There was a time when you could be a killer garage band guitar player and make a nice income teaching on the side based on your word of mouth reputation. Another side was the music store teacher who had sufficient credibility to hold their own among their peers and teach under the banner of their patron musical merchant.
Often times if you were lucky, you’d have a musical friend who could teach you a few chords, progressions and licks for free which would satisfy your musical curiosity or would set you off on a new path of musical discovery.
The market today has significantly changed, from the orchestral level down to basement musician. The demand on the dollar has put music on the back burner for the most part, and musicians, specifically guitarists have found a new venue for their art on the internet.
In the early days, you would have to learn your art starting from a method book, like Mel Bay, and then you would pick the rest up by ear. Then came along publications like Guitar Player magazine which featured articles exercises from the pros, idols and rock gods of the industry, as well as full transcriptions to the hottest works in standard notation and easy to fathom tablature.
So instead of struggling to figure out a song by ear, or paying for lessons to be shown how to play a song, a person could sit down and work through with easier to read notation and get it on their own.
Now today, you have rocking guitarists giving out the meat for free on YouTube with high quality video and production angles to show you every dynamic of a piece and in slow motion. For the classical player, you now have accomplished instructors and music majors who are giving the ‘secrets’ of the art away for free. Scores, methodologies, and detailed video tutorials. To make matters worse, you are getting the top of the industry master performers and educators who normally charge $100 per hour ( No Joke either !! ) that will give video lessons at a greatly reduced rate, less than the cost of lessons with the kid down the street.
So what does that mean for the local musicians who make their living off of teaching? What does this free and next to free lessons do for the established market? Well, it knocks it on its ear, that’s what it does. No longer can you expect to make a pocket full of money teaching to the absolute beginners, when they can get the same information for free. Still though, there needs to be an establishment of foundation in technique. This is where the fabric of teaching lies.
You must be able to instruct to a more advanced, or a more demanding student who will pay for your expertise as a musician. They will pay for the intricate details that will enable them to advance to the next level. Status quo isn’t good enough anymore. If the student isn’t interested in excellence or detail, they will get their information for free one way or another. There will be some will still prefer to pay to get the basics first hand, those who have no intention of really advancing at all, and they will be looking at music as a luxury or a hobby only.
As competition for every dollar in the musical market increases, people become more and more protective. Every new teacher added becomes a threat to the existing market dollar. This I believe is the wrong attitude to take. The ultimate goal is to expand the market, to open up music education as an option to more people.
How would this be done? First, I believe that it requires performance. More performances both of the amateur level and of the professional level. This needs to occur in a greater capacity than has been done in the past. One must look past the paying gigs in bars, hotels and corporate functions. While all these are great gigs, and pay well in some cases, they have a limited audience. Performances have to reach into the community, to reach those that otherwise wouldn’t be found in the bars or corporate functions. The performances have to be such that it will inspire lay person to consider music as an option and motivate the parent to inquire about the possibility of a musical education for their kids.
Secondly, a unification of the industry instead of fighting off the competition. This happens when a given store or institution won’t allow the advertising of other teachers on their bulletin boards because it competes with their market. I believe in an open industry where the potential client is given the best most complete information in regards to their options to suit their needs. For myself, I find many students are interested in other styles of music, I’m happy to refer them to other teachers. For other classical students, I refer them to all the options there are for them to pursue, with my own studio being one of those options. My studio may not be the best fit for them, but I certainly hope that they find my services a valuable resource in connecting them to the best solution for them. The ultimate goal is to get each potential student playing an instrument.
In the future, I hope we will see a more unified musical front, with workshops, festivals and summer camps of various styles supported by the diverse educators and institutions in the industry.
Commander Chris Hadfield has recently said in his promotion of music and music education, “Like space exploration, music is an amazing human adventure. Something that needs to be shared. It shouldn’t be kept to yourself.” I completely and whole heartedly share this philosophy. This is why for a second summer I will be offering free classical guitar lessons to promote classical guitar and share the musical adventure to those who would otherwise be left out!