Proposed Consent Agreement In the Matter of Music Teachers National Association, Inc. #00175

Submission Number:
Bruce Berr
Independent piano teacher
Initiative Name:
Proposed Consent Agreement In the Matter of Music Teachers National Association, Inc.
Matter Number:


I find the FTC assessment that one part of the previous code of ethics of MTNA promoted unfair or deceptive methods of competition to be patently ridiculous, and lacking in good judgment and common sense. Businesses that operate for-profit succeed by giving customers what they *want* and therefore the FTC’s work is very much needed in that arena to make sure consumers are protected from unfair practices. However, in the helping professions we do not have “customers” but instead we have “clients.” And unlike businesses, we succeed by giving clients what they *need.* This critical difference is true whether the client is called a patient or a student. Of course we must charge a fee for our services but that is mainly where our resemblance to a business ends. It is our ethical responsibility to place the interests and needs of the client first and above our own interests and needs. For such a relationship to be effective, mutual trust must be developed between the professional and the client. That is the reason why the MTNA Code contained language to discourage teachers from soliciting students from other teachers. Such a solicitation is *not* in the best interests of the student—in fact, it demolishes whatever trust has already been developed between teacher and student, and therefore hampers the original teacher from being most effective should the student decide not to change teachers. It is educationally a destructive act. The only interests that are served by teachers soliciting other teachers’ students are the financial and egocentric ones of the soliciting teacher. Therefore, it is obviously unethical. Fair competition between music teachers already takes place in each community through reputation, degree and quality of advertising, differing rates, differing visibility of the teacher and their students, etc. These are natural and in everyone’s best interest. The MTNA principle does not limit such fair competition—instead it is a vital protection of students and therefore is purely a matter of ethics. I strongly urge the FTC to reconsider its ruling against MTNA. It is an unfortunate example of poor judgment unleashed upon an entire profession. I shudder to think what additional problems music students will have in the future if teachers’ best and most wise admonitions are not broadcast and honored through our collective code of ethics. Please, do not interfere with such a vital process—it is clearly outside of your charge. Thank you for taking the time to read down this far. Dr. Bruce Berr I have taught piano for over forty years, both as an independent teacher and as a university professor. I have been a member of MTNA since 1986.