Choosing the Right Music Teacher
Contrary to popular belief, a good music teacher won't drop you if you stink. A good music teacher won't force you to play Chopin if you prefer Coldplay. A good music teacher won't get frustrated if you make a few mistakes.
"All children have music inside of them; the idea is to let it out," says Laura Johnson, associate executive director of the American Music Conference (AMC), a leading nonprofit music advocacy organization. "A good music teacher will nurture your child's interest and inspire him or her to develop a lifelong passion that offers countless benefits. Studies show that making music helps young children perform better on standardized tests, and teens benefit academically and socially from active participation in music."
If your child wants to take lessons to learn to play an instrument for the first time or to accompany his or her school music education, a few simple tips can help you find the right music teacher to best suit your child's needs.
"Choosing a music teacher is just as important as selecting a doctor or dentist for your child," says Gary L. Ingle, Music Teacher's National Association (MTNA) executive director. "Finding the right music teacher is an investment in your child's future, so you want to make sure you do enough research to make an informed decision."
Every family will want to base its selection on compatibility in terms of both personality and teaching style, and professional and educational qualifications. You want to choose a teacher that makes an effort to understand his or her students' musical tastes, ambitions and goals. Furthermore, families should find someone that truly has a passion for teaching children.
"A real music teacher needs much more than training to turn making music into a magical experience for his or her students," says Jessica Baron Turner, author of Your Musical Child: Inspiring Kids to Play and Sing for Keeps (String Letter Publishing, 2004). "He or she needs heart, spirit and education."
How do you choose the right music teacher? AMC offers these tips to help you get started:
- Get referrals. Consult with friends who have children enrolled in music lessons. Visit your local music retailer to find out if they offer music instruction on the premises or if they can recommend a reputable teacher. Talk to the band, orchestra and choir teachers at your school. Ask for recommendations from local music teacher organizations. To find both a local music retailer and certified music teacher near you, visit AMC's informational Web site, www.amc-music.org.
- Conduct an interview. Arrange a phone or in-person meeting with a prospective teacher. You'll want to have a list of questions prepared to find answers to his or her musical style and credentials. Also, find out about the teacher's approach to practice, if he or she holds recitals and how progress is rewarded. Don't forget to ask about music. What books and materials will be used? Does the music instructor choose the music or does the child get to help? It's important that you and your child's goals and expectations are matched with the prospective teacher.
- Observe a lesson. This may not always be possible. If not, see if you can arrange a one-time "meet-and-greet" to gauge your child's comfort level and the teacher's responsiveness.
- Attend a recital. Ask the potential new instructor if you could attend the recital of an existing student.
- Expect to play a role. Parents do play a pivotal role in their child's music education, as support is important to the learning process. Listen to your child play. Don't distract him or her during practice time and encourage individual taste in music.