Last time we talked about answering the question so many parents ask, “When should I start my child in piano lessons?” You can read more about my answer here. Today I want to delve into another of these questions I hear from family/friends all the time. The question is, “How do I choose a piano teacher for my child?” So if you’re another teacher, you’ll probably have your own answer for this question and I’d love to hear about it in the comments! If you’re a parent who found this list, then keep reading!
So just like every child is unique, every teacher is gifted in their own unique areas. Every teacher has their own strengths in teaching as well as their own weaknesses. Parents know how their child learns and what type of environment they want in the piano studio of their dreams. Write down your “must haves” and what your ideal teacher would do for your child before you meet with any teachers.
Yes, I said teachers. When you shop online, do you just pick the first one you see? Or do you compare ingredients, check prices, look for other cheaper options, and so on. I certainly do. So as a parent, when I’m looking for lessons for my own children I like to check out all the options and compare before I make a decision. With piano lessons, some parents may only look at price… But we know that’s not the best way to pick a teacher who will really fit with your child!
As you check into all the options, go meet with all of the teachers you’re seriously considering. If there’s 2 or 3 that just all seem top notch, ask to meet with them. To the teachers, this shows that the parents really care to find the best fit for their child and their goals for piano lessons. Parents should come with any questions they have after studying the studio policy and learning about the studio. Also plan on a short meeting, nothing lengthy just a chance to interact and check if the child is ready to begin lessons.
Here are a few questions to consider as you choose your ideal teacher:
Is the teacher involved in a teaching association?
This will offer festivals/competitions and theory test opportunities to further the musical experience depending on the area you live in. It also shows that this teacher is keeping up with current trends in their field, involved with colleagues, and continuing their own education.
When I have friends ask me, I direct them the Music Teacher’s National Association website teacher finder. It’s easy to just use your local zip code and see who around you is a part of this amazing association. There are certified teachers listed (NCTM) which means they went the extra mile to certify their skills and keep up their learning in their field. From here it’s great to check their websites/Facebook pages and get a feel for their studio before contacting your top choices.
What is the teacher’s background?
Each parent wants something different so think about what matters to you. Do you want someone from church who can play well? Would you like a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree in music? Are you looking for a professional with a masters or doctorate degree? Read the teacher’s bio to find out more about them.
Ask your neighbors or school friends’ parents.
Referrals and word of mouth are a great way to learn about the studio! Parents will tell you all about the fun Halloween recital, how their student is progressing, how the teacher communicates with parents, and more.
Do you want an in home studio or a music school?
As you get referrals from neighbors and friends, be clear on which type you want or if you have a serious preference. Many private piano teachers run their in home studios very professionally. Do you want something close to home or where you could drop off children for simultaneous lessons with different teachers at a music school?
Does this teacher hold recitals?
Most teachers have one or two recitals each year. There are often pictures on their website from these events so you can find out how casual or formal they are. I believe one of the best parts of having your children involved in piano lessons is that they learn to prepare and perform in front of an audience! It’s something to look into as you sift through your options for teachers.
Does this teacher enter students in competitions/festivals?
When involved in a teaching association, most teachers will enter students who want to in a few festivals each year. As students advance, they may want more serious competitions so this is something to look into if you’re transferring and interested in it.
Does this teacher hold group lessons?
I’ve spoken about this topic at many conferences but it’s something I totally believe in! For all ages, group lessons bring such an element of FUN to lessons. All too often piano is a solitary pursuit – we don’t have orchestras or bands of pianos to participate in at school. We don’t practice with a “section” but by ourselves for hours at home. So whenever teachers can include group lessons, whether it’s just for theory review or once a month, it’s going to help your child love lessons even more. Games, ensemble music and performance options abound at group classes!
Does this teacher LOVE to teach?
Many amazing musicians love to teach and these are the musicians you want teaching your child! I believe that teachers with a passion for sharing their love of music are the BEST kinds of teachers. Sometimes this is best assessed meeting in person. Sometimes pictures and the activities they plan give you an idea of this online.
Whew, it’s a long list but those are the tips I send parents looking into lessons. These give my friends and family good questions to ask teachers about and discuss at home as they decide what is important to them. Piano lessons are an amazing gift to give your child! And when you find the teacher that works best for you, it’s a great match for all involved – the parents, the teacher and the student.
Good luck in your piano teacher search!
Whitney Hawker, NCTM, teaches group and private piano at Weber State University, Utah. She loves surprising students with the perfect piece or a new exciting game! After graduate school, she missed sharing ideas and resources daily with colleagues so she and her friend, Spring, began blogging together at 4DPianoTeaching.com