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Dream: Full Time Piano Study

Time Practice Sight Reading Alternative Career Path

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#1 Tantif

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 13:48

I currently work 4 days per week as a social worker.  I have been doing this for over 20 years now.  I have played piano on and off over the years since childhood, and have in recent ones, committed myself to regular practice as I really want to improve my sight reading and playing by ear skills.

 

Social work can be very rewarding but extremely stressful so I enjoy playing as it is very relaxing and enjoyable.  I have this dream that if our mortgage were paid off, I could spend all day, every day just playing and studying the piano!!  I do have a family but my children are teenagers now.

 

My fantasy new job would be as a piano accompanist for a ballet class or some such.  I would love to take a full time course in piano study but I don't think my playing would be at a high enough standard.  Besides, conservatoire study or degree level qualification is not what I am after.  Just really good teaching, learning, enjoyment and a chance to make others feel happy hearing me play.  

 

There must be plenty of adult learners of different instruments - whether beginners or not who feel the same way.  I would love to get your thoughts and see who else out there feels similar frustration!! 


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#2 sbhoa

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 14:28

Is there anything stopping you from getting the good teaching?


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#3 corenfa

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 15:15

I have thought about the accompanist route before. If you want to do that, work on your sight reading and try to play a lot with others. It is a completely different set of requirements from solo playing. 


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#4 bassoonista

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 16:40

Let me give you thoughts on dance class accompaniment. Most classes, unless you teach in a full time school like Arts Ed or the Royal Ballet, will be on Saturdays and evenings, so it's a very antisocial job (It's one of the reasons I no longer teach dance!) If you still think it's for you, then try to observe someone doing the job. You need to be able to play set pieces, and to improvise, and you'll need a huge repertoire. As a teacher, I would ask you for lets say something in 4/4, and give you a speed. I would then turn to the class, and maybe set releve, entrechat 6, releve entrechat 6, degage, plie, pirouette, repeat. I would expect my pianist to know what mood of music would suit, so you'll need to be familiar with dance steps and styles. You would also need to be prepared to play for exams, and possibly end of term concerts, which would include rehearsals, and possibly for private lessons for someone who is about to take an exam or audition.

 If it's a small school, they may use recorded music available from the exam boards for regular classes, and only use you for exams and the school show, in which case, the work would be sporadic.

 Hope this helps you make a decision. :unsure:


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#5 katyjay

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 08:16

Tantif, I know exactly what you mean. That was my dream too (well not the dance school bit, but the spending all day doing music bit...)

When I joined the Forums in 2003, I was an accountant. I had no ideas other than to keep doing accountancy and keep doing singing as a hobby. But getting involved in the Forums, in the outside activities that started to grow from contact with the other musicians on here, and progressing well in my singing studies led me to the point in 2005 where I decided to take a grown-up gap year, to see how far I could get in music in that year.

I had vague ideas about getting performance work, or about serious studying. But as they were not real and practical plans they didn't go much further. What did take off was the thing I tried alongside these, to see if I'd be any good at it - music teaching.

Fast forward to now (crikey! 8 years!!) I am a full-time music teacher. It's a great life - I teach a mixture of adults and youngsters, including work at two schools. I'm teaching recorder and flute alongside my main love, singing.

It's been hard work, and has taken most of those 8 years for my teaching practice to really establish and build up, but I've enjoyed (almost) all of it, and wouldn't ever go back to an office now.
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#6 Guest: Very Sane Tom_*

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 10:09

LIke the OP I had played piano, on and off, since childhood, and achieved a performance diploma back in the mid -1980's. I finally achieved my dream of studying piano properly when I came to the Netherlands at the age of 52.  I chose to live a short cycle-ride from the office. Working a 4-day, 36 hour week, as is common in the Netherlands gave me plenty of "spare" time.  The next piece in the puzzle was the nearby practice rooms where for a mere 100 EUR/year  I could practice every evening, and much of the weekend, without worrying about disturbing anyone. The final piece was the cultured society, providing many opportunities to perform.

 

Six years on, with many performances under my belt (several disasters as well as successes) and 5000+ hours of serious practice accumulated in that time I am at last approaching the standard I'd aimed for and can at last play in front of a bunch of people without the feeling that my heart is going to explode, my mind go blank, and my fingers seize up!  Along the way I collected a piano-specific teaching qualification from the excellent EPTA Piano Teachers' Course and studied harmony and counterpoint as an external student at the local Conservatoire.

 

Now I am being made redundant!  Far from being a disaster this is a great opportunity.  The severance pay would buy me about 9 months in which to build up a full-time teaching practice.

 

But if it took Katyjay 8 years to build her teaching practice is 9-months enough ... especially if I specialize in adult beginners and returners, or should I look for some contract work in the coming months, so as to build up a bigger cash reserve?


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#7 fsharpminor

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 10:24

Sorry to heat of the redundancy Tom. But I am sure you would make an e :goodLuck: xcellent nusic teacher . Good luck !


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#8 Impressionist

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 10:47

 

But if it took Katyjay 8 years to build her teaching practice is 9-months enough ... especially if I specialize in adult beginners and returners, or should I look for some contract work in the coming months, so as to build up a bigger cash reserve?

I returned to teaching about 3 years ago, after years of doing other jobs and looking after my children.  I now have enough instrumental students to reduce my other work commitments, but I still wouldn't say I have a full-time job with the earnings associated with it (I only teach 16 hours a week and don't teach in schools).  But I've not done a great deal of promotion, just let the teaching develop through word of mouth - recently this has shot up exponentially and I now have a waiting list. 

 

Specialising in adults and returners might make things more difficult - I have primarily beginners to grade 5 level and only 4 adult students but then I have a local reputation as specialising in youngsters.  I would be inclined to get as large a fund behind me as possible - contract work if you can fit this in around teaching would be a good way to go.


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#9 Czerny

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 13:00

But if it took Katyjay 8 years to build her teaching practice is 9-months enough ... especially if I specialize in adult beginners and returners, or should I look for some contract work in the coming months, so as to build up a bigger cash reserve?

I don't think it's possible to say, given that you are in a different country, possibly a different economic climate, wanting to teach a different instrument.  I never set out to teach mainly adults, but fear that you might be limiting yourself if you want to specialise to that extent - adults have never formed more than about 10% of my teaching practice.  Most of my private pupils have come through word of mouth (principally the school gate) and there is of course an element of luck involved there.  My adult pupils, however, have generally found me through websites.


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#10 katyjay

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 18:29

Until a year ago, I was teaching only/mainly adults too. My youngest pupil in Summer 2012 was 16. Then when Misterjay got made redundant last year it spurred me into taking promotion of my business seriously.

That had 3 results: first, my violin teacher started referring singing and aural queries to me; second, a couple of local schools offered me work; and third, a big increase in evening bookings, especially after-school ones.

All these three changed my practice from predominantly adults to predominantly children - even though I am actually teaching more adults than ever.
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#11 Clarimoo

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Posted 13 October 2013 - 08:27

Tantif, good luck with your dream...you have three days a week to pursue your dream without dismantling the old system! This is a great start!

 

Very Sane Tom, good luck with your Great Opportunity.


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#12 dorfmouse

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Posted 13 October 2013 - 09:08

Very Sane Tom: what's the situation in the Netherlands regarding social security, health insurance? Here in Germany this issue is very large for freelance teachers who end up paying about 19% of their earnings over and above tax. (Employees have half their ss contributions paid by the employer.) Health insurance rules here are strict and can be quite complex if you're out of mainstream employment.

If you do go the teaching route, are there international schools in your area where you could advertise? My school is actually an ABRSM centre here. Or is there an active expat forum to advertise on?
Good luck!
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#13 RoseRodent

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Posted 13 October 2013 - 15:45

Exam accompaniment could be a big source of income, though it can be dull, and of course it comes in big swathes 3 times a year. Particularly for VSTom where an understanding of how the exams work might be less commonplace, though offset by a smaller contingent of entries. If you can get matched up with a few local single-line instrument and/or voice teachers you can pick up a nice big run of exam entries. And cross your fingers you don't end up with the ones where every kid plays the same 3 pieces and 16 of them are taking Grade 1. Also, if you get good at accompaniment, look at work as an official accompanist for events - again, it's hardly going to bring in money every day, but you can start getting established by having everyone come to you for a big event like a music festival. If you are the official accompanist you will play for a whole range of instruments and standards, the variety of stuff you get sent to play is huge.

 

But you don't get to perform much in the way of solo repertoire, so it depends on whether your love of the instrument extends to ensemble and accompaniment in this way. 

 

Find out if your local university, especially the "new" universities, allow single module students. I parachuted into the middle of a music degree locally and just selected the modules I wanted. You could pick from a first year standard of performance class up to the 4th year standard. I did a keyboard class, 2 solo performance classes at 4th year level, 2 ensemble classes at 3rd and 4th year level and 2 teaching classes at 3rd and 4th year level. It didn't need to lead to a degree or anything, just jump in and do what I wanted and jump  out again. Fees are around £300 for a module, and the performance class aspect is really beneficial, you have to perform in front of a critical audience of a high standard of musicianship, who will give feedback on what to improve and how. You also get individual teaching and a weekly family-specific class, e.g. woodwind class on issues of breathing, vocal class on posture, piano class on memorisation. 

 

And finally, how about a small, self-employed type of set-up, based on musicianship and enjoyment, where you would play for a group of pre-school children and parents? If you could make different moods and stories with your piano you could sell lots of those classes. You could sell the benefit of a live instrument. I was absolutely fascinated by my first look inside a piano watching someone play, and all the moving parts and what happened when they pressed pedals. You could even have the kids take turns coming up to play a few notes. The advantage of preschoolers is you can work during the day. Hire a hall, get insurance, register as self-employed, collect fees. My sister does this with a guitar and runs several classes a week now. 

 

Think really broadly about what you can already fit into your life which incorporates a piano and off you go! 


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#14 allegretto

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Posted 14 October 2013 - 10:08

Hi Rose

 

Did your Uni openly advertise that they will let you do single modules or did you have to approach them and ask about it? This is such a good idea.


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#15 Tantif

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 22:01

Thanks to all for your responses. Today I called a former teacher to arrange lessons again! ! Am quite excited about this. I am at the moment working through a hymn book for sight reading. I can really see the progress although certain keys are a challenge! ! Because my sight reading has progressed, it has thankfully become less frustrating and laborious.

I like the idea of modular piano study and will think through your suggestions!!
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