When everything seems to lack sense and I feel completely lonely in the world, I sit at my piano, close my eyes, forget everything, and simply start playing. It makes me forget my miseries and simply exist with the music, in a perfect harmony. No psychiatrist or drug could offer me a better remedy to my problems…

I am not the author of the quote above, but it kind of sums up the power of music for me. Music, perhaps better than any other form of art, can touch us in a very profound way. Listening is one thing, but performing (or playing, because it isn’t about having an audience, or hearing claps of hands once you are done with your piece) takes it to the whole new level. So before we look at the questions you will face in your interview for the job of a Music Teacher, let me thank for choosing this career. I hope you will get the job, and help as many people as possible discover the love for playing an instrument.

Interview for a job of a music teacher consists typically in two parts. First one is practical–you will have to demonstrate your playing skills, on one or more instruments. In some cases they may even ask you to do a mock lesson, consisting of both theory and playing. Second part is the typical interview with their questions and your answers. Let’s have a look at these questions, one by one.

 

Why do you want to be a music teacher?

We all know the reality of most music teachers–they were aspiring musicians, hoping to play in the concert halls in front of big audiences. They had the same dream as any other teenager in the conservatory. But only 1% makes the cut in this tough field. Other people end up teaching music, or doing something completely different in their life, and play their instrument only for personal satisfaction, or in a local band.

Chances are high you’ve been through the same path, but you should never say so in an interview. They shouldn’t get an impression that you are on a pity tour right now, applying for teaching jobs because you didn’t make it out there as a professional musician. On the contrary, they should get an impression that you want to teach music. How to make such an impression?

Talk about your love for teaching, and for working with children. You know first hand how amazing it is to play an instrument, and want to help as many people as possible learn to play music as well. What’s more, you are patient, empathic, and have excellent communication skills, which makes from you a great candidate for any teaching job. Everything considered, with your skills, personality, and education, music teacher is a perfect job for you…

 

What instruments can you play?

Remember that you do not have to be an expert player to teach an instrument. As long as you play at a decent level–and better than your students, you can teach them (at least in the early grades). Having an ability to teach more instruments (and perhaps also singing) can help you succeed in this interview. So I suggest you to mention all instruments you can play, even just on an intermediate level. Share some details with them, such as how many years you have been playing, whether you play in any band, etc.

You can also emphasize that besides playing, you understand the theory of each instrument you play. That’s an important skill of every good music teacher. What’s more, you can say that you still enjoy learning to play new instruments, or progressing with the existing one. Make sure to demonstrate your passion for music, and your desire to always get better in both your playing and teaching.

Do you have any preference when it comes to the age of your music students?

Maybe you prefer working with kids, and you can definitely say so, but do not forget to explain why. Perhaps you find it easier, you are naturally good around children, have a good understanding for their emotional world, or prefer it from some other reason.

However, if you want to maximize your chances of getting the job, I suggest you to say that you do not have any preferences. As long as the student wants to learn, and comes to the lessons, you do not mind whether they are seven or seventy years old. Music isn’t athletics, one can become a decent player in any age. Sure, it is harder to become a decent violin player than a decent piano player once you are in your fifties, but it doesn’t mean it makes no sense to at least try…

 

Imagine that one of your individual students has absolutely no ear for music. What will you do?

I know some teachers who would send the child home, or lose their patience quickly. But you should never suggest such a thing while talking to your interviewer. Ensure them that you understand that your goal isn’t to turn students into professional musicians, or expert players. That’s for another institutions.

Your actual goal is simply to achieve progress with each student, and help them reach their goals when it comes to playing an instrument, bearing in mind their limitations and level of talent. But everyone can achieve some progress, and as long as they do not mind progressing slowly, and want to come to the lessons, you will try your best with them, regardless of their lack of talent. You can also say that ear for music can also be trained, at least to certain extent. Teaching such a student, you will include more exercises that help them to develop their ear for music.

 

What is your opinion on using online playing courses (such as Piano Marvel, for example) and apps in the lessons?

Many older teachers are strongly against it, maybe because they understand such tools and apps are actually taking their clients away… Of course, this differs from one instrument to another, but a good piano course, for example, costs anything between $10-$30 a month (which is incredibly cheap compared to paying for lessons), one can practice with it anytime, and it adds the gamification aspect to learning–which can do wonders especially for a young generation.

Without a doubt an online course has its limitation, and can never replace a skilled music teacher. But it is an important component of modern music learning, and you should ensure your interviewers that you embrace such technology, and are ready to apply it in your lessons. Because at the end of the day, what matters for you the most is the satisfaction and progress of your students. If an online course or a tool can help you with that, you definitely want to include it in your teaching…

 

Other questions you may face in your music teacher interview

  • What is your availability? Can you teach also in the evenings?
  • Imagine that one of your students is apparently bored, and attends the lessons only because their parents want to have a young musician at home. What will you do in this case?
  • How do you deal with disruptive students in your classes?
  • What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
  • What does music mean to you personally?
  • Who is your favorite composer and why?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Tell me about a time when you struggled to communicate something to someone you taught. How did you eventually get your message over?

 

Final thoughts

A good musician is not necessarily a good music teacher, and a great music teacher does not necessarily have to be a great musician. Keep it on your mind while interviewing for this job. Your goal isn’t to impress them with your piano, saxo, guitar, or violin playing skills. It is to demonstrate your passion for playing and teaching music, and an ability to motivate and lead your students in the lessons.

Do not forget about the practical part when preparing for this interview. You should polish your knowledge of the music theory, and also make sure you can play a couple of semi-difficult pieces from memory. Last but not least, try to learn something about their school before the start of your interview. The knowledge will help you connect with the principal (or whoever leads the interviews), which is important because personal preferences always play some role in the hiring process… I hope you will succeed and wish you best of luck!

Matthew

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Matthew Chulaw
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