Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Finding the Right Fit: Basic Questions to Ask Your Prospective Music Teacher

Nobody knows the process of finding a music teacher and beginning music lessons than the teachers themselves. That's why The ZOEN asked a handful of our teachers for their advice on the best questions a student or parent should ask to find their perfect fit. Here's what they had to say:

It's impossible to please everyone. In order to find the right instructor, the instructor must be looking for the right student. As an instructor I strongly believe in having a conversation or two before encouraging the student or parent to make any type of financial or emotional commitment to music lessons. Simple questions to any prospective instructor may include the following: How long have you been teaching? What ages do you feel most comfortable teaching? Should I expect any required recitals? What is your preferred teaching style and method? (Jay Bryan Sandifer, Guitar/Drums)

Do you play the music I want to play? 
Figuring out music on the fly is an important skill for every working guitarist, but few teachers will have useful insights into the problems associated with a given piece or style. There's a world of difference between being able to fake a highly technical style like Jazz, Flamenco, or Metal and actually understanding how to play those styles. (Stephen Dick, Guitar)

 photo Wayne_Sax_zps1b79cb41.png
Wayne Land, Saxophone Teacher
Is the instrument I'm learning your Major instrument?  
Many accomplished musicians have at least functional skills on multiple instruments, but almost everyone will have one particular instrument that has been their main focus as a musician and a teacher.  Obviously, a teacher who "Majored" on the instrument you are learning should have the greatest expertise. (Wayne Land, Saxophone)

Are you experienced?
My biggest mentor, Mr. Emil Sutt, never went to music school. He was self-taught. He got a big band together and played in venues all over South East Michigan and was very well-known. I've always felt that you can learn the most from a person who's already out there accomplishing what you hope to accomplish.  (Fran Beaudry, Clarinet)

Are you a career educator?  
A genuine love of teaching is to be preferred. A musician who has focused their career as a performer, no matter how accomplished, may not be as capable to "teach".  A teacher who has degrees in "Music Education" should be preferred.  It's better to work with a teacher who also performs than a performer who also teaches. (Wayne Land, Saxophone)

If you're looking for a music teacher you need to ask yourself one question: "What is my goal?" If you don't know what it is you won't know when you reach it.  Then ask your prospective teacher, "What are YOUR goals for me , what in your background and teaching method has proven successful in accomplishing those goals, and what do you need from me?" After a bit of dialogue, you'll know immediately if there's a match! (Linda Tippett, Piano)

Ask these questions and you'll be well on your way to finding your one-of-a-kind music teacher! And remember to ask for a free trial lesson whenever possible. Finding the right teacher is an invaluable step in your progress as a musician!

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