Quality Private Music Instruction

The questions you should ask before hiring a music teacher, and what to look for in a good music teacher.

Private music instruction is something many parents seek out for the kids. The most common times to look for music instruction is either at the beginning of the summer, or when school's starting again. When choosing a music teacher or school, there are several factors to consider.

First, what instrument does your child play or want to play? If it is piano or violin, chances are there are several teachers in the area who can teach it. If it is something less common, such as bassoon or string bass, there may be few if any teachers in your area. If there is only one teacher in your area for your child's instrument, don't immediately hire him or her. Look at his credentials to see if he is qualified to teach this instrument. If you can't find a well-qualified teacher in your area, you may need to look elsewhere.

The places you can look for quality teachers include: local music shops (to make recommendations or teach in-house lessons), local universities, local school music teachers, the phone book (private music schools will be listed), or through word of mouth. Ask friends for their children's teachers' names. Get recommendations from any school music teachers or music shop owners in your area. Make sure you get multiple recommendations.

Once you have a list of potential teachers in your area, compile a list of questions to ask these people when you meet them. These are all questions you should ask:

*Do you play this instrument professionally? If not, do you play a similar instrument professionally?

*How long have you been playing this instrument? How long have you been a musician?

*What is your education in music? Do you have any degrees? In performance or education?

*What age kids do you feel most comfortable working with? What level of performance are you most comfortable with?

*What is your philosophy of music education? Do you work on musical skills not directly related to the instrument?

Expect that your teacher has extensive performance experience on the instrument, even if it is not the instrument he plays primarily. For example, many violinists also perform on, and teach viola or other string instruments. Clarinetists may play and teach saxophone or vice versa. The teacher should have studied and performed quite a lot on whatever instrument he is teaching.

It's best to get someone who is at least studying to be a musician or teacher, rather than a high school student. Someone who is a sophomore or higher will have teaching and field experience, or more extensive performance experience. A bachelor's degree or even higher is better for some teachers; but higher education isn't going to be everything, especially with younger students.

Your teacher should feel comfortable working with kids of your child's age and ability level. He should also teach skills besides the basic instrument. A good, thorough music teacher will work on rhythm, pitch, music reading, and other basic skills with a young musician. If the teacher says he doesn't do this, be hesitant in hiring him unless he is gifted at teaching the instrument.

A red flag in teaching the instrument itself is if the teacher insists on using the exact same books with everyone, and teaching by the same method all the time. A good private teacher should adapt his method to each student who comes in. He should also be flexible in what expects during lessons. If a teacher seems like he requires students to be very highly prepared all the time, that he isn't willing to answer questions or help a student, that he pushes his students too hard, don't hire him.

Look for someone you like, with whom you feel you and your student can work. Someone who teaches the whole musician and not just the instrument. Someone who is flexible with you and your child. Someone who has extensive experience and knows what they're talking about. If you check into this, you will hire an excellent teacher, and have a great musical experience!

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