Choosing Your Music Instructor
Participating in music lessons can be a joyous experience. This lifelong journey yields many riches. Identifying the best teacher possible is of primary importance. Here are some points to examine when considering lessons:
- Is there a true desire to learn music?
Music should be a privilege and a choice, not an assignment or keeping up with someone else. Realize that it takes between three to five years of lessons to fully explore whether a musical instrument is right for any individual. Stopping can sometimes be as detrimental to a person as not having the chance to start in the first place.
- Is there family support?
Music lessons are a three-legged stool — the teacher, the student and either a parent, grandparent or other caring adult or sibling who is willing to assist with lesson practice, coaching and encouragement. Is the family united to support the student?
- Is the teacher-student profile correct?
Sometimes a person responds better to a man than a woman, and vice versa. Often factors such as age, culture, and life experience make a difference. Does the teacher present a mix of styles and techniques which appeal to the student — such as being pleasant, flexible and fun in addition to providing solid foundations and encouragement when needed? A trial period of six months to determine whether lessons are going to be successful with any teacher is suggested.
- Are the arrangements satisfactory?
Is the schedule, location, procedure and price right for you? If they are not, avoid putting yourself in a position of possible resentment in the future.
- Is open communication possible?
Music instruction is a metaphor for life, which has many ups and downs, twists and turns. At these times, you should be able to talk frankly with your teacher. Items of concern need to be openly explored whenever necessary so that the very best music instruction may be given at all times and under all circumstances.
- Is the student teachable?
When the instructor coaches a student, is the student open to suggestions for improvement or do they try to justify their position? Are there issues which cause a power play to come between the instructor and the student? If this has been so in the past, what will make it different this time around?
- Is the student willing to practice?
Successful music lessons are made possible by regular practicing. This usually involves four to five days a week for between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on the age and advancement of the student (unless there are special needs or circumstances). Lessons are a partnership between the teacher and the student. Tremendous results can be attained, even though most of us will not be concert artists. Music teachers usually look for, and are satisfied with, some effort on the part of the student. When this is not forthcoming, terrific pressure is placed on the teacher to try to make instructional progress. Lessons bog down and discouragement results.
- Do your expectations match what the teacher can deliver?
It is best to clearly see what is expected in a student-teacher relationship and what is possible due to personality, style and experience. Always be true to yourself, and let the instructor authentically be themselves. If this adds up to a great relationship, then do everything you can to nurture and preserve it.
Hopefully, these points are useful to you in identifying a music instructor. You may have other points to consider. Please feel free to discuss any of this material with me or whomever you decide to approach for lessons.
— Dr. Chris Robinson