One of the questions which comes up so often, not just amongst parents but amongst adult pupils too, is how do you go about finding a teacher? Surprisingly, even as a flute, piano and singing teacher here in Lichfield, I’ve had to find teachers for myself at various intervals. Here are some suggestions to get you started…
Where do I look for a teacher?
The best way to find a music teacher for you or your child is through personal recommendation. Maybe you already know someone who’s learning, and if not, ask around friends and relatives. Around 50% of my enquiries come through this method. Failing this, try the internet. A simple Google search will often yield results, either because teachers have their own websites as I do, or because their details are given on listings sites. Occasionally, if you have a local music shop, they might keep a list (some are selective though, and not always for the right reasons!), and in the past libraries often did the same. When I’ve been looking for teachers, I like to be able to read a bit about them and their teaching – personally, and possibly quite wrongly, I tend to ignore the sort of one-line name and telephone number sort of adverts these days. On my own website, I try to give as much information as I can about me and my teaching: in the end though, you can’t please everyone!
How do I choose a teacher?
The first thing is to think about is what you want from your or your child’s teacher. For example, you may have particular time or location requirements; you might want to focus on a particular sort of music; you might want a teacher who offers performance opportunities; or you might want a teacher who is skilled with a particular group of learners. Make a list of these things: it’s a big commitment, and it’s worth doing as much research as possible. This will hopefully help narrow it down.
What is a ‘good’ teacher?
How long is a piece of string? A good teacher for one person is not a good teacher for another: learning an instrument or learning to sing is a very personal thing and not all personalities ‘gel’ in the same way. You can look for qualifications, but these are in no way a guarantee of success. You’ll need to think about each teacher individually: how to they present themselves? Do they have the skills and experience you’re looking for? Do they show an interest in and enthusiasm for music and teaching? What do past/current pupils/parents say about them? Do you like the sound of them (there’s a lot to be said for trusting instinct too)? What things matter to you about a teacher? I fear that no teacher is perfect, so at one time or another, you may have to make some compromises, at least when you’re searching, otherwise it’s easy to discount all of them!
How to make contact?
Making contact with a prospective teacher is often the hardest part of the whole process. When you contact them, make sure you have any questions to hand; think about the things you want/need to know and find out. Gather as much information as you can: I sometimes wish people would ask me more questions! It is useful if you have an idea of your or your child’s availability too; sometimes teachers just won’t be able to meet these and it’s best to establish this early on.
Some teachers offer an interview lesson, some offer a consultation lesson, and some offer a trial lesson. To my mind, these are all much the same thing. I offer a one-off consultation lesson which is an opportunity to have a chat, and for me to give the pupil a taster of what having flute, piano or singing lessons might be like – there is no obligation to continue after this, though most do. I think it’s important that pupils and parents have the opportunity to meet face-to-face: e-mail and telephone is one thing, but they are no substitute for meeting a prospective teacher in person. Again, have a think about what you’d like to know before you go. Not all teachers offer a consultation lesson and some will expect you to sign up there and then – I’m afraid that with these, despite all your research, there’s an element of chance. Personally, I think that taking lessons is often a big commitment both in time and money, so an initial meeting is important.
What if it doesn’t work out?
I’d like to say that if it doesn’t work out, there are plenty more fish in the sea, but this isn’t always the case. Have a think about what you didn’t like: what was wrong with them? Have a think about the things you liked too! If there are plenty of other teachers locally, then you might be able to work your way around until you find one that fits. This isn’t always the case, and as I said earlier, there may well be an element of compromise. Another thing to think about is that a pupil-teacher-parent-relationship is something which will build up over time; don’t expect everything to be spot-on first time!
Good luck with your search! And…if you’re in Lichfield, Tamworth, Rugeley, Shenstone, Sutton Coldfield, Four Oaks or any of the other surrounding places, I offer flute, piano and singing tuition for both adults and children – you can find some more information here.