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Picking the Right Music Teacher for Your Child

Brought to you by MENC: The National Association for Music Education

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the prospect of evaluating a music teacher for your child, especially if you have no music background yourself. But now you can relax -- we've taken the guesswork out of the selection process with this checklist.

The most important part of selecting a private teacher is to find the right match for your child. Music lessons are a personal activity and the relationship your child has with his or her teacher is key to achieving a successful, long-term educational experience.

  1. Ask for recommendations for good music instructors from friends, teachers, music teachers, and others in your community.

  2. Interview the prospective teacher to find out his or her:

    * qualifications
    * teaching experience
    * policies regarding fees, cancellations, etc.
    * professional development

  3. What are the teacher's practice and performance requirements? Teachers working with older students from school programs may not have performance or recital requirements due to the demands of the school music program. But all teachers should have some type of practice requirements.

  4. Does the teacher have his or her students study a variety of music and music styles?

  5. Does the teacher incorporate theory and history into the lessons?

  6. Once you've selected someone, ask to sit in on a few lessons in order to observe the relationship developing between your child and the teacher. Look for the teacher to inspire and your child to cooperate. Your child should have his or her interest sparked by the teacher and want to learn more.

  7. Attend a recital given by the students of the teacher. Talk to other parents about their views of the teacher's lessons.

  8. Does the teacher help his or her students to set goals for progress? Does the teacher provide formal or informal evaluations for parents so you can see your child's progress?

  9. Ask for references if appropriate.
Sometimes, the best advice you can get about choosing a music teacher is from other parents who've been there.

One Mom's Tips for Picking a Good Music Teacher
By Rosemary Forrest

As the parent of two grown daughters, both of whom are singers, I learned several things about picking teachers and schools for them.

  1. You should be welcome to observe your child's private lessons. And they should take place at an appropriate time and place.

  2. Opportunities to perform are as important as good instruction. There should be participation in community events, opportunities to audition for solos, and more than just an end-of-year recital.

  3. Music is expensive. Expect what you pay for sheet music to roughly equal the expense of several lessons. But it's a good investment if your child is interested. It should be good sheet music, not just what's popular this year.

  4. Singers should be taught a variety of styles and should be expected to sing in at least German and Italian as well as English.

  5. Students should be given the opportunity to compete or be rated in their area. A good music teacher will belong to professional organizations that provide these opportunities.

  6. Colleges offering music majors should have undergraduate courses taught by full professors, not graduate students. Some highly rated colleges use graduate students to instruct the undergrads. Research colleges thoroughly if your high schooler wants to major in music. (The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) website lists accredited schools of music and answers to frequently asked questions.)

  7. Check the credentials of the teachers in the area your child wants to study. A great jazz school may not be what a classical singer needs, for instance.

Source: "Opportunity-to-Learn Standards for Music Education," Published by MENC.

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