In the Spotlight:
What We Can Learn from the 2020 MTNA Member Survey

Beth Gigante Klingenstein, NCTM

MTNA Business Digest, Volume 2, Issue 4

July 2023

Having conducted surveys for decades, I am a huge believer in their value. When the MTNA 2020 Member Survey results first came out, a number of findings were of particular interest to me; other items might speak most to you. What we each gain from the survey and how we use the results is an entirely personal choice, but I feel confident that all MTNA members can discover something that will better inform their individual professional choices and studio practices.

Why does MTNA conduct member surveys? There are a few reasons. One is to gather data about the approaches members have regarding issues such as rates, make-up lessons, billing, marketing, insurance, zoning laws, etc. and to make this aggregate data available to members. Another is to demonstrate trends within our profession such as technology uses, types of repertoire taught, group vs. private lessons, online vs. face-to-face lessons, additional services offered, and types of instruments used. And the final reason is to offer MTNA an opportunity for self-reflection. How satisfied are our members? How are our services, programs, and benefits received? What are the needs and priorities of our members? What are the demographics of our members and how do we attract a diverse group that includes varied ages, ethnicities, and instruments taught?

MTNA did member surveys in 2005 and 2020 (and has plans to do more in the future) as a tool for identifying changes and trends. One unique feature of the 2020 survey was its organization of questions into three tracks: Independent Music Teachers, Higher Education Teachers, and Teaching Staff (from music schools, academies, non-profits, etc.). This approach allowed for more relevant information for those responding in each track. Another change from 2005 was the many questions related to teaching with technology due to the impact of COVID-19.

If you have yet to review the MTNA 2020 Member Survey results, they are offered in three forms: Summary Version (12 pages); Condensed Version (56 pages); and Full Version (128 pages). All three have value and each reader can answer the following questions individually: What results are most interesting to you? What version might offer the most valuable picture of the teaching options available to you? One benefit of a survey is that it offers data (not just opinions), so what data might be of special help to you as you navigate professional challenges?

Would you benefit from knowing any of the following?

  • the varied technology options teachers now explore (especially after COVID-19)
  • the choices for structuring group lesson
  • the services offered to students outside of lessons
  • the number of teachers with a wait list
  • the educational background of MTNA members
  • the most widely used make-up policy options
  • some options for how to schedule make-ups
  • the average rate for 60-minute lessons within MTNA as well as by state
  • the most popular studio documents used
  • the most common marketing techniques including online options
  • multiple ways to bill for books/supplies/fees
  • the average size of studios
  • the most common age groups taught
  • the typical length of lessons taught
  • options for offering reduced rates
  • different types of business expenses/deductions
  • information related to health and liability insurance

Would you be proud of the technology tools you learned to use during COVID-19, such as creating an online tutorial, using Zoom, sending videos to students, recording recitals, etc.? Would you be surprised to realize you aren’t sure if your business is an LLC or a sole proprietorship? Or perhaps the survey would point out that there may be local zoning laws of which you are unaware.

Surveys can highlight trends, such as types of repertoire being taught or the percentage of students currently using digital instruments for practice. Trends can also be tracked over the years by using repeat surveys. The value of gathering data through time is well represented in the responses to the question, “What will be most important to music teachers in the next few years?”:

  • Top three in 2005: maintaining student interest, teacher education maintenance, studio growth
  • Top three in 2020: overscheduled students, student motivation, public health

Each person’s take-away from survey results will be different. Due to my long-time interest in the business issues of the independent teacher (and the fact that this column is appearing in the MTNA Business Digest), I would like to share a few results from the 2020 Member Survey that I personally found most interesting. The items in red are my own personal thoughts/opinions and reflect my take-away—not MTNA’s. How would you view the following information?

  • The average 60-minute rate for MTNA members in the 2019–2020 academic year was $56.58.
  • The average 60-minute rate for MTNA members in the 2005 MTNA member survey was $43. But as the 2020 survey points out, when that figure is adjusted to 2020 dollars it is $56.98, basically the same rate as in 2005!
    • (A Music Teachers Industry Report for 2020 done by Colourful Keys listed the Global average as $42.12 an hour and the U.S. average as $45.99. According to these two surveys, the average hourly rate for MTNA members is higher than the average U.S. rate.
  • 11.4% of respondents reported they raised rates annually, 28.5% raised them every 2 years, and 43.6% raised them every 3–5 years. Roughly 1 in 6 (16.4%) never raise their rates. Personally, it surprised me that 60% of respondents raised rates every 3-5 years or never.
  • In the area of gross annual income for the 2019 –2020 academic year, 51.78% of respondents reported income under $25,000. Only about 2% were over $101,000. It might be interesting to visit the Department of Labor website for Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics and compare MTNA annual income with other professions. I would ask, why are (highly skilled, dedicated, educated, hardworking) music teachers so far behind?
  • One interesting (but not surprising) take-away is the impact the size of our community has on our income. The average per-hour fee for communities of 10,000 or less was about $47 while the average for communities of over one million was $70. So, as they say… “location, location, location…”
  • In the 2020 survey, two thirds of IMTs consider themselves part-time (PT) and only one third saw themselves as full-time (FT). One thing I found interesting is that the group that considers themselves PT sometimes taught more than those who considered themselves FT. Does this disparity in how we perceive ourselves have an impact on our income? If we view ourselves as PT, does that make a lower salary more acceptable? When considering ourselves as PT, are we remembering to factor in all the time we spend on professional duties in addition to teaching the actual lessons?
  • In the area of community engagement, over 75% of respondents said they were not aware of the process by which their state legislators fund the arts. Having been director of my state’s arts council and presented the arts budget to my state legislators, I can’t tell you how important I feel it is for us to be engaged with this process—on the local and state levels!
  • Please remember, the comments in red are just my thoughts. But they are powerful thoughts; the survey gave me much to contemplate. Every member is free to use the survey results however they see fit and to experience their own powerful reactions. I hope you will watch for future surveys from MTNA and take the time to participate. As the 2020 survey demonstrates, your responses are important for providing accurate and comprehensive results that benefit us all.

    Thank you, MTNA for organizing and conducting the 2020 survey and thank you to the members who took the time to complete it.

    Beth Klingenstein


    Beth Gigante Klingenstein, NCTM, is a nationally renowned author and presenter. Recently retired from a career dedicated to teaching and arts administration, she continues to embrace her life-long interest in the business side of teaching.



    Return to General Return to Business Resources