A couple years ago, Practical Homeschooling reviewed the Learn at Home materials put out by Simply Music. Since that time, Simply Music has decided not to sell additional levels direct to the public, though the Level 1, Level 2, and Accompaniment programs are still available direct from the company. So if you proceed through these three programs independently and want more, what are you to do? You either find a Simply Music teacher, or you become one yourself.
Given the popularity of the Learn at Home materials, I wondered why the structure of the business has changed. Here are several good reasons:
- Using a teacher is a more effective way of teaching a larger percentage of people and getting the word out about how great the program is.
- Instead of the company answering questions from thousands of students, teachers can be well-trained to answer those questions.
- Students are more accountable to a teacher.
What is required to become a Simply Music teacher? The desire to
become one! Seriously, even if you have never had a music lesson
in your life, or if you are a 30-year veteran at teaching music,
you can learn this system. Teachers as young as 16 are teaching
the program to other students, and making a good income doing
The head of the company, Neil Moore, makes sure that his teachers
are trained very well, and provides a wide array of materials to
help you learn every process of the business. The initial
materials cost $2,000 (see the sidebar for what’s included) and
contain almost everything you need to get started, with the
exception of the student materials you will need for each
student. Additional support is available at the website if you
need it, and you can always call the company and speak to Neil if
you have any questions. In fact, in order to progress through
your initial training, you are required to call Neil after you
have listened to the “Getting Started” CDs.
Depending on your motivation and desire, you can become an
accredited teacher, then an associate teacher, and eventually a
senior associate teacher, which allows you discounts on the
materials you need to progress through the levels. Your
accreditation is dependent on moving at least five students
through a level. You don’t need to recruit other people to teach,
or sell anything, but each student does have to buy the student
level materials. A family with more than one student in your
program can share student materials except for the notes book. It
is recommended that each student have his or her own notes book.
And all materials are copyrighted, so you are not allowed to make
copies of anything that you have.
You become a licensed teacher after going through the teacher
training program. After that, each teacher training level that
you buy (Level 1 is included in your training materials) is $150.
This amount is discounted for associates and senior associates.
There are other fees as well. For each student you teach, you are
required to pay the company $2 per student per lesson for the
first 30 lessons taught each week, and $1 per student per lesson
for lesson 31 and up of that same week. So if you teach 32
lessons per week, you would pay the company $62 for each week.
These fees are due at the end of each month, and there is a form
for keeping track of these fees, called the Education Fee
Schedule. All fees are explained on the website and in the
materials you get.
There is also the cost of advertising, but this is up to each
teacher. Word of mouth seemed to be the best form of advertising,
although one teacher I talked to said she paid between $500–$1000
per year for advertising. Advertising materials are provided in
your training program, with additional materials on the
Are these fees reasonable? The teachers I interviewed said that
the fees are minimal compared to the amount of money they are
making teaching Simply Music. Hourly incomes range from $17 to
well over $100, depending on whether the lessons are private or
shared. Obviously, if you are teaching four or five students (or
more) in a shared lesson, you can make a lot more money. Shared
lessons are encouraged by the company. Location didn’t seem to be
a consideration when deciding on fees. Those in small towns were
able to make as much as those in larger cities. One thing Neil
encourages teachers to do when setting fees is to ask more than
teachers in the area who teach a traditional method. The student
receives a lot more in a fraction of the time, so this makes
Fees and income aside, what is it that makes Simply Music such a
great program, and worth teaching instead of traditional lessons?
Aside from the fact that you don’t need any training except what
Simply Music provides to become a piano teacher, your students
don’t learn to read music right away—they learn to play music
right away. This makes a huge difference in their motivation to
practice and keep up with the program. A variety of aids are used
to teach students the basics of playing, all of which are covered
in the training materials. Emphasis is not on technique, like
Suzuki, but daily practice is required. Lynn Frank, who taught
traditional lessons for 30 years before finding Simply Music,
switched all of her traditional students over, and they all loved
the program—even one who was hesitant about it at first.
Bernadette Ashby, who had no musical background before Simply
Music, has had several traditional students and says that the
switch to Simply Music was no problem for them, and that they
also love the program.
Not only is the teaching method different, but the way of
thinking about music is different as well. Bernadette Ashby even
goes so far as to say that the program is a “life-changing,
profound experience.” Lynn Frank says that with the program, you
are “learning a way to learn.” Karen Gibson, a three-year Simply
Music teacher with little previous musical background, had this
to say about the program:
“The look of amazement on the faces of new students as they leave
their first or second lesson playing a song with both hands is
typical. Yet in spite of the method’s seeming simplicity, it is
very thorough. It provides a deep and thorough knowledge not only
about playing piano, but also about music, and how it is put
together. The program also produces consistent results.”
The strengths of the program are many. It teaches students to
think musically. Students learn a wide variety of musical styles
instead of just classical. Students learn how to accompany. All
ages are able to play. Students have an easier time learning to
read music when they come to that. And it’s fun. The weaknesses?
One main weakness: that the method isn’t as well-known as it
should be, so people unfamiliar with it may be uncomfortable
about its unique approach. Your teacher training materials
include videos to show to prospective students so they can see
how the method is different from traditional methods, and why it
is so successful.
But how do you explain to a music teacher with a master’s degree
in music that anyone can learn to teach students to play piano by
using this method? They want proof, so lots of testimonials are
provided in the materials that you get. Ways to talk to people
about the program are also included in your training
Students who go through the program typically have a repertoire
of about 40-50 songs from a wide variety of genres that they can
play after about a year. This is without reading music. How many
traditional students do you know with that kind of repertoire?
Which brings up another possible weakness pointed out by Karen
Gibson. She said that because the program is so easy to learn,
students may feel like they need to be learning more than they
are. If they’ve never taken traditional lessons, they can
sometimes feel that knowing only 20 or so songs after six months
People of all ages can learn the program, so if you feel like you
missed out on your life calling as a concert pianist because you
didn’t start lessons at age 3, you can still learn to play piano.
The program has also been successful with students who have
disabilities. In fact, Neil started the program after teaching
this method to a blind child. Lynn Frank teaches an autistic
child, and says that learning this program has not only helped
him musically but has helped him with his reading skills. At the
website, there are more stories like this, including one about a
group of inner city kids who put on a concert after only eight
weeks into the program. Michelle Masoner, a Board of Education
member who attended the concert, said this about the Simply Music
program: “…they broke the mold and they set a new standard for
what could be accomplished in a very short time.” She also called
the performances by these children exceptional. A Casio
representative, who initially donated a few keyboards to the
school, was so impressed with the students at the concert that he
donated another 100 keyboards to the school.
The website has so much helpful information that it’s hard to
know where to begin. There are snippets of videos about the
program, company, and founder. There is also a teacher locator,
and information about the learn at home materials. Almost all of
the news clips about the program are at the site. And if you buy
the teacher training materials, you are given access to the
teacher intranet, which provides information on many topics, from
how to deal with a variety of students, to different ways of
advertising, to teaching strategies, to performances, and much
more. You can get answers to your questions by posting a question
on the message board, or look up answers that have already been
posted there via the search engine, which is very helpful. There
are also a number of coaching conversations that you can
download. These address such issues as how to know when you are
ready to teach, managing your time, assessing students with
previous experience, and more. In this area you will also find
support materials such as forms, schedules, manuals, more
advertisement layouts, and other material that will help you be
more efficient. It is recommended that you put your teacher
information here, along with a picture. Neil says in the training
materials that having a picture with your teacher information
seems to put people more at ease when deciding on a teacher.
Along with all of these helpful materials at the site is a place
where you can type in your students’ information so you don’t
have to worry about losing their phone numbers or when they
started playing, etc. You can enter the information as soon as
your student shows up for his or her first lesson. What a great
Since the program is such a radical departure from other ways of
teaching piano, you have a unique opportunity to teach this new
method. There are so few teachers in many sections of the
country, that those Simply Music teachers have a waiting list of
students. This is an incredible opportunity for the homeschool
parent or child looking for a home business. The initial
investment may seem high (the fee was recently doubled), but
compared to the cost of a degree in music, it is minimal, and
your personal and financial rewards could be multiplied many
What You Get and How to Get Started
What’s included in the Simply Music Teacher Training Program?
First, you get nine CDs. You start with the first two CDs
entitled “Getting Started.” This tells you which materials to
look at first, and how to implement the program. The other CDs
discuss how to set fees, how to advertise, how to discuss the
program with people, and how to answer any questions people may
You also receive three binders. The first binder contains
business support materials. These are a CD with photographs,
print ads, business cards, letterhead, and bumper stickers for
advertising. All these are in PDF format or Microsoft Word and
can be used on a Mac or PC. The text in the binder shows you
what’s included on the CD and how to use all of this material.
The second binder is the overview and guidelines, which you are
to look over next. It contains information about the company, the
fee structure, and of course guidelines for following the
The last binder is where you put the teacher notes for the actual
music program. The Level 1 notes are already included in this
binder. As you buy the other levels, they go into this binder.
There are currently nine levels, as well as several special
programs, such as accompaniment, and jazz.
Included with the training materials is your own set of Level 1
Student materials. This includes:
- A video for each segment of the Level 1 lessons which reviews what you did in each lesson
- A CD of the music so you can listen to what it should sound like
- The notes book, which contains information to help learn the songs, plus space for you and your student to make notes
- The music book, which contains the notes to the songs
- A paper keyboard for practicing while watching the video if there is not a keyboard or piano nearby
- A teacher evaluation form which your students will be required to fill out if you are to advance as a teacher
You are not allowed to copy these for each student. You must
purchase a set for each student, and then your students can
reimburse you for the cost of these items. If you are teaching
more than one student from the same family, you could let them
share all of the materials except the notes book, which each
student is required to have.
You also get a set of three videos, called the Teacher Training
Program, which shows you how to present each lesson of Level 1.
The videos are very thorough and repeat some of the information
on the CDs. If you are careful to follow the videos, along with
the student materials, you will have no problem implementing the
program with your students.
The last items you get are a set of four support videos. Two of
these videos are a workshop for teachers about teaching shared
lessons, which are lessons with more than one person in them. It
is very difficult to hear the questions the audience asked, but
still had some useful information on them. The other two videos
are to use to share the Simply Music program with others. Since
the program may be new to people in your area, these videos make
it really easy to show how the program works and why it is so