The first step in finding a piano teacher is to decide what you want your child to get out of music lessons. Some parents consider music to be an essential part of education, like reading or math. Other parents want to help their child find an interest to enjoy, and may try out music lessons for a while but are willing to move on to something else if the child doesn’t seem to like it. There are parents who want their child to have the potential of becoming a concert pianist, while others want their child to study piano as a foundation before moving on to other instruments. Once parents have decided on their goals for their piano student, the next step is to find a teacher that can help the student achieve those goals.
QUALITY FROM THE START
As much as possible, parents should get the best piano teacher they can from the beginning. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive piano teacher around. Whether a piano teacher has an advanced degree in music or is just a neighbor down the street who teaches a few lessons after school, parents should make sure that the teacher is someone who will:
• show respect for their child
• challenge their child to improve and develop as a musician
• inspire an enduring love of music
It is a common mistake for parents to think that there’s nothing wrong with starting with a mediocre teacher and then moving on to a better teacher if their child continues to show interest. In the first year of studying piano, students lay a foundation that will last throughout their music studies. When a student with a mediocre teacher transfers to a better teacher it can take years for that student to get out of bad habits.
It’s a good idea to shop around a while before deciding on a piano teacher for your child. If you live in the United States, one place to start is the Music Teachers National Association. On the MTNA website, you can see a list of certified piano teachers in your state. You can also ask for advice from the music teachers at your local schools. They will know which students are the best piano players, and can probably tell you who the best private instructors are. You can also find directories of piano teachers in phone books or on the internet. If you want to get recommendations, you can ask friends and neighbors, or even call up piano teachers who live just outside your area and ask if they know any good teachers who live close to you.
GET TO KNOW THE POTENTIAL TEACHER
When choosing a piano teacher for your child it is important to remember that you are hiring someone that may have a huge impact on your child’s life, as it is not unusual for a child to stay with a piano teacher for five to ten years. Before beginning piano lessons, it is best to meet the teacher face to face and have an interview. Treat it like a job interview. Here are some suggestions for questions you might ask:
1. What are your practice expectations for beginners? For more advanced students?
2. How many students do you currently teach? What ages?
3. What kind of events outside of lessons do your students participate in, such as recitals, competitions, and theory examinations? Are these events optional or required?
4. What is your level of music education and what music teaching experience do you have?
5. Do you belong to any professional organizations?
6. What method do you use for teaching beginners?
7. Describe your teaching approach or philosophy as compared to other teachers.
Where possible, look for a piano teacher who cares enough about teaching to belong to a professional organization. The best teachers will almost certainly have a degree in music and be capable themselves of performing at a high level of skill. Students learn a lot by imitation, and the teacher should be able to demonstrate good playing, posture, expression, and musical nuance.
THE TRIAL LESSON
Besides getting to know potential piano teachers by talking with them, it is also important to watch teachers in action. Some teachers may allow you to observe a lesson with one of their current students. If that is not possible, ask for a one-time lesson for your child before you make a long-term commitment. Here are some things to watch for when observing a piano teacher:
1. Does the teacher show respect for the child? Does the teacher make eye contact, call the child by name, and show interest and concern? A child should feel respected and valued by their teacher.
2. Is the lesson engaging? Does the student respond with interest? Is there motivation, curiosity, and a love of music involved? It takes a certain amount of charisma, leadership, and likeability for a teacher to inspire a student. Make sure it’s there.
3. Does the teacher challenge the student? Does the teacher pay attention to detail and correct the student as needed? A good teacher will hold a child to a high standard. All children are capable of excellence, they only need a teacher who will ask for it.
TAKE TIME TO FIND THE RIGHT TEACHER
This is not a quick and easy approach, but it is worth it! Put in the effort to find a teacher who will respect, challenge, and inspire a life-long love of music-making in your child.