#PeopleStories: The Music Teacher

To excel in the music industry, you not only have to be musically inclined - you need hours of practise to maintain a constant learning curve. coursesmalaysia caught up with Charlotte Tan, a music teacher from the Praise House of Music to find out more.
Charlotte Tan
Piano Teacher at Praise House of Music

Why did you choose this course of study?

When I was in high school, I attended a holiday course called The Great Music Experience. This introduced me to the possibilities of a future in music. I also remember a trip we took to a famous recording studio to observe a recording session. The whole process of audio recording intrigued me and that's when I wanted to learn more about music production.

What did you enjoy at college?

During the first 2 years, I enjoyed the music classes on harmony, ear training, and ensembles. During my 3rd year, as we started going into our majors, I was very excited to learn about recording and mixing, both in the analogue and digital domain. Classes like synthesis production and A/V post production were also my favourites because there was always room for creativity.

How has college changed you?

I've gained confidence in my piano performance since I entered college. it's not to say I Don't get stage fright anymore (I still do!) but I Don't go on stage expecting the worst to happen. I've also learned to be receptive to advice from lecturers and contributions from group members.

Do you think that it is important to have qualifications in the music industry?

Although it may not be necessary, qualifications will increase your credibility. Lectures and such, help reinforce your existing knowledge. Learning about music history will also give you a better understanding of the music industry in Malaysia. 

Why the switch from being an audio engineering graduate to a music teacher?

After completing my internship at a studio, I discovered that being a sound engineer was not what I wanted for a career. Instead, I chose to go into teaching because that's where my true passion lies. I've always loved music and I started learning to play the piano when I was about 4 years old.

Based on that experience, I want to enable children, as well as adults who are interested in music, to have that sense of enjoyment that comes with playing music. This is my first job and I took it on before graduation.

What do you do on the job?

I work for a music school that offers piano classes from beginner's level right up to diploma. We teach various genres of music, and students can choose to play for personal enjoyment or enrol for exams and get certificates for every level they pass,

Which part of the job do you enjoy most?

The best part about my job is that I get to meet students from different backgrounds and every lesson brings a new experience. Sometimes I meet students who are talented and can learn very quickly and other times, I meet students who are very keen to learn but can't absorb the lessons well. All cases motivate me to devise lesson plans that will suit each individual's needs.

And the worst part?

Students misbehaving or not doing their homework or not practising. 

Encountering difficult students and such, what would you say was your biggest achievement as a teacher? 

My biggest achievement or rather, a joint achievement for my boss and me, was a 10-year-old boy in our school. He was on the verge of giving up piano classes last year because he really hated them. Since his exam fees had been paid, we persuaded him to stay on at least until the exam was over. It was a horrible time as he came for lessons every week unwillingly. After much pushing, he was finally able to play the pieces and pass the exam well. He still comes for classes, but willingly now!

Have professional qualifications helped you in your career?

Having a Diploma in Piano Performance does help because it gives parents and students more confidence that they are in good hands. 

How do you feel about the prospects of this career?

As a piano teacher, working hours are flexible, and the environment is fairly pleasant except when exam time nears! Sometimes, it takes creative thinking to come up with lesson plans that will help students learn the way they know how to, and not the way you are accustomed to. Overall, students are people too, so having good people skills and understanding where they are coming from will help greatly when it comes to conveying new ideas to them.