to find the right piano teacher?
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
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 your child.
Thoughts 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 For.
we need to know as parents:
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 Directory.
- 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 hall.
- 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
tuning regularly. Accessories
such as a metronome
or a foot stool may be necessary to meet your needs.
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.
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.
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.
we need to know about teachers:
Teachers 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.
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 Directory)
- Technics: Scales and finger exercises
should be included in daily assignment. (see Technical Skill)
- 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 concerts)
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.
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
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 look professional.
Guide to Finding the Right Teacher:
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 balance.
- The children's presentation and performance
skills ( see Piano
Education Guide - Attend Concerts).
- The children's posture and hand positions
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.
10 questions to ask at the interview:
- Do you expect all your students to
enroll in auditions or competitions? (Is this your
- 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
- 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
- Do you use teaching tools? (some
teachers may use computer software, you are paying for
a personal lesson, you can do this at home)
- Do you help students acquire music
appreciation? (The teacher has books, recordings,
videos, etc.. for students to borrow or is affiliated
- 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, etc.)
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
- 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
- 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 times)
- 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
even Beanie Babies for bigger accomplishments)
- Is the teacher sending the right message
to your child? (Winning is not everything)