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How Do I Evaluate My Child’s Music Teacher?

January 6, 2012

Lessons at CMCFinding the right teacher makes all the difference. Start by asking for recommendations from friends and family. You might also want to give a call to the music teacher at your child’s school (they may not be able to recommend someone outright, but they will most likely have advice they’re more than willing to share). Another source is local orchestras. Some of the musicians may take students; even if they don’t, they probably know good local teachers.

Your main goal is to find a teacher who can inspire your child in the style of music they feel drawn to. Of course, that will vary depending on the child and the teacher. Every child is not right for every teacher and vice versa. You’re looking for someone who is energetic and able to communicate well with your child. Watch your child to see how they respond to the teacher as both an instructor and a person. Listen as well to what your child says about the lessons. (At the same time, take everything with a grain of salt. It’s a rare child who doesn’t complain about lessons and practicing.)

As a parent, ask about the overall lesson plan, any performance goals and how they will be reached, and most importantly, the practice plan. An effective teacher not only teaches the mechanics, but also teaches how to practice and progress on one’s own. Instead of just following rote sets of instructions, a child should learn how to listen to what he or she is playing and how to start solving problems on their own. Practicing is not an intuitive progress, and a wise teacher addresses how to practice as part of the lesson.

Changing teachers is always tricky. If the situation isn’t healthy for the child for whatever reason, then change immediately. If your child has reached a point where they’re no longer learning, even though they’re still interested in the instrument, it may be time to look for someone new. Consider paying for an hour of a professional’s time, having them listen to your child and then give an impartial analysis on whether your child needs to work harder or is ready to move on.

Otherwise, don’t be too quick to go from one teacher to another; this only leads to fragmented learning and no progress. Especially for beginning students, use the equivalent of a school year (or at least a semester) as a guide to give the teacher/student relationship time to develop. Don’t be too impatient to have everything come together at once; a teacher may focus on one area only for a time, such as reading music, developing rhythm, or even composing, but over the course of the lessons, the different aspects of learning to play and understand music should come together. And remember, any child’s musical ability will blossom with a teacher who is a good fit with that child’s personality and encourages the love of music and learning. 

Marianne Lipanovich is a writer and editor based in Redwood City. A gardening expert, she is a lifelong music lover, having learned to read music before she learned to read.