Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online schools. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
Whether you’re just starting to learn an instrument or you’re an experienced musician and need to find a new teacher, finding the right instructor is an important part of making consistent progress. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of things you should think about, the logistics of finding potential teachers, what it’s like to interview them, and how to get a clear picture of each studio. Fortunately, the Music Teachers’ National Association (MTNA) is full of experts who have put their heads together to provide some professional recommendations. The following is a compilation of those recommendations, divided into six easy steps, to help guide you through the process of finding the right music teacher.
1. Consult people around you
Check with friends, family members, and anyone else you know who takes music lessons. Even if your friends play different instruments than you do, you can ask if their teachers instruct on multiple instruments. Often, a successful teaching style translates well to different instruments if the skill and experience are there, so asking about general teaching characteristics can give you a significantly accurate impression. From there, you can decide whether or not it’s worth it to find out if a teacher instructs on your instrument.
2. Request recommendations
If you’re familiar with any music stores, local organizations, or even churches, you can ask around at these locations to see if you can get some good recommendations. Music stores often have multiple employees, so be sure you ask everyone who might have experience with the kind of instruction you’re looking for.
3. Interview prospective teachers
It may seem excessive to interview teachers, but it’s well worth your time and will show them that you’re serious about your lessons. You can choose some questions from the following list, make up your own, or use a combination:
- Can you tell me about your professional and educational experience in music? (Ex. What is your degree, where did you go to school, which instrument was your concentration, etc.)
- What is your teaching experience? (Ex. How long have you been teaching, which age groups, which instruments, do you teach group lessons, etc.)
- How do you stay updated in professional development? (Ex. Do you go to conferences, participate in specific organizations, etc.)
- Do you have a written studio policy and, if so, can you explain it to me?
- Which instructional methods do you use?
- What kinds of music do you teach?
- Do you regularly evaluate student progress? If so, how and when?
- Do you require recital and/or competition performances from all students? How many?
- If I join your studio, will you provide me with any other performance opportunities? Do you use technology in your studio? (Ex. Do you have keyboards, computers, composition software, etc.)
- What are your expectations in terms of practice time and dedication?
4. Request permission to attend recitals/performances
As you whittle down your list of potential teachers, ask the last few candidates if you can attend any upcoming studio recitals or other performances. This will give you an opportunity to observe the relative success of students, their ability to perform well (this reflects strongly on a teacher’s attention to preparation strategies), and even interaction between teacher and students. You may also be able to pick the brains of some of the students to see what it’s like to be part of the studio.
5. Request references
Ask potential teachers if they can provide you with contacts for references. These can be previous students, current students, colleagues, or anyone else who has a direct and accurate perspective on a teacher’s experience, abilities, and success.
6. Ask about MTNA certification
It’s a good idea to make sure that the teacher you choose is MTNA certified. You can simply ask (it’s a common question) or you can find a local certified teacher here. If you’d like to learn more about MTNA certification and what’s required of teachers who have these credentials, you can read about performance competency, repertoire, experience, exams, portfolio, and more requirements here.
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