How can I find a good music teacher for my child?
Choosing a teacher who will be a good match for your child is key to a successful beginning. Your options are to have your son study at a community music school or with an independent teacher. The difference isn't necessarily in the quality of the teaching but in the environment. Many excellent teachers only have private studios, and most institutional teachers have private studios, as well.
If you're interested in a school, the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts has listings of member schools by state. Piano study, compared with studying string instruments, is a more solitary activity. The advantage of a school is that it might offer Dalcroze eurhythmics classes, a children's chorus, a theory class, more performing opportunities and/or group classes for early music education that could supplement a weekly private lesson. However, many independent teachers offer group lessons and studio classes in addition to a private lesson to involve the students in peer experiences and interaction. So either way, your child will probably have individual and group opportunities.
If you're not near a member school or don't wish to enroll your child through an institution, a National Guild contact may be able to refer you to the best qualified independent teachers in your area. It's always good to ask other parents for references. Another good resource is a music teachers' association, if there's one in your area.
Here are some ways you can evaluate a potential teacher:
- Conduct an interview with the teacher—in person is best.
- Request a sample lesson to see how the teacher interacts with your child.
- Observe the teacher working with another beginning student.
- Attend a studio recital.
During the first years of study, the aural, kinesthetic, reading and cognitive skills should be put into place, along with the underlying discipline and patience needed to develop them. I encourage you to find the best and most experienced teacher you can for the beginning years, because any gaps are extremely difficult to fill in later, and inferior teaching is frustrating to correct. Find a teacher who will approach the early concept material appropriately with the same musicianship, artistry and detail expected in a Beethoven sonata. A good teacher will be encouraging and nurturing and will ensure that all the skills are being covered in a balanced way.
Remember, however, that learning to play an instrument is a long-term project and will have ups and downs. Unless a situation appears inappropriate, give your teacher—and your child—at least six months or an entire year of lessons before re-evaluating.