Recently a friend shared an article about why haircuts cost so much. It makes sense. I’ve never really complained about how much I pay for my haircuts, but then I’ve never really paid exorbitant amounts for my haircuts. But that got me thinking about a common question I’m asked when I quote my private lesson price to parents, “Why so much?” So let’s break it down. I’m not going to pretend that I did a bunch of research and know a national average when it comes to these numbers, I’m just going to share my numbers (and the numbers of a few friends).
Let’s start with education. I studied music education in college, spent the better part of 5 years doing it, and that is pretty average for music majors. College isn’t cheap, even when you go to a state school. Tuition and fees were about $2,500/semester and books were roughly $250/semester. So let’s add that up, 2 semesters per year, for five years at $2,750 per semester makes $27,500. Before college, however, I took many years of private music lessons and participated in marching band, band and orchestra classes, community bands, and many musical competitions that all required some kind of monetary investment.
Now let’s look at instruments. For a music teacher these are as vital as a computer programmer’s computers or a hair stylist’s scissors. I play the flute, piccolo, and piano and teach all three. The flute I play on most often cost $3,000, my spare was $200, and my piccolo was $900 plus I have a yearly tune-up done on my personal instrument for $35. My piano cost about $1,600. So total instrument value is $5,700 with an annual maintenance cost of $35 plus additional repair expenses that occasionally come up. (I also own several other instruments, but let’s just factor in the ones that I teach.) I’ll leave you with this, flutes and piccolos tend to run on the cheaper end of instruments, so my equipment expense is on the low side.
I personally teach out of my home, so I don’t pay any rental for studio space, but others choose to rent a space. I asked a few friends who rent studio space and the average cost for them is, it runs between $100-$200 per month.
A vital part of musical learning is performance. Some teachers are lucky enough to have space in their home to host recitals, or to find free recital halls. Others, however pay for a recital space. Price for recital spaces varies from $50-$300.
Music teachers also keep LOTS of sheet music and music books on hand that they allow students to use. If I were to guess how much money I have spent on sheet music and books that my students use I would say that my music library holds at least $700 worth of music. This doesn’t include the recordings I have purchased that I use to help my students, music software, notebooks that I give my students, metronomes, tuners, and other miscellaneous equipment that I use for private music lessons. Let’s just say that in all of this miscellaneous equipment I have spent at least another $300. Also consider that I am continually buying new music books, sheet music, recordings, and other “tools of the trade” to keep up with my students’ needs.
Some of the the best teachers are certified. To become a certified teacher there are tests, continuing education, and certification fees. The test I had to take cost $150, licensing fees in my state are $75. To maintain that certification teachers are required to participate in continuing education and pay license renewal fees every 3-5 years. These classes and the re-certification all cost money too.
So let’s add this all up– $34,525 in initial higher education, supplies, technology, and licensing expenses (not including the expense of years of expenses prior to college). Then at least $535 in annual expenses for studio space, recital halls, license renewal, continuing education, and equipment purchases. That is why private music lessons cost so much. You aren’t just paying the teacher for their time, but for their education, equipment, maintenance, licensing, and so much more. You don’t often question or complain about how much you pay a doctor, dentist, or mechanic for their services. So next time you’re thinking about private music lessons consider all that the teacher has spent to share their knowledge with you or your child and reconsider questioning the cost. Also consider that you should expect to pay for what you get, just like with everything else– a better teacher who is certified or studied music in college is going to cost more than a high school kid who is just trying to make a few dollars to support a movie theater habit.