But are they really, expensive?

Learn. play. appreciate

“How much is it?” This is usually the first question and how most conversations begin with a prospective adult student or parent. Often, it’s the only question. Upon the answer, the person on the other end either just hangs up the phone or immediately asks for a discount.


Nobody asks (anymore) about what we do and who we are. It’s just “how much?”, “do I have to keep a commitment?” and “do I have to sign anything to start?”. None of this makes us feel too great, or motivated to continue doing this.


Let’s not forget that if we don’t have Tuesdays at 6:45 pm available with a female teacher, who is young and energetic, that will keep the student engaged and loving music all the time, for every second of every class, then the parent does not enroll. Many parents want this silly guarantee before signing up, and I’m not going to give it. Learning the musical arts is a process. This is not a video game, app, or trampoline park.


We get it. Everything costs more now. For us too. We do not have some magic wand where our costs to operate and live are less than yours.


Because most people are not reading anything thoroughly anymore either, this post or blog (or whatever this is called nowadays) is really for me. But hopefully, this can educate you on the realities of attending a music school with degreed and dedicated teachers.


#1 Reason Why Music Lessons are Expensive
It’s one-to-one instruction. The student is attending the music lesson or class with a teacher who is experienced, degreed, and is dedicated to teaching the musical arts. Music Notes Academy is not “students teaching students” like many music schools like to hide. Some schools promote this, and parents think this is cute because the cost for them to attend is lower. Music Notes Academy teachers are paid well, and as much as tuition will allow for, based upon our operating expenses, that is commensurate with their teaching experience, degrees, and teaching schedules.  

#2 Reason Why Music Lessons are Expensive
Teachers are employees. Yes, our dedicated teachers are employees, just like you (if you work). This means there are unavoidable costs, (that have continually risen and continue to rise) such as gross payrolls, employer payroll taxes, required insurances, workers’ compensation, payroll processing, required benefits such as NJ Paid Sick Leave, and optional employer-matched retirement plans (for teachers who want to participate in Music Notes Academy-offered retirement plans). Yes, we offer and contribute to our teacher’s retirement. Because we see value in every teacher we hire and bring on staff. We want our teachers to feel valued, just like we want you to see the value in what we are doing here.


Many music schools that have low prices are likely paying their teachers in cash or quietly misclassifying their teachers as 1099 or independent contractors. This has been illegal in NJ for many years and hurts legitimate establishments. For those of you in disbelief, simply visit NJ’s Labor Department website or visit us, and we’ll show you the NJ Employment Laws for 2024.
 
These are the two most important factors as to why tuition is what it is here. This is what we do for a living. This is not our side hustle. We have the same overhead as any other establishment from rent and utilities down to classroom supplies, piano tunings, equipment maintenance, upgrades, and more.


Most people want a low price, or the lowest price they can find without considering the value. What is the value of one music school or another music school? What will attending this music school entail? People don’t ask these kinds of questions anymore. But parents used to. We get it. Everything is more expensive now and everyone wants a discount. People want to feel they got some special price or some unique accommodation.

Here is a breakdown of our tuition since the start of COVID-19:

  • 30 minutes of private instruction increased by 1% from 12/2021 through 12/2023
  • 45 minutes of private instruction increased by 3.5% per school year from 9/2020 through 12/2023
  • 60 minutes of private instruction increased by 1.98% per school year between 12/2020 and 12/2023

Call me crazy, but the average tuition increase per school year, since COVID-19 is 2.16%. I think this is pretty good considering all the challenges since COVID-19 and the overall rising costs to operate, never mind and disregarding our current rapid inflation.


Because our tuition has remained nearly the same since COVID-19 (and we would like to raise tuition, but understand the current realities of life in New Jersey), we had to add a 4.5% fee for adult students and parents to use their credit cards this school year. The costs to offer and process credit cards began increasing in May of 2023. You likely see these added fees everywhere now, especially in smaller establishments where every dollar means something and is crucial. Some parents went ballistic, some understood and many opted to continue paying with cash or check, which we offered at the announcement of this unfortunate added fee.

Some Math

  • 45 minutes of private instruction (with a degreed music teacher in a beautiful building with spacious classrooms, and acoustic and baby-grand pianos, real professional-grade drum sets, and more) is $272 per month or $68 per class.
  • 4.5% added is an additional $12.24, equaling $284.24.
    $12.72 divided by 4 classes for the month is $3.06 per class.
  • The average cost of a plain slice of 🍕 in New Jersey is $3 (according to Google, searching “average cost of a plain slice of pizza in New Jersey” using Mozilla in East Brunswick, NJ)

What this tells us, is that we – degreed, dedicated teachers of the musical arts – are not worth a plain slice per class (or half a plain pie per month) to many of our enrolled adult students and parents.

This is disheartening. If we did raise tuition by 3% or 4%, many parents and adult students would not continue with us. This added credit card fee, which we tried to avoid, confirmed the struggles people are having with paying even just a little more, or – seeing the value in paying a little more for a music education.

We hope you can see – or find – the value in a comprehensive music education, where degreed professionals who reside in your local communities are dedicating their efforts to teaching the musical arts to students of all ages, ability levels, and interests.

Nobody is getting rich here teaching music. We often feel we are giving more than we are receiving back, in the form of compensation and just simple appreciation. We love what we do. We hope you can see the value in what we are doing.

 

 

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