Choosing a music teacher is not unlike choosing the services of a lawyer, or a doctor, or any other professional service provider.
Would you use the services of a lawyer, a doctor or speech therapist without any verifiable training? Of course not! They would have to be trained and licensed before providing their services.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with private music teachers. Anyone who has the desire to teach private music lessons may advertise and teach anyone who is willing to pay, whether or not they have any relevant music teaching qualifications or experience. Since it is up to the adult student or the parent to do some research when choosing a teacher, I thought of several important questions which will be helpful in the process:
1. What is your professional background?
Learn all you can about the teacher’s degrees and performance experience before choosing a music teacher.
2. What is your experience teaching adult students or students the age of my child?
Especially for young children, does the teacher have the appropriate vocabulary and expectations to really connect and stimulate the child’s interest in making music?
3. Would I or my child have any input in the instruction process?
Is the music teacher willing to be flexible if a student really wants to learn a particular song? How about playing different styles? E.g. some teachers might feel comfortable teaching only classical, while you might be interested in learning how to play jazz.
4. What are the parents’ responsibilities concerning practice?
The teacher should make sure that students and parents understand the role they need to play in the learning process before they sign up for lessons.
5. Do you have a written music school policy?
Make sure you read it carefully before signing up. That should clarify issues like cancellations, schedule flexibility, payment etc.
6. Would you be willing to meet with me or me and my child before starting lessons?
If you are still not quite sure of your choice by speaking over the phone, much can be gained from even a short face-to-face meeting.
7. Where do you teach?
Make sure that you like the teaching environment. Lots of time will be spent there. A piano in the corner of a sitting room might fail to capture the imagination of some students, especially young children. The teaching space should stimulate the student’s interest as much as possible.
8. Does “fun” have a place in the process?
Although learning to play an instrument requires hard work, patience and determination, I believe that it should be fun. Music lessons can so easily become boring and bland, even stressful. Your teacher should have a positive and enthusiastic attitude. Listen for words like “enjoyment” and “fun”.
9. How often do you actually play?
This might sound like a silly question, but you’ll be surprised at how many piano teachers can’t play well, or even worse, can’t play at all! I play for my students regularly as I believe that observing and listening to your teacher performing is very much part of the learning process. It also does wonders in motivating aspiring students.
Learning the answers to these questions will definitely help you make a wiser decision concerning this most important choice in your own or your child’s musical education.