NCKP 2011 | (4) Community Music Schools, by Melissa Falb

In continuation of my notes from the pre-conference track “Students & Young Professionals:”

Community Music Schools: Finding Your Niche in a Vibrant Arts Community, by Melissa Falb. W @ 4:30pm.

Melissa Falb is a piano instructor and Director of Group Instruction at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis.  After graduation, students with an interest in private teaching have two options: opening a private studio, or working at a community music school (CMS).  Melissa today discussed the many benefits of working at a CMS.

Sometimes people think CMS’s are just for elite, child prodigies or only for classical music study.  The reality is that most CMS’s teach many genres and offer a variety of programs for many ages and levels (including rock, jazz, early childhood music classes, music therapy classes, etc.).

There are two common models for CMS’s:

  1. A prep department – a CMS affiliated with a college or university.
  2. A non-profit (501c3).

Melissa then talked about her experience with the MacPhail Center for Music.  McPhail was begun in 1907 and currently has 170 teaching artists and over 8400 students.  They have a large, beautiful building.  

There are many advantages of working at a CMS.

  • Colleagues
  • Resources & support — performance space, staff accompanists, financial aid, registration, access to technology, professional development opportunities, opportunities for students, and marketing, HR, IT departments.
  • Opportunities in collaboration
  • Innovative programming — MacPhail, for example, offers classes for older adults, online skype lessons, video game composition classes, hip hop, early childhood music classes, and much more.

Then Melissa offered some interview tips:

  • Many CMS jobs are listed at
  • Research the job position: know the locations for the CMS, the scope, how many faculty/staff, student opportunities, job description, etc.
  • Highlight your teaching experience FIRST on your resume.
  • In the cover letter, show your age speciality, whether you prefer/have experience with private or group lessons, and match your strengths with the job description and personality of the school.
And here’s a list of what CMS’s look for in a new hire:
  • Number of years of experience
  • They often prefer people with pedagogy degrees over performance degrees, partly because they are much more rare.
  • Group teaching experience with children is also somewhat rare, but is preferable.
  • Wide teaching range from beginner to advanced.
  • Try to show on your resume whether you are a specialist or a generalist.  Are your qualifications and experience in a variety of teaching age/settings, or are you only qualified for limited settings?  CMS’s prefer to hire generalists. If you don’t have experience in something, you can always talk about how excited you are to learn in during your interview!
  • They like to see that you use technology in your studio.
  • They also like to see that you perhaps teach instruments or classes other than piano.

If during your interview you are asked to do some live, sample teaching during your interview, here are a few more tips for that:

  • We aware of the clock.  Respect everyone’s time, and show that you can begin and end on time for private lessons too.
  • Make a noticeable change in the student’s playing, and move on.  Don’t linger and dwell, and don’t try to fix every little thing in the piece.
  • In there is wrong rhythm, always address it first, and then interpretation is also a good and safe topic.  Commenting on wrong notes doesn’t show off your teaching.
Melissa was a very engaging speaker with a lot of practical information to share!  🙂

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