Choosing your child’s music teacher is not something to be taken lightly. There are several criteria that should be part of your search for the best student/teacher relationship. I also suggest that you not blindly sign up for lessons with a teacher based on an ad or even a friend’s referral. Any reputable music teacher will take time to meet with you and your student before beginning lessons. Some teachers call these interviews or mini-lessons, this is the time for both parties to see if there is a connection before entering into a contract.
Things to consider when choosing a music teacher (these tips are valid for any musical instrument teacher not just piano):
Your child’s age– If you are starting your child on piano before they have completed kindergarten you want to make sure you choose a teacher who has experience teaching young children and non-readers. That teacher should use a method written for little ones and provide a mix of activities during the lesson time to keep the child engaged. Also, some teachers of children under age 6 require the parent to attend the lesson with the child-is that something you want to do.
The lesson location-Does the teacher come to your home, teach from their home, or have a studio at a neutral location.
- Having the teacher come to you may be convenient for you but the teachers I know who still do this charge at least double what they do for studio lessons and some charge for travel time also. Lessons in your home are sometimes difficult because of the distraction of siblings and general household noise.
- Going to lessons at the teacher’s home may still hold some of the same distractions-depending on how their house is laid out and who else is home during lessons. This is often the least expensive option.
- A studio in a music store, church or school is often well equipped for lessons and offers plenty of parking which may not be available at either home. Teachers who are renting studio space will often add a fee to their lesson cost to cover their rent.
The Teacher’s Level of Education and Experience- High school and college kids who have been playing their instrument for years may be the most inexpensive route for lessons but a teacher can only take a student as far as they have gone themselves. I used to work at a music store that advertised that all of their teachers were college trained musicians. Unfortunately that grouped me and my Bachelors Degree in with people who never finished their Associates Degree but took 1-2 college music courses. Also there is a difference between a musician and a music educator. Just because someone is a gifted musician doesn’t mean they are good at teaching others how to play.
How does the teacher teach-I don’t just mean what method books they use. There are a lot of great methods on the market but how do they use those methods. Are they strict or relaxed? Do the focus on the process or the result? Is their primary focus recitals and competitions or fostering a love of music? You also need to know what you want. Personally my goal is to give all of my students the love of making music. We do have 2 low-key recitals a year but they are not the focus of everything we do. I believe a student must be self-driven to want to compete and when a student reaches that level of playing excellence I refer them to a teacher who focuses on preparation for competitions.
Is the teacher organized-You cannot teach music lessons and be disorganized. Does the studio appear organized? Can they put their fingers right on the papers they need during the interview? If so that is one “yes” on your checklist.
What are you getting for your money- Private music lessons can cost anywhere from $10 a half hour to $100s of dollars a half hour depending on the teacher’s education and the area in which you live. Lessons in New York City are going to cost much more than lessons in Palmetto, Florida. Are books included in the lesson fee or are they charged for separately? How often will your child be getting new books? (most beginners get books every 6-9 months).
What is your end of the bargain-Before signing a lesson contract make sure you know the following:
- How much do the lessons cost? Are they to be paid weekly/monthly/quarterly? Do they accept checks/cash/credit cards/paypal?
- What is the policy if you have to miss a lesson? Do you get a credit? Do they offer a make-up lesson?
- How much should my child be practicing? How should my child practice?
- How does the teacher communicate with the parent? Notes in a practice book? Weekly e-mail?
- How often are the recitals held? Do we have to buy tickets to the recital?
- How long is the contract for? How do I get out of the contract if this relationship isn’t working?
Doing your homework in advance is the best way to avoid headaches down the road. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have about choosing a music teacher.