Most people who become proficient musicians do so only with the assistance of teachers. Although many teachers work with students within the formal setting of a school or music studio, other people also serve in teaching roles for aspiring musicians. For example, parents supervise their children's home practicing, musical peers provide challenges and motivation, and professional musicians act as role models. Parents, peers, and performers all may possess one or two qualities that foster music learning in those they come in contact with, but music teachers by trade must have many of these qualities to be effective.
As seen in the previous chapter, many skills that are acquired by performing musicians have little to do with music making. But often these skills distinguish the most successful performers from the lesser ones. In the same way, great music teachers possess specialized skills, which are largely distinct from those of the performer. Prospective teachers usually receive professional training in education and psychology as a basis for their teaching skills. Research contradicts the notion that a musician who struggles in a performing career or who burns out on performance can successfully “fall back” on teaching (i.e., “Those who can, do; those who can't, teach”).
Over the course of their careers, most musicians find themselves occupying the role of teacher—successful or not—at some time or another. Even those who are never employed on a full-time basis as instructors still encounter many situations in which they are asked to explain musical concepts and techniques or demonstrate their musicianship for the benefit of others. There are many factors that influence how effective people's instructional efforts will be, including the time they allocate to teaching, their verbal and nonverbal behaviors, the type of music activities they engage their students in, and measures they take to specifically improve their teaching (Duke, 2000).