The South African Society of Music Teachers grew out of a small association of music teachers formed in Cape Town in 1918. The first Annual General Council Meeting, as it was called, was held in October 1922.

Prime mover in the formation of the Society was Harry Garvin, a prominent teacher and all-round musician in Johannesburg. Mr Garvin had previously been one of the founders of The South African Union of Musicians and was president of that body during its lifetime from 1894 to 1907. He was also president of the South African Society of Music Teachers from its inception till the end of 1931.

On 26 November 1932 a licence was granted for The South African Society of Music Teachers to be constituted an Incorporated Society in terms of the Companies Act of 1926. The broad outlines of the constitution as it now exists were decided at the conference held one month later. Since then, the constitution has been reviewed or amended three times in its entirety, the first time during 1948-1949, the second time during 1964-66, and recently during 2001-2002.

Articles for the establishment and regulation of Institutional Centres came into operation in 1973, and all university music departments except UNISA had joined by 1975.

In 1931 there were seven local branches of the society, called Centres, and the General Council consisted of the President, four Vice-Presidents, and the Honorary General Secretary and Treasurer. There were 169 members all told. By 1946, when the Society celebrated its silver jubilee, there were 15 centres and the membership had more than doubled. By 1958 the membership had doubled again, and by 1986 it had passed the 900 mark.

Currently, the society has 784 members and consists of 8 ordinary centres and 33 institutional centres.