1. A teacher leaves a community to serve a one-year term at a university. At the conclusion of the contract, he/she returns to their previous musical community, calls up his/her old students, offers them a discount on what their current teachers are charging them, and rebuilds his/her teaching practice.
2. A teacher gives a workshop for a local registered music teachers' association. One of the performers in particular plays at an exceptional level. At the conclusion of the class, the teacher has a word with the performer's parents, expressing concern about the student's current teacher, and offers a place in his/her own studio in order to correct certain issues in the student's playing. The parents, honored to have their child offered a place in such a prestigious studio, then change to the new teacher.
3. A Sessional faculty member has an exceptional freshman student. At the conclusion of the student's freshman year, an Assistant Professor in the same department has a word with an administrator, and the student is then placed in the Assistant Professor's studio for their sophomore year.
Many of you with experience in the music teaching field may agree that these types of situations happen all the time.
These types of actions are also highly unethical.
From MTNA's Code of Ethics under the sub-heading of Commitment to Colleagues:
- The teacher shall respect the integrity of other teachers' studios and shall not actively recruit students from another studio.
- The teacher shall participate in the student's change of teachers with as much communication as possible between parties, while being sensitive to the privacy rights of the student and families.
- Members will not, either by inducements, innuendoes, or other acts, proselytize students of other teachers.
But let's face it, we live in an educational system that values excellence and achievement above all else, and these aggressive recruiting practices are what can help build a studio to a high level. On the other hand, building a studio at the expense of other teachers left in one's wake can cause long-standing resentments in the profession and is clearly unethical as set out in the membership guidelines of educational organizations.
How do you feel about poaching practices by music teachers? Should teachers be held to the highest levels of professionalism towards their colleagues or is this an old-school gentleman's code to be forgotten in the high-stakes world of music education?
Opinions both for and against are welcome, and I'll play the devil's advocate wherever possible. Comments on the Collaborative Piano Blog are always moderated, and allegations towards specific teachers and institutions will be ruthlessly deleted. On the other hand, if you fear for your reputation in talking about this issue, feel free to comment anonymously.