Performing As A Teacher

October 9, 2015

Faculty Author:

In some form or another, the phrase “those that cannot do, teach” resonates in many professional fields. The field of music holds no exception. This phrase exists primarily due to the disconnection between two seemingly different worlds: professional music performance and music education. This discrepancy lies not within these worlds, but within the inhabitants. Both types of professionals often fail to make transfers between performing and teaching, regardless if they happen to make money doing both. The truly successful ones, however, treat both similarly.




A large portion of work, some would argue a majority, happens behind the scenes for both professionals. The performer must prepare their individual parts in the practice room, so as to present in front of a wide audience. The teacher must set up lesson plans to structure activity for their students during the school day. Both are preparations to present some message to an audience. Not all practicing happens by playing an instrument in a practice room (i.e. listening to recordings, score study, collaborating with fellow musicians), just as not all lesson planning consists of tedious paperwork (see FfT formatting). Many understand teachers’ struggles outside of the classroom, but do not relate the notion that professional musicians spend decades honing their skills in order to do a comparative amount of work. Successful, and not to mention relevant, musicians and educators continue to put in the hours “behind-the-scenes” in order to provide the best experience for their audience.


Purpose of Compensation


Both performers and teachers are paid for the same reasons: to control the room. The tasks, and how they are approached, differ, but the overarching message is the same. An audience member buys a ticket to be entertained by a performer. The hope of this monetary exchange is to have one’s attention captivated for a period of time. Likewise, a teacher is paid to direct an audience’s attention: through a series of lectures, activities, and, other methods. Sure, the typical student would not pay a dime to go to school – most times they do not pay for anything! The means of payment are beside the point: they are paid to control the room.


Societal Worth


Rather than advocate for music education or for classical music to regain public value, a more realistic approach should be taken: With the vast array of modern resources, cannot people perform/teach for themselves? For someone who wishes to live their life as a performing musician, what experience do you offer an audience that they cannot learn for themselves? As a prospective educator, how are your methods of teaching, not to mention the content, unique enough to garnish monetary compensation? There are a multitude of professions that pay more than performing or teaching that require far less time and effort behind the scenes, as well as having more apparent worth in society.


For those in college or considering becoming a Music Major: Does a Performance Degree qualify you for a performing job? Or a teaching job? Can you perform with an Education degree?


It is not the degree or resume papers that make the profession, but the savviness of the professional.



Are you a savvy teacher or performer?Comment with your story below!




Sam Abrose



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