MTNA: Helping to Raise the Level of Music Teaching Nationwide

Make Music Day

Interview with Dr Gary L. Ingle, Executive Director and CEO of Music Teachers National Association, conducted by the Make Music Alliance in May 2022

How did the organization start?

The MTNA was started in 1876; there was a group of very important music teachers, one of whom was Theodore Presser, who later started the publishing company, and the started with about 60 teachers from around the country and established this organization.  

What was the impetus for founding the MTNA?

 There was great concern across the country about the quality of music teaching; there were a lot of individuals who were teaching music who had very little training, very little skills, but it was one of those things that anyone could do if they play the piano or feel like they could sing, they could give lessons. So, there developed this strong sense that the music teaching profession needed to increase its professionalism and the quality of the teaching, so they organize MTNA and started annual conferences in order for the leaders in music teaching to come together and exchange ideas. About ten years after it was formed, the decision was made to establish the American Conservatory of Music, which was our first certification program. As more and more teachers joined, groups of teachers started their own organizations for specific instruments, for example the American String Teachers Association came from MTNA, as did NAFME itself

Can you tell me about your certification?

The MTNA certification program has gone through many different versions over these hundred and thirty some years, and at times there have been emphases within the individual state associations to create their own state certification program. Most if not all of the states have moved away from individual state certification, to everyone getting their national certification; with the mobility of people nowadays, moving from place to place, it makes even more sense to be nationally certified, rather than state to state. The certification program is to designed provide an opportunity for a candidate to demonstrate to an outside group of specialist evaluators that they have the knowledge and the ability to teach their instrument in a professional, competent manner. Each candidate for certification is required to do a variety of projects which are evaluated by the certification commissioners, to determine if they possess the minimum qualifications to be a good music teacher. Those projects will cover things like developing a philosophy of music, demonstrating knowledge of musical analysis in a way that makes it easily understandable to students, demonstrating knowledge of child development and learning. Also, because private teachers are individual businesses, there is a requirement for each candidate to demonstrate a basic knowledge of business aspects of teaching, such as budgeting, studio policies, marketing, website, use of virtual applications within the profession. 

We would like to see that the quality of music education in the private setting is the best it can be. We want customers to be secure in the knowledge that if they hire an MTNA certified teacher for their child, they will receive a high level of competency and professionalism. It gives the teacher some prestige and a marketing advantage over uncertified teachers.