Proposed Consent Agreement In the Matter of Music Teachers National Association, Inc. #00134

Submission Number:
00134
Commenter:
Jeff Traster
Organization:
The University of Tampa
State:
Florida
Initiative Name:
Proposed Consent Agreement In the Matter of Music Teachers National Association, Inc.
Matter Number:

131-0118

My comments are in regard to: The proposed consent decree with the Music Teachers National Association (“MTNA”) that arises out of a year-long investigation into the MTNA Code of Ethics. The Code, which is not enforced by MTNA, contains one provision that encourages members not to solicit students from other music studios. The FTC believes that this restriction, which is common with other professionals such as doctors and lawyers, somehow restrains competition. The issue here is not one of "fair trade" or "open market." Students and parents choose with whom they study piano (or private music lessons in general). There is no long-term contract made when students begin lessons; they may (and do) stop at any time, or decide to go with another instructor. The MTNA Code of Ethics is in place to suggest that there is an ethical boundary in terms of solicitation, and it encourages members not to actively lure students from other music studios. Why is this statement important? There are some private teachers who seek to garner "prize students" with the goal to make a name for themselves through the success of students in their studio. I have seen this happen amongst private piano teachers in a community and amongst college faculty in applied areas where there are often multiple teachers, such as in voice and piano, resulting in bitter in-fighting and further unprofessional behavior. It is one thing for the request to change instructors to be student-generated because they heard a teacher or faculty member perform and thought, "I really want to study with them!", and quite another for a faculty member or teacher to approach another's student after the student has performed, praise them mightily for their performance, and then suggest that the student should be studying with them -- which implies, and is often spoken in exercising such tactics, that the current professor/teacher is inadequate for the student's needs/musical growth. Such praise given to a student along with promises of future glory in music is alluring, and often unsubstantiated; however, a winning personality along with continued suggestion in subtle ways over days and weeks that the student is missing out by not studying with the competitive teacher can create doubt for the student where there was none before and eventually cause the student to change to the solicitous instructor. This type of behavior is divisive and all too common. It is this behavior that is considered in the profession to be unethical and is therefore addressed in broad terms in the MTNA Code of Ethics. It is important to realize that the "Code" is simply that. It is not a mandate and has no means for legal enforcement. It cannot prevent musical "hawks" from raiding from other's studios. However, to include such a statement in the Code sets the basis and tone for professional interaction, mutual admiration, and support amongst those engaged in the profession. I believe such lofty goals should be stated and fostered; the MTNA Code of Ethics should rightly contain language that supports these goals as they pertain to the behavior of the instructors within the organization. Such language in no way prevents advertising nor limits student and parent choice of instructors. Thank you for considering my views on the matter. Sincerely, Jeff Traster Director of Bands and Music Education The University of Tampa