Finding Harmony With the Right Music Teacher

Signing up for music lessons involves a long-term commitment. Great care should be taken to find a music teacher that is a good fit for the student.

Whether the goal is to develop one’s artistic ability, prepare for a career in music or play for recreation, music lessons can benefit musicians at any age and level. When someone signs up for music lessons, they enter into a long-term relationship with a music teacher that can last several years. For it to be a fruitful relationship, great care should be taken to find a teacher who is a good fit for the student and his or her family.

What Prospective Students Should Think About Before Taking Music Lessons

There are several considerations a student and his or her family should make prior to registering for music lessons:

  1. whether the prospective student is ready for music lessons
  2. which instrument to study
  3. the family's commitment and attitude towards music lessons

Having a clear sense of where one stands with respect to each of these areas will make it easier to determine the best teacher for the student and the family.

Looking for a music teacher is similar to shopping for the perfect hairdresser. At the core, a student will blossom with a teacher they “click” with and who does good work. Parents will appreciate working with a teacher whose teaching philosophies and operating procedures complement their vision for their child's musical education

Types of Music Lessons, Learning Environments and Instructors

Music students may study privately (one-on-one) or in a group class. There are several beginner music class programs available, such as Music for Young Children, the Kodály method, the Suzuki method, Yamaha and Kindermusik.

Lessons are offered on a variety of instruments. The most common instruments people choose when commencing their musical education are the piano, voice, guitar and violin. Lessons in music theory, a specific genre (e.g. jazz), improvisation or music composition are also available.

Music lessons are offered in several venues. Students can study at a music school affiliated with a music store, a music school affiliated with a conservatory, at a private music teacher’s studio or in the comfort of their own home.

There are several types of music instructors, each offering their unique blend of experience, knowledge and teaching approaches:

  1. Certified teachers who have completed their post-secondary education and some have taken pedagogical training and are members of a professional music teachers’ association.
  2. Student teachers who are advanced students in the process of completing their professional accreditation.
  3. Professional musicians who regularly perform and/or have done commercial recordings.
  4. Teachers who lack accreditation; however, their skills, education received and experience are exemplary and enable them to offer quality music instruction.

Tuition varies depending upon the teachers’ educational and performance background, professional affiliations, track record, teaching experience and how their studio is set up. However, good chemistry with the teacher, qualifications, high quality education and complementary vision should rate more highly than cost when making a final decision.

Tips on How to Find a Music Teacher

The easiest way to find a music teacher is to ask around. The benefits of talking to one’s family, friends and colleagues are two-fold: not only can they give names and contact information; one’s contacts can provide details on their first-hand experience with a particular teacher.

Another method to finding a music teacher is to contact a music teacher’s association. Many teaching associations such as the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Associations (CFMTA), the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and the European Piano Teachers Association (EPTA) have an online directory.

Checking advertisements is a third option when searching for a music instructor. Some teachers place advertisements in a community newsletter or newspaper, while other teachers put up posters in local stores.

After the audition-interview, the teacher also considers whether the student and family are a good fit for the studio. The music teacher may recommend another teacher if he or she feels that the student's and family's interests best lie with a teacher with a different background or approach.

If there are any special needs, such as a health condition, learning disability or if the student is an adult, these should be addressed when first inquiring about lessons or during the audition-interview. It is acceptable to inquire about the teacher’s experience in an area of special consideration.

Music lessons are a long-term investment. Taking the time in advance to find a teacher that is qualified, has a good track record, “clicks” with the student and shares a complementary vision with the student’s family goes a long way to making the relationship a harmonious one.

Sources:

Alberta Registered Music Teachers’ Association website and Membership Renewal Package (accessed June 30, 2010).

Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Associations (accessed June 30, 2010).

Music Teachers National Association (accessed June 30, 2010).

Originally published on Suite101 on June 30, 2010. All rights reserved by Rhona-Mae Arca.