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How to find the right piano teacher Metronome Home

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 scope.

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.

§My 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.

What we need to know as parents: What we need to know about teachers:
Distance Professional
Fees Income
Investment Requirements
Schedule Resume
Switching Teachers Studio

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 Directory.

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  • 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 have piano tuning regularly. Accessories such as a metronome or a foot stool may be necessary to meet your needs.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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What we need to know about teachers:

Professional: 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.

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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.

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Requirements: 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)
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Resume: Here are a few items you should look for in a teacher's resume -

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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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 look professional.

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Step-by-Step 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.

  1. 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 Recitals).
  2. 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:
    1. The ages and levels of the students. There should be a good balance.
    2. The children's presentation and performance skills ( see Piano Education Guide - Attend Concerts).
    3. The children's posture and hand positions (see Reach Your Goal - Musical Foundation I Skill Guide).
  3. 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.
  4. Top 10 questions to ask at the interview:
    1. Do you expect all your students to enroll in auditions or competitions? (Is this your goal?)
    2. Do you encourage your students to participate in these programs? (Encouragement is good without pressure)
    3. How did your students do in these programs? (This indicates the level of teaching)
    4. What kinds of music do you generally teach? (Classical is most popular but you also want diversity)
    5. 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)
    6. Do you teach music theory? (It's a must)
    7. Do you use teaching tools? (some teachers may use computer software, you are paying for a personal lesson, you can do this at home)
    8. Do you help students acquire music appreciation? (The teacher has books, recordings, videos, etc.. for students to borrow or is affiliated with programs)
    9. 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)
    10. What other fees are there? (Besides the costs mentioned above, sometimes teachers charge for borrowing software, movies, etc.)
  5. Top 10 things to look for at the interview and later on:
    1. 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)
    2. 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)
    3. How is the initial contact between your child and the teacher? (Having eye contact is very important)
    4. 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)
    5. Is the personality of the teacher compatible to your child's? (There should be some chemistry between them)
    6. Does the teacher show patience when your child makes a mistake? (Teachers should always allow students to make mistakes a few times)
    7. How does the teacher approach the mistake? (Hopefully with encouraging words)
    8. 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)
    9. 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)
    10. Is the teacher sending the right message to your child? (Winning is not everything)

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