive a demand for a substantial fee for inclusion in some publication which may be quite useless to you. If in doubt, call at your Reference Library, and ask the librarian what local directories would be recommended.

After considering all these suggestions the teacher must remember that private Recommendation is the best and most satisfactory of all advertisements. One’s own good work will ultimately achieve most in publicising one’s professional activities.

12. The Teacher’s Records

These can most conveniently be kept in a loose-leaf binder, completed sheets being removed and filed away from time to time. The necessary records comprise three sets of papers:

(a) A Record sheet for each pupil, on which should be entered name, address, telephone, age, fee, date of starting tuition, usual lesson-day and time, notes of examination results and other achievements, and the teacher’s assessment of progress made. It must also give dates of all lessons set out in courses of ten, giving name and cost of all music supplied, examination fees paid etc.
(b) An Appointments Dairy, one week to a page.
(c) A cash record with two cash columns for receipts and payments. The dates of rendering accounts and receiving payment should be noted, and short particulars given of all professional expenses incurred.

13. Nuisance

A teacher who teaches in his own home must face the fact that neighbors sometimes object to the sound and should therefore take all reasonable steps to prevent one’s teaching and playing from becoming a nuisance, which may be defined as “any substantial interference with the comfort or convenience of the occupiers of adjoining property”. The studio should be in that part of the house where the sound is least likely to be heard by neighbors, and in particular a piano should not be placed against a division wall; teaching and playing should not be carried on late at night; discretion should be used about leaving windows open; some form of soundproofing should be used if necessary (See Paragraph 14), and in short, teachers should be careful not to lay themselves open to the accusation of being inconsiderate to their neighbors. If these precautions are of no avail and an action for nuisance is threatened, a solicitor should be consulted.

14. Restrictions on the Use of Property

When buying or renting a house or studio where it is proposed to teach, the solicitor should be asked to make sure that there are no enforceable covenants or Town Planning or other regulations preventing or restricting such use of the property. This should be done before any contract is signed or deposit paid.

15. Sale of Teaching Practices

The person selling undertakes to introduce to the purchaser all present pupils and to recommend than to continue as pupils (but it must be understood that it is not possible to enforce this continuity). The person also undertakes not to compete as a teacher for a given period within a given radius of the place where the practice is carried on. The purchaser undertakes to pay a percentage (usually 25%) of fees actually received from pupils introduced to the vendor during a period of 12 months following the sale; alternatively, if it is desired to have an immediate settlement, the sum can be mutually estimated and paid at once. If a substantial sum is to be paid the agreements should be prepared by a solicitor, and in any event the undertakings should be in writing. It may be added that it is seldom worth paying a considerable sum for a teaching practice unless the purchaser is also acquiring, as purchaser or tenant, the premises where the practice has been carried on or other premises in the very near neighborhood.

16. The Teacher’s Prospectus

It will be apparent that a prospectus can be kept very brief if the Standard Conditions mentioned in paragraph 1 are adopted; it need contain no more than the necessary details of the teacher’s name, address, qualifications, subjects taught, fees, and a notification that ‘Mr./ Mrs./Miss accepts pupils on the Standard Conditions of the Federation. Teachers who do not adopt the Standard Conditions must also incorporate in the Prospectus such other provisions as they wish to apply. A simple form which will meet most teachers’ requirements is given in Appendix V[5].

17. Income Tax Allowances

A Schedule of deductions from private teachers’ professional incomes which are usually allowed by the Taxation Department is given in Appendix VI[6].

18. Insurance

Private teachers, like all self-employed persons, should make some provision for retirement pensions; the younger they start, the lower the premium, but middle-aged people also will find that something useful can be done at a moderate cost. A personal quotation from an Insurance Company will be given to teachers who write giving their date of birth, age at which pension is to start and whether provision is to be made for dependents. There is a small but real risk to a teacher being held responsible for injuries caused to pupils through accidents arising on the teacher’s premises. This risk is covered by many Household Insurance policies, and if you teach in your own home you should ask your Insurance Company to state whether your own policy covers this risk for music pupils. If not, it can usually be added to the policy at a very small additional premium. Separate policies can also be taken out, but for these the premium will usually be higher, so that it is much more economic to have the risk included in your Household policy.

19. Certificates of Accreditation

These certificates may be obtained from the Federation through State Music Teachers’ Associations upon written application to State Music Teachers’ Associations except in New South Wales where the Conservatorium issues the certificate.

20. Directory

A Directory of Accredited Teachers may be obtained from the State Music Teachers’ Associations or from the Conservatorium.[7]


The forms given in this and the following Appendices can be modified as the teacher desires. It would often be appropriate to add encouraging remarks about the pupil’s progress.

  • [1]Appendix I

    Standard Conditions for Private Music Tuition

    (a) TUITION will be given by the Course/Term of ten Consecutive weekly lessons, each Course to commence in the week following the end of the previous Course.

    (b) FEES for each Course are to be paid not later than the first lesson of that Course.

    (c) HOLIDAYS: Lessons will be suspended during periods in the summer and at the usual public holidays as announced by the teacher; and also during any further period as to which the pupil gives at least 4 weeks’ notice that he will be away from home and unable to attend for lessons.

    (e) A PROGRESS REPORT should be given by the teacher from time to time.

    (f) EXAMINATIONS AND COMPETITIONS: The teacher will not
    enter the pupil for any examination or competition without the pupil’s consent; but the teacher’s opinion as to what examinations and competitions are suitable at each stage of the pupil’s progress should be accepted by the pupil.

    (g) NOTICE to discontinue lessons must be given not later than the first lesson of any Course/Term; otherwise the fees for half of the Course/Term will become payable.
    (NOTE: Reference to pupils in these Conditions includes the parents or guardians of child-pupils where the context allows).

    (d) LESSONS Missed through the pupil’s non-attendance will be charged for, unless the circumstances, in the teacher’s opinion warrant a special concession. Lessons canceled by the teacher will be carried forward.

  • [2]Appendix II Draft of suggested letter announcing change-over to Course system:

    Dear …,

    On the advice of the Federation of Australian Music Teachers’ Associations, I am making some changes in my teaching arrangements as from (September) next. Tuition will be given by the course of ten 30-minute lessons, each Course/Term to begin the week after the previous course ends. The fee per Course/Term will be $ … payable in advance. Lessons will not be given during (January) or for short periods at the usual public holidays, and I would like you to inform me well beforehand of any other periods when you (your child) will be away on holiday. These changes will result in still better progress being made by pupils, since they ensure greater continuity of teaching. I regret to have to ask you to meet an increase in the fees, but I am sure you will realise that the continuing increase in the cost of living makes it inevitable. Please do not hesitate to come and see me if you would like to discuss the matter.

    Yours sincerely, …

  • [3]Appendix III Draft of suggested letter regarding increase in fees where there is no change in the term system:

    Dear …,

    I have reluctantly decided that I must increase the amount of my fees. As from … the amount will be $ … per course of ten … minute lessons payable in advance. It is with regret that I do this, and I am sure you will appreciate that the continuing increase in the cost of living has made it inevitable. Please do not hesitate to make an appointment to see me if you would like to discuss the matter.

    Yours sincerely, …

  • [4]Appendix IV

    (Space for teacher’s name and address)

    Progress Report For the period ending: …

    Student’s name: …

    Signed …

  • [5]Appendix V Form of Prospectus for use where the Standard Conditions are not adopted.

    Mr. John Brown (add degrees and/or diploma)
    21 Brown Street,
    Tel: …
    FEES: $ … per Course of ten lessons of … minutes, payable in advance.Lessons missed through the pupil’s failure to attend are charged for unless circumstances, in the teacher’s opinion, warrant a special concession. Lessons canceled by the teacher will be carried forward.

  • [6]Appendix VI Schedule of permissible deductions from the professional income of private music teachers for Income Tax purposes. NOTE: It must be understood that the following is in general terms and much depends on the actual circumstances and negotiations with the Taxation Department. In cases of difficulty the assistance of a qualified accountant will often be found of great help.

    1. Expenses wholly and exclusively incurred for the purpose of carrying on the practice.

    2. The rent of a studio can be claimed in full, if this does not include living accommodation. If living accommodation is included in the total rent then the proportion of rent relating to this should be omitted from the claim.

    3. Studio expenses such as local rates, lighting, heating, cleaning and insurance against fire, burglary and similar risks (or a proportionate part of all-these where the practice is carried on at home).

    4. Studio repairs, repairs and maintenance of instruments and of studio furniture. Tuning of instruments.

    5. Postage, printing, stationery, telephone and advertisements in connection with the teaching practice.
    6. Interest paid on Bank overdraft, where the loan was raised to purchase an asset for use in the profession.

    7. Salary of assistants and deputy. (Where paid to members of the teacher’s family the Taxation Department may require to be satisfied that the payments are made bona fide for services rendered).

    8. The cost of renewals of instruments or an allowance for wear and tear, but not both, and not the cost of buying a new instrument unless it is in replacement of an old one. The cost of building up a library of music, etc., cannot be deducted, but an allowance may be claimed for the cost of replacing worn-out music.

    9. Bad debts, proved to be such to the satisfaction of the tax authorities but not a general reserve against debts – that are expected to prove bad in the future.

    10. Losses due to theft, burglary and fire, so far as attributable to the practice and not covered by insurance.

    11. Expense incurred in traveling from one studio to another, but not between the teacher’s residence (if one does not teach there) and the studio.

    12. Wear and tear allowance on a motor car where it is used for the purpose of the practice, or a proportionate amount where there is some private use, and the expense of running a car on a similar basis.

    13. Subscriptions to the Music Teachers’ Associations.

    14. In general the above deductions will also apply to salaried employment where tax is deducted at source. However, in such cases the Taxation Department applies the additional test that the expenditure must be necessarily incurred, as well as wholly and exclusively, to be deductible.

  • [7] – Additions and Corrections:

    Dear Sergei, I am President of the Music Teachers Assoc of NSW and have just discovered your website; I am pleased that under your Accreditation heading, you direct teachers to the state MTAs. However, I need you to know that the Sydney Conservatorium has not handled Accreditation in NSW since 1995, when it was handed over to the Music Teachers’ Association of NSW. Perhaps you could update that information on your site? We handle Accrediation for NSW, SA and the NT.

    Many thanks,
    Dr Rita Crews OAM; President, Music Teachers Assoc. of NSW & Editor The Studio. Deputy Chairperson, AMEB [NSW] & Syllabus Advisor, Written Subjects

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