Ten minutes with… Associations across Australia

Carly McDonald

Elissa Higgins, Rita Crews, Margaret Fitzgerald, and Marie Cull

Music Teachers’ Associations are a valuable place to source professional development, access benefits for students and create connections in the industry. We’ve asked presidents of the Associations in Australia about how they came to be a part of their Association and how their organisations support piano teachers.

How did you become aware of your local MTA and why did you become a member?

Of the MTA presidents who were interviewed, vast majority were made aware of their local MTA by a teacher who was already a member. Through meeting these other teachers, and talking about the industry and the benefits of their Association, they were inspired to join.

Elissa Higgins, President of the Queensland Music Teachers’ Association (QMTA), was invited to become a member when she achieved her Associate Teacher of Music Australia (ATMusA) with the AMEB.

Gaining more knowledge and connecting with other teachers was Rita Crews’ motivation for joining MTA of NSW in 1978. Attending the professional development with the Association allowed her to improve her teaching skills and meet colleagues in the industry.

For Margaret Fitzgerald, President of the QMTA Townsville and District Branch, having the accreditation of her MTA as a professional teacher was the driving motivation for her to join in 1993. Being able to keep up to date with the latest pedagogical matters, new repertoire and changes in the industry were also helpful benefits.

However, not everyone has had a local MTA available to join. Marie Cull, President of the ACT Keyboard Association, was part of the founding group to create the Association with Arnan Wiesel in 2013.

What changes have you seen in the Instrumental Tuition industry?

Elissa Higgins best captured the changes, citing the ‘explosion of the digital age’ as the greatest change in the industry in recent times.

The digital age has brought with it backing CDs, Mp3s, downloads and collaboration opportunities, not to mention teaching online! We are lucky enough to have resources at our fingertips and a more diverse range of examination syllabi for our students to access.

The way we communicate with parents has also changed and the way we can be found as a teacher is more diverse than it has ever been.

The changing learning style of students and the way they question things was Marie Cull’s highlighted change in the industry, saying that, “parenting and teaching is different to many years ago, and as Instrumental Teachers we need to work more flexibly and collaboratively with each student.” Students are also more likely to bring music into their lesson or request certain pieces they have heard.

Students now participate in multiple extra-curricular activities and this impacts the time and focus that is given to piano practice. In past generations this was less of an issue for teachers to navigate. Now, being able to cover an engaging program that is rich with a pedagogically sound material, in the amount of time a student has to practice each week can be challenging!

Rita Crews outlined the changing standard for professionalism in the industry. While parents are seeking out qualified and skilled private teachers, there is yet to be any government regulation to stop unqualified people entering the industry. This changing space will be an interesting area to watch unfold in the coming years.

Why should piano teachers become a member of their local MTA? What benefits are there?

Each Association offers a range of events and opportunities for teachers, including events aimed towards student performance and awards, through to teacher professional development and conferences. Becoming a member means you get direct access to all of the information about upcoming events near you. MTASA recently introduced a Music Teachers’ Expo, combining professional development with Samantha Coates, industry trade stalls, and quality live performances for their members. Opportunities like this allow teachers to catch up, learn new things, know about changes in the industry and to recharge their own teaching batteries!

By joining their local MTA, Teachers not only benefit from access to ongoing professional development, they also have accreditation as a member of their association. MTA’s around the country have recently introduced post-nominals for their members. When marketing their studio, it is a standard that provides a high-level of professionalism sought by our students.

Associations also provide their members with regular publications that keep their members up to date with events, changes in the industry, and other news.

In some associations (like VMTA), members are able to have the use of a facility or instrument at a special price.

One of the greatest benefits of becoming a member of your local Association is the opportunity to network and connect with other teachers, and gain a resource of knowledge, experience, and ongoing opportunity. Without these organisations, there is nowhere to collectively improve our industry. Joining your Association and getting involved gives you the chance to meet teachers just like you, no matter what stage of teaching you’re in, and to further yourself and your profession.

Finally, what advice would you give to a teachers just starting out?

“We all have to start somewhere; mistakes are inevitable! Never be afraid to ask for help and always be learning so you’ll continue to grow,” shared Elissa Higgins. Wise words, which were broadly echoed by all of the interviewees.

If you’re just starting out, join your local Association and seek out mentoring and continued professional development. At Association social functions ask questions of experienced teachers — they too were once just starting out, and they are happy to chat about it. Marie Cull reminded us that experienced teachers often like to find out about the latest developments in piano teaching from the younger generation too, so it goes both ways!

Join your local Association:

ACT Keyboard Association: actka.org
MTA NSW: musicnsw.com.au
MTA QLD: qmta.org.au
MTA SA: mtasa.com.au
MTA TAS: tmta.com.au
MTA VIC: vmta.org.au
MTA WA: musicteacherswa.org.au
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