Professional Development, Questions

Forum Q&A | Being A Member of MTNA or Other Professional Organizations

Our last Forum Q&A from two weeks ago (due to the conference) was all about dealing with rhythmic “simplification” of familiar tunes with students.  If you haven’t read all the great responses yet, be sure to do so by clicking here!  As always, it’s never to late to contribute your own thoughts if you haven’t already.

This week, I’d like to start a discussion about professional organizations (such as MTNA for the U.S. — international teachers, please tell us about what your country offers!).

Are you a member of a professional organization?  If so, for how long have you been a member?  Is it worth it?  What is your favorite thing about being a member of MTNA or any other professional music teachers association?  What other benefits can you list?  Why do you consider it important to be a member?

If you are not currently a member of a professional organization, would you like to be in the future?  What questions do you have about becoming a member?

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13 thoughts on “Forum Q&A | Being A Member of MTNA or Other Professional Organizations”

  1. I was a member of MTNA for one year when I was also teaching part time in a public school. I realized after I joined that all meetings and conferences would require me taking time off from the school I taught at – which when you get only 5 personal days and have to write plans for a sub, is rather difficult to do. That means my dues paid for a magazine subscription for the year and I wasn’t able to get anything else out of being a member. I wish I had benefits to list, but I never had a chance to see them!

  2. I’m a piano teacher based in London, UK. I belong to EPTA (European Piano Teachers’ Association), a professional body which promotes excellence in teaching. As a member, I receive a quarterly magazine and have a listing in the EPTA teachers’ register and my own page on the EPTA website. I feel my membership gives me a degree of professional integrity/authority, and it’s good to feel part of a “club” of piano teachers and to connect to others to exchange ideas. On a practical level, EPTA offers personal indemnity insurance as part of the membership subs, which offers me some protection if a student were to have an accident in my home.

  3. I have been a member of the MTNA on and off for over thirty years. I have also written articles for their magazine. The MTNA has never been a strong presence on Long Island and as a result I found myself gaining little from associating with the organization and I found their national convention too commercial. Their NY convention is always 800 miles away it seems. Many of the events are often superficial or all about buying their book. I have more of a connection to our Suffolk Piano teachers foundation which seems to connect local pianists to each other as well as their students. They are a nice group I finally feel a connection to a group of musicians.

  4. I’ve been to several MTNA conferences, and an organization simply cannot put on a conference at all unless it is somehow paid for. Collecting the registration fee from attending members doesn’t quite cut it. A large part of how it’s paid for is for is with advertising, which takes many forms (sheet music companies giving a session or two each day, the exhibitor hall full of people trying to get their products and services noticed, etc.). I always come home with 50 pounds of free sheet music – I can’t complain about that! I end up keeping some of it and giving other music away to students (who then become that much more willing to sponsor my next conference!).

    But most membership benefits are derived from the local level. The national conference and American Music Teacher are hardly the sole benefits of membership in a music teachers association. In my local association, there is a syllabus we use for the annual youth festival each year that is a very powerful teaching tool for teachers, even if they don’t participate in the festival. The festival itself pushes students – and teachers – to grow, because their students are adjudicated. (I can’t emphasize this point enough! The growth teachers experience from having their students adjudicated is significant!) There is a Christmas Play-a-Thon for students to play music in a mall as a fundraiser, and there is a competition each year as well. There are teacher discussion groups held every 1-2 months so that teachers can talk about various policy/pedagogical issues (or just vent about certain things). The local association also puts on a 3 or 4 hour lecture and/or masterclass with a guest speaker they pay, once every year or two. There are extra recitals held for teachers to put their students in for any reason (to prepare for another event, or perhaps because the teacher doesn’t have enough students for a recital of their own).

    And of course at the state level, there is a state conference. All states have them, and usually their location is rotated each year. State conferences are always cheaper, closer, and last fewer days than national conferences – one can usually attend a weekend state conference and not miss any work during the week. Many who attend state conferences say that it’s not only about the seminars/masterclasses/competitions which are good to watch, but also about connecting with other teachers in your community and around the state.

    Also, national certification is offered to members (, and there are tons of benefits to this, including the fact that you become listed on the website I just mentioned when people search for a teacher. I have the NCTM logo on all my recital programs and newsletters, and my website advertises my certification. I have had several new students (parents) comment that reading what I wrote about my certification on my website was one of the factors that went into their decision to go with me as a teacher. People automatically trust someone who feels strongly about the importance of standards in teaching (so much so that they’re willing to conform to MTNA’s standards to prove it).

    I would be devastated if I couldn’t plug into some kind of support system for teaching. But one must actively seek out the benefits. One has to try out all the local events to get a feel for the true benefit of MTA membership. Teachers I had when I was younger were plugged into the same system, and my favorite event each year was the youth festival. It caused me to practice far more during the year, imagining myself getting that “Superior” rating and another trophy to add to my top bookshelf. For that I will be always grateful and will always seek for my own students to benefit from my MTA involvement the same way I did. And if I find myself moving someday to an area that doesn’t have a very good MTA, I will make it a better MTA by filling the gap that I feel equipped to fill.

  5. I am not currently a member of any professional organization. Lately, I’ve wondered what they were all about. I have no idea where to look, or what the benefits are. I would like to learn more about them & all that they offer. But the main thing that holds me back from further investigation is the question I have: Does a piano teacher have to have a degree in Music and/or Piano Pedagogy? I LOVE teaching piano, yet I do not have a degree. I would like to be part of an organization to enrich my teaching abilities and pass on the qualities to my students. I’m always trying to find new ways to teach my students in engaging ways. I’m sure being a member of a professional organization would help me in that area.

    1. Tifany! You are not alone — I think there are many teachers out there who would be interested in joining an organization such as MTNA, but aren’t sure if they can or how to do so. You do NOT have to have a music degree to join. All those reasons you stated are excellent reasons to join — wanting to improve your abilities, increase your effectiveness as a teacher, etc. MTNA works hard to offer a support system for teachers as well as opportunities for professional development. You can visit out to view the membership application (although you’ll probably want to join in July, when the new year starts). I would also recommend doing some googling to find the websites for both your state MTA and your local chapter (sometimes it’s a district of 2-3 counties, and other times it’s a city center). Email each association and ask for more information about joining.

      Being a member of MTNA, your state MTA, and your local chapter can be expensive (not to mention going to conferences), but remember that if a teacher is actively pursuing professional development, they can and should charge enough to cover these kinds of expenses. For attending conferences, another method is the sponsorship method that Chad mentioned in his comment. Students benefit when you improve as a teacher, and I do think it’s important that teachers charge what they are worth!

  6. Think of MTAs like hospitals. You don’t go to a hospital because you’re perfectly healthy – you go to get better! So quite the opposite: not having a music degree would be all the more reason to join.

  7. My top 4 list:

    1. CONFERENCES — a chance to connect with other teachers across the state and/or country, become familiar with new teaching materials, and hear excellent sessions on a variety of topics — what more could you want?!
    2. LOCAL CHAPTERS — a way to meet up with other teachers in your area and hear guest speakers on a variety of topics. These chapters usually sponsor both competitive and non-competitive events for students. They sometimes even have referral programs if you are looking for more students.
    3. AMT MAGAZINE — The American Music Teacher magazine is filled with interesting articles. I always find new ideas to try in my studio.
    4. CERTIFICATION — My goal is to become a NCTM (Nationally Certified Teacher of Music) within the next 2 years or so. It’s a great way to prove your professionalism and is a great learning experience! I’m sure I’ll be blogging more about this once I start the process.

    Joining forces as teachers allows us to achieve things we cannot do alone. If you aren’t a member of MTNA, consider it. Read about the association here. Have more questions? Feel free to send me an email! admin[at] =D

    I feel like such a piano teacher geek admitting my excitement for all the benefits of being an MTNA member…haha!

  8. I have tried being a member a couple of times and found no advantage in it. I don’t do competitions with my students very often and I found no connection with any of the teachers who were a part of it in my area. The magazine was somewhat interesting as was the articles but in general, I found my teacher training in other areas. It just wasn’t worth the money for the fees.

    1. Sorry to hear that, Teresa! I find the fees very reasonable; in fact, I feel really happy to be able to support a non-profit that exists to advocate for and further our profession. I have gained so much by attending meetings and serving for my local and state music teachers organizations — friendships, non-competitive performance opportunities for my students, professional development, and more. Sorry to hear this wasn’t your experience!

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