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How to find a good teacher

by Administrator 5. May 2011 11:10

Yo Yo Ma, Jonny Dankworth, James Galway… these musical stars are united by one common thread - excellent teaching. Having a good teacher is instrumental to the success of the pupil. An inadequate teacher can put the initially enthusiastic novice off for life. 

A teacher should be always enthusiastic, empathetic and inspiring - making the student feel that anything is possible with dedication and lots of practice!

We’ve put together these guidelines to help you find the perfect teacher. Remember you should be trying to find the best teacher - not necessarily the cheapest. And, if you’re not happy leaving your child with a stranger, don’t!

  • Meeting a teacher for a first time could be like going into the lion’s den. Remember they are a stranger, so you need to take some precautions. By contacting a prospective teacher by phone first you can get a quick idea of whether they will be suitable. Email correspondence will never fill you with the same confidence as a proper conversation. In your discussion don’t be afraid to ask about their teaching credentials! Ask questions like:
    • How many pupils do you teach - could you get a reference off any of them?
    • How long have you been in the teaching business - have you had a CRB?
    • Can the lesson be attended by a parent/friend?
    • Do you offer a consultation lesson before committing to learning?

No teacher should object to these questions. If you decide to pursue references before committing to lessons explain this to the teacher; if they are responsible they won’t mind.

  • When you do meet the teacher - preferably in a free consultation - be clear about what you expect from them. If necessary have a list of questions prepared beforehand. Questions such as:
    • How do you approach instrumental technique?
    • What type of music do you teach?
    • How do you teach music theory?
    • Do you encourage pupils to study for exams - if so which examining boards, or why not?
    • How do you develop sight-reading skills?
    • Do you encourage pupils to participate in public performances?
    • What expectations do you have of your pupils?
    • Will you provide progress reports and make notes during lessons?
    • What qualifications do you have and what is your professional background?
  • Of course the teacher will also want to know about your intentions; your musical aspirations and commitment to lessons and practice. Be honest! There’s nothing wrong if you just want to play for fun at home - not every pupil has to become a West End pro. By being open about your expectations and ambitions, the more beneficial the consultation will be.
  • Don’t get caught up in the moment! You shouldn’t feel obliged to make a decision there and then and hand over your well-earned money. If may be advisable to have a consultation with more than one teacher. If you do feel confident about the teacher, make sure you understand the tuition fees and how and when they are to be paid. Also clarify the teacher’s position on cancellations and who is responsible for providing learning materials and music.
  • And finally! After successfully finding the perfect teacher, make sure you maintain the same level of interest in the music lessons. Discuss with the teacher what progress is being made and how you or your child should practice at home. Sitting in on lessons or having a recording of them can be really helpful for both the parent and the student when you’re at home trying to recall what was said.