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Choosing a Music Teacher

Some advice for parents by Jim McCutcheon

Anyone who has the desire to teach private music lessons for children may hang out their shingle and advertise whether or not they have any training or experience. Since it is up to parents to do some research when seeking out a teacher, I thought of several pertinent questions which will be helpful in the process:

  1. What is your professional history? Learn all you can about degrees, master classes attended, performing experience, etc.
  2. What is your experience teaching students the age of my child? Find out how the teacher feels about working with children this age. Especially for young children, does the teacher have the appropriate vocabulary, expectations and spirit to really connect and stimulate the childís interest in making music.
  3. Are parents allowed to observe the lessons? In my opinion, children under the age of 12 benefit greatly from having one or both parents attend each lesson. So much usually happens during a lesson that the student can forget important points made during the lesson. Parents who have taken notes can gently remind the student of those points later in the week during practice times.
  4. What are the parentsí responsibilities concerning practice?
  5. What is your cancellation policy? With today's busy schedules, it is important to work with a teacher whose schedule will be compatible with your family's schedule. An important part of private music study is the regular weekly meeting of teacher and student. Some absences are unavoidable, because of illness, emergencies or other commitments, and it is important to know how these will be handled. Is there any flexibility on the part of the teacher to meet at a different time during the week if a particular lesson time cannot work?
  6. What are your goals with students like my child? Find out how these are achieved. Listen for the words "fun" or "enjoyment" in the teacherís answer.
  7. Does the child have any input into the pedagogical process? Is the teacher willing to be flexible if a student really wants to learn a particular song?
  8. Do your students ever perform in recital? Find out how often they may do this, and whether it is mandatory for students to perform. 
  9. Do your students have the opportunity to perform for judged events such as Federation Festival or Piano Guild? Music teachers whose students participate in this type of activity have knowledge of the motivational incentives that annual events like these add to the learning process. Because of the specific goals required by these events, those teachers tend to be fairly organized because their students need to be ready for higher levels of achievement each year. These teachers also tend to be more integrated into the larger musical community in their area, which is another healthy sign.
  10. Do your students have the opportunity to play music with others their age? This is especially helpful for guitar and piano students who are usually soloists who miss many musical learning experiences that occur when playing music with others.
  11. Would you be willing to meet with 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.


Learning the answers to these questions will definitely help you make a wiser decision concerning this most important choice in your childís musical education.


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