Choosing A Teacher

Finding a teacher who is right for you will make all the difference.

Here are some things to think about before you set out to find a music teacher:

  • What do you hope to achieve by taking lessons?
  • How much time are you willing and able to devote to practicing?
  • How far are you willing to travel?
  • What times would you be available on a regular basis for lessons?

When you look at your choices of teachers, consider these factors:

Music Style

Find out what style of music they teach. If they don’t specify something else, most teachers teach “classical” music. That is, they teach students to read music and prepare them to play pieces by classical masters such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Some teachers specify that they teach jazz or “pop” styles. While some teachers can cover a range of styles, most have a preferred style.

Type and Level of Student

Check out which types of students they prefer. Some teachers teach mostly younger children and beginners, while others work only with students who already have a certain type of playing foundation. Some want to work only with “serious” musicians and will expect a high level of commitment, while others are happy to work with families that want to enrich their lives through music. Many welcome adults.

Methodology

Teachers use a variety of approaches to the following elements involved in teaching music:

  • Reading music
  • Technique
  • Selecting and learning pieces
  • Musicianship
  • Performing

Ask about their methodology and what books or software they will use in teaching.

Musical and Teaching Background

While public school music teachers usually hold a college degree in Music Education (or a degree in Music with a teaching certificate), there are no specific educational requirements for private music teachers, so they come from a wide range of backgrounds. Background will be one of several important factors to consider in finding the right teacher for your situation. Depending on your age, stage and goals, other factors, such as ability to build a rapport and motivate a student, or practical matters, such as location and fees, may be equally important. In evaluating potential teachers’ backgrounds, consider three factors:

1)  Academic background

You can expect a teacher with a college degree in music to be qualified in several ways. Colleges, universities and conservatories offer a few different types of degrees in music. Most focus largely on classical music, however some programs include jazz and other types of music as well.

Bachelor of Music: A Bachelor of Music degree requires intensive music study, usually including music theory, music history and solo and ensemble performance. B. Mus. candidates often specialize in areas such as Applied Music (performance), Pedagogy (teaching) or Composition. If a teacher has earned a B. Mus. degree, it’s likely that they have a good understanding of classical music and a good range of repertoire on their main instrument.

Bachelor of Music Education: A Bachelor of Music Education degree also requires intensive music study, along with courses that prepare the candidate to teach in public schools. B. M. E. students usually choose to specialize in Strings, Band or Vocal Music, preparing to teach general music courses and/or conduct school orchestras, bands or choirs. They typically have familiarity with a wider range of instruments, but may not have had as intense performance requirements on their main instrument as B. Mus performance majors.

Bachelor of Arts in Music: Candidates for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music also are typically required to take a number of courses in music theory, music history and performance, along with a range of liberal arts courses.

2)  Practical Music Background

What is their experience as a musician? How well do they play themselves? What type of music have they played? What kind of experience have they had performing? In music performance careers, what really matters is what you can do. Not all professional musicians have a degree in music or a degree at all.

3)  Teaching Background

What training or experience have they had in teaching itself? Are they certified to teach certain methods, such as the Suzuki Method?

Expectations

You’ll want to get a feel for what a teacher will be expecting from students (and their parents). For example, what are their expectations for music practice? Do they expect students to participate in group classes in addition to private lessons? Do they expect participation in solo recitals or group performances?

Fees

Of course, you’ll need to find out about fees. Teachers take several factors into consideration when they determine their fees, including:

  • Their background, qualifications and experience
  • The frequency and length of the lessons
  • The location of the lesson
  • The “going rate” among music teachers in their area

You’ll also need to be aware of the teacher’s policies regarding payment, cancellations and other practical matters. For instance, teachers may expect payment upfront by the month or even for a semester. Teachers usually also specify policies for notice required to reschedule or cancel a lesson.

Location

Teachers may teach lessons in one location or several. Many teach in home studios, while others teach at schools. Some will even come to your home, usually for a slightly higher fee to cover their transportation costs.

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