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Once you have a goal in mind for your child
and you know what commitment is required to reach that goal, you will be able
to identify a teacher whose teaching style fits your criteria. Teachers are not
expected to provide every area of study listed under Setting Your Goal.
Parent involvement is necessary to fulfill areas outside a teacher's teaching
Finding the right piano teacher is a personal task. You want
the teacher to have all the qualities that would enhance a positive piano
education for your child. Some of the qualities I believe are essential are:
nurturing, an optimist, exerts positive energy, dedicated, patient,
encouraging, has a compatible personality, organized, and has realistic
expectation. Yes, it would be impossible to find any person with all of these
qualities, never mind a piano teacher. You will need to make compromises and
weigh the pros and cons. You must decide what is most important for you and
I had once encountered an extremely dedicated teacher who could never keep her
schedule organized. It was very frustrating for us, having to constantly
rearrange our schedule. But that frustration soon dissipated when I watched her
pour her heart and soul into the lessons. I decided to overlook her
shortcomings and savored every lesson.
The following topics will answer some of your questions and
the Step-by-Step Guide will
help you through the process of finding the right piano teacher, including my
Top 10 Questions to Ask
and Top 10 Things to Look
What we need to know as parents:
Distance: I would drive any
distance for my children to see the right teacher. This may be difficult these
days with our ever-increasing after-school activities. Fortunately, we have an
excellent pool of piano teachers within a 20-mile radius. You should not have
much trouble finding a good teacher. I would be very skeptical of those
teachers who come to your home. Check out our Teachers
- Private Lesson: Current private lesson fees range
from $40 to $60 per hour depending on the teacher's qualifications and what
teachers feel is fair compensation for their services.
- School and Conservatory: Each lesson generally
averages around $45 per lesson with one to two make-up days. Some schools may
include weekly classes and other related activities without additional fees.
- Activities: Fees for auditions, competitions and
examinations are additional. Some teachers may charge for studio classes or ask
parents to share the cost of renting a recital
- Other Costs: Students are expected to purchase their
own music, unless the teacher offers a collection of music for loan. Aside from
the cost of purchasing a
piano or renting a piano, you also need to have
tuning regularly. Accessories such as a
metronome or a foot
stool may be necessary to meet your needs.
Investment: You need to look
at piano education as an investment, not just financially, but in terms of your
energy, time, and effort. And because it is an expensive endeavor, serious
commitment to daily practice is necessary to get the most out of your money.
Having the right piano teacher will save you valuable time and benefit your
investment in the long run. Music education is one of the most valuable gifts
you can give your child that lasts a lifetime, so invest wisely.
Note:You will come across teachers who charge quite
different rates. Don't be swayed by the fee they charge. A higher fee does not
mean a better teacher. Teachers set their fee based on what parents are willing
to pay, how much they feel is fair compensation for their time, and how much is
needed to cover their costs. I would never sign up with a teacher based on the
fee alone. You will end up saving a lot more than $5 a lesson if you've found
the right teacher. Remember, bad habits will take more time to correct later.
Schedule: If you wait until
September to start looking for a teacher, you may be too late. The best time to
look is in the Spring for the following school year. By that time, most
teachers should know the number of available spaces for the following year, and
you might even be able to jump start with summer lessons. Most teachers also
offer recitals at the end of the school year, providing another opportunity to
'check-out' the teachers.
Switching Teachers: It is
perfectly normal to switch teachers, especially if you feel the current teacher
cannot provide further advancement for your child or if your child's interests
have changed. For whatever reason, if you need to reassess your child's goal,
follow the same guideline described in setting your goal and reaching your goal.
What we need to know about
are considered business professionals and they should conduct their business in
a very professional manner. This means keeping parents informed of studio rules
and policies such as lesson schedules, cancellations, late arrivals, payment
schedules, recitals, etc. Parents, on the other hand, must also respect the
teacher's rules and policies and comply accordingly.
Income: Find out if piano
teaching is the sole source of income. Most teachers begin teaching in the
afternoon after children are out of school, so many often work during the day
to supplement their teaching income. Teachers who depend solely on teaching
income tend to put more effort into their teaching.
A teacher should provide the student -
- Repertoire: Students should have a collection of
music pieces varying in styles and composers covering periods of Baroque,
Classical, Romantic, Impressionistic, and Contemporary. ( see Composer
- Technics: Scales and finger exercises should be
included in daily assignment. (see Technical
- Music Theory: Whether the teacher uses a method book
or provide work sheets, there should be some music theory incorporated into
weekly assignment/lesson. (see Music Theory)
- Music Appreciation: Teachers should provide
resources for students, such as recommendations of CDs and books or newsletters
with current concerts and events. (see Market Place for my recommendations and
Calendar of Events for
Resume: Here are a few items you
should look for in a teacher's resume -
- Where did the teacher receive their
music education? What degree(s) and in what area of study? Having more
or higher degrees does not guarantee a better teacher but suggests someone who
has a wider range of knowledge in music education. I would be concerned if a
teacher's main area of study is not in piano (e.g. choral music or conducting),
or teaches a variety of instruments. You want someone who is committed to the
instrument you are interested in.
- How many years have they been in
teaching? How many students do they have? Experience can come from a
college degree but an experienced teacher must know how to transfer that
knowledge to their students through their teaching. A teacher who has been
teaching for a few years and has a balanced number of students indicates that
this teacher is committed to their teaching. The number of students a teacher
has can range from 20 to 60.
- What local
organizations and professional programs does the teacher participate in?
And to what extent? Participation in music organizations and programs is
important to provide the students with opportunities outside the studio. The
degree of participation suggests the level of commitment of the teacher.
- Does the teacher offer regularly
scheduled recitals, music theory classes or music workshops or
activities? Teachers should offer at least two recitals a year. Most
teachers don't offer separate music theory classes but should at least
incorporate music theory during private lessons. Very few teachers conduct
workshops or organize concert outings, though teachers should keep parents
informed of these events.
Studio: It is important to
visit the studio where lessons will be given. If it's at a private residence,
find out if the studio is isolated from the main house and what kind of piano
is available for use. Does the teacher make available other resources for
students and parents (CDs you might be able to borrow, a bulletin board with
current events)? Teachers are professionals and you should expect the studio to
Step-by-Step Guide to Finding the
With a wealth of information at hand, you are ready to
begin the final process. Just so you feel confident about going through this
process, I have an analogy. Consider the thorough research we do before we
purchase a car that we might keep for 6 or 7 years. Selecting the right teacher
can bring a lifetime of learning and pleasure for your child.
- Check the Teacher Directory and ask friends for
recommendations. Find out if the teacher has a student recital that you and
your child can attend (see Student
- You can be much more objective when you are a guest at a
recital. Not only will you have an opportunity to hear the quality of playing;
it is also a chance for your child to observe a recital they may take part in
later on. Things you should look for at the recital:
- The ages and levels of the students. There should be a good
- The children's presentation and performance skills ( see
Piano Education Guide - Attend
- The children's posture and hand positions (see
Reach Your Goal - Musical
Foundation I Skill Guide).
- When you get a chance after the recital, try to chat with
other parents. Also observe the teacher's interactions with their students and
parents. There is nothing better than first-hand information.
- Top 10 questions
to ask at the interview:
- Do you expect all your students to enroll in auditions or
competitions? (Is this your goal?)
- Do you encourage your students to participate in these
programs? (Encouragement is good without pressure)
- How did your students do in these programs? (This
indicates the level of teaching)
- What kinds of music do you generally teach? (Classical
is most popular but you also want diversity)
- What types of teaching method do you use? (There isn't a
single method that is suitable for every child, the teacher must tailor each
student's needs with different options)
- Do you teach music theory? (It's a must)
- Do you use teaching tools? (some teachers may use
computer software, you are paying for a personal lesson, you can do this at
- Do you help students acquire music appreciation? (The
teacher has books, recordings, videos, etc.. for students to borrow or is
affiliated with programs)
- Are parents allowed to observe the lesson? (If the
teacher has a problem with that, you might want to know why, some finds it a
distraction for the student)
- What other fees are there? (Besides the costs mentioned
above, sometimes teachers charge for borrowing software, movies,
- Top 10 things to look for
at the interview and later on:
- Does the studio have a separate entrance and a waiting
area? (If the studio is in a residence, it's best if the studio is kept
separate from the main house)
- Are the studio and the piano in good condition? (An
organized studio means an organized teacher, you can't give lessons with a
piano that is out of tune or falling apart)
- How is the initial contact between your child and the
teacher? (Having eye contact is very important)
- What is the body language exhibited by the teacher toward
your child? (There should be some physical contact suggesting the teacher is
able to form a personal relationship)
- Is the personality of the teacher compatible to your
child's? (There should be some chemistry between them)
- Does the teacher show patience when your child makes a
mistake? (Teachers should always allow students to make mistakes a few
- How does the teacher approach the mistake? (Hopefully
with encouraging words)
- Is the teacher capable of explaining to the child at their
intellectual level? (If the teacher can't explain at the level an 8-year old
can understand, it will not be too effective)
- Does the teacher award students for a job well done?
(Little things like
Music Reward Stickers work very well for children or
Beanie Babies for bigger accomplishments)
- Is the teacher sending the right message to your child?
(Winning is not everything)