As Plato said: “the patterns in music and all the arts are the key to learning”. Engaging a music teacher for you or your child is an opportunity not only to expand knowledge and experience, but also to create a lasting influence, or perhaps even a friendship. With this in mind, these are some things to consider when choosing a teacher.
1. The teacher and student should be able to develop a respect and rapport, the deeper the better. For lessons to be truly successful, a student should feel inspired by their teacher on some level, otherwise the lessons and practice will seem like a chore. One way to make an informed choice about this is to consider the intention and initial goals of the student. For young children this might mean looking for a teacher who is fun and encouraging. For an adult starting out this might mean someone who can play a range of styles, or the style of music that they enjoy (for example jazz or gypsy). If a career in music is the goal, a student is more likely to be inspired by someone with experience in performance who can push them to achieve harder and harder skills.
Ideally the student and the teacher should be able to form a rapport which can last for years. While this often develops from the respect mentioned earlier, it can also come down to whether the student is having fun and whether they are improving, according to their goals.
2. The style of teaching can be an important factor. One easy way to get an idea of the teaching style is to enquire whether they prepare students for exams and which ones they take. For example, classical players often learn through either the AMEB exam systems or the Suzuki school. Some systems prioritise music theory while other focus on performance, or the learning process itself. It is important to take into account the student’s best way of learning. Exams for instance can encourage competitive spirit and mark your progress as a student which is rewarding, but many find them stressful and can become discouraged.
3. The community of students and music players can also be a major influence on the happiness of a student with a teacher. Often teachers will be connected to schools or groups (orchestras or bands), or they may host concerts which provide all their students the opportunity to showcase their abilities. This is a good thing to look out for, as students will often be more encouraged if they have peers to support and compete against.
4. Other aspects to consider are the location and the price of the lessons, although if you intend to prioritise your music education this should be the last consideration. However, in terms of price, it could help to choose either casual lessons or an up-front term. The latter is more common and often better as it encourages you to go every week and make the most of the experience. It is also ideal for children because it provides regularity and a sense of accountability to practice. In some cases too, it can be cheaper to pay up front.