26 Questions for Prospective Music Teachers

26_Questions_for_Prospective_Music_Teachers_The_Music_Blog

Getting To Know Them Before You Walk in the Door 

Finding a good music teacher can be a challenge.  Ideally, you’ve been able to get a recommendation from someone you trust, but sometimes that just isn’t possible and you have to head out on your own to find that teacher who will be a perfect fit.

Whether you are pursuing a teacher who has been recommended to you or one you found online, it’s wise to have a thorough list of questions to ask when you make that first phone call.   It’s an extra step, but it’s one that makes tremendous difference in the success of your relationship from the start.  You need to know if the teacher will be a fit for your family, and if the right questions are asked it can be the beginning of a relationship that flourishes into a life-long friendship for your child and yourself.

Here are a few to help you get started.

 

Teaching Logistics

  • How long are your lesson times?
  • What is your fee per lesson?
  • How do you like to be paid?   Some teachers prefer to be paid weekly; others require four weeks’ payment at the beginning of the month.  Some even work in terms of entire semesters with accompanying contracts.  This is important to ask so you know from the start if their payment plan is compatible with your budget.
  • Are there any other yearly fees associated with the studio?
  • What levels do you teach?   Many professional instructors do not accept beginner musicians or will only work with students older than age 12.  So, ask what ages the teacher prefers and what difficulty levels they are comfortable teaching.
  • How often will we be expected to purchase new books?   Some teachers have one book that they work from almost exclusively for each “level,” while other teachers have you purchase a new book for every new piece.  That can add up quickly, especially if the teacher only keeps your little one on a piece for 2-3 weeks (an additional $10-40 per month).  If this is the case, knowing ahead of time will allow you to determine if you can work this extra monthly cost into your budget.
  • What days and times do you teach?
  • Do you teach through the summer?
  • What does your holiday teaching schedule look like?
  • Do you have a studio policy you can send me?   This is really important.   Is payment required in every cancellation situation, or is a 24-hour notice accepted?  What about sickness?  For what reasons will the teacher cancel lessons?  All of the important business logistics will be addressed in the policy, and you need to know the answers before you make a commitment.
  • Do you prefer to schedule a meeting first or start lessons right away?

 

Teaching Experience*

[box style=”white” ]*These questions really only apply if you haven’t had a recommendation for the teacher and you suspect that he/she might be substantially inexperienced.[/box]

  • How long have you been teaching?  Keep in mind that a short teaching history doesn’t necessarily mean the teacher is “green”, just as a long teaching history doesn’t guarantee that the teacher is “seasoned!”  Keep asking questions, and their answers will show you if they are really experienced or not.
  • Have you worked with children ___ years old {insert child’s age}?  If the teacher is relatively new to teaching, you will want to find out if he/she has ever worked with students your child’s age before or if your child will be their first experience.  Again, it doesn’t mean you should rule them out if they have never taught a 6-year-old or 14-year-old, but it is something you will want to know so you can make an educated decision.

 

Teaching Method

  • What are some of your ultimate goals for your students?   If a teacher doesn’t have any long-term goals in mind for his students, you might want to call someone else.
  • How would you describe your approach?   Don’t just ask what the approach is; ask the teacher to describe it.  Here’s why.  A teacher who says, “I teach Suzuki,” might only mean that she uses the Suzuki repertoire books, not that she  follows the entire Suzuki approach.  In the same way, a teacher who says she follows a “traditional” approach might actually mean that she doesn’t… really… have… an approach, not that she follows the teaching models of Chopin or Liszt.  So ask what an average lesson look like, and get an idea of their approach in action.
  • What skills do you consider essential for your students to learn?  Ear training? Sight-reading? Performance? Memory? Improvisation? What are their priorities, and what will they focus on teaching? 
  • Do you teach music theory, and do you integrate it into the lessons?  This is a very important question.  Many teachers do not spend time on theory during the music lesson.  They either offer monthly group theory “classes” which are separate from weekly lessons, or worse, they don’t teach theory at all.  Music theory is vital, so make sure to include this question on your list!
  • What music genre(s) is your primary focus?   Classical, Pop, Folk, Etc.
  • Are you willing to teach other genres in addition to the main genre during lesson time?  Obviously, when you choose a music teacher, you do so because you are interested in the particular genre he specializes in.  However, if another genre is also important to you – hymns, for example, in addition to classical – ask if he would be willing to spend a portion of lesson time on that genre as well.  If he isn’t, that is something you will want to know when making your decision.
  • What repertoire & theory books do you use?
  • How much will you allow / expect me to be involved in the lessons?
  • Am I allowed to stay during the lessons, or am I required to drop my child off?   If you plan to bring other children with you, ask about them, too. 

Studio Opportunities / Participation

  • Do you have any other studio events? Master classes, socials, recitals, etc.
  • Do you have studio recitals?  How many recitals do you have a year? 

[box style=”white” ] Ask if the teacher has any upcoming recitals you can attend!  Studio recitals provide the perfect opportunity for you and your child to meet the prospective teacher, observe how well his students perform, and see his professionalism in action! [/box]

  • Do your students participate in competitions, festivals, etc.? 
  • Which of your studio activities are required?

 

You might scratch some of these questions from your personal list, and you might have several more to add, and that’s great!  As a parent, your list of questions will be unique from everyone elses’ – questions that reflect the priorities of your family, your child, and your situation.  What is important is that you take the time to think through your priorities before you call so you can make a thoughtful, educated decision that will be the very best for your family and your child’s musical experience.

In closing, here are three things to keep in mind when you talk with a prospective teacher:

1.  Only ask questions you really want to know.  Only you know what issues will really make a difference in your relationship with your music teacher, so prioritize your questions and only ask the ones that are important to you.  This will keep your conversation purposeful, productive, and efficient.

2.  Be sincere.   Professional teachers can tell if you really care or if you’re just reading down a list of questions for duty’s sake.  So be warm and open, and let the teacher see that you really want to know answers, not just drill him.  A genuine teacher will be excited to connect with a parent who is sincerely interested in knowing their goals and wants the best for their child.

3.  Be humble.   Professional teachers rarely want to work with a parent who is already trying to one-up them in the first conversation.  On the other hand, teachers are eager to work with parents who promote respectful interaction from the start.  Ask questions freely, but always ask them kindly.

[box style=”white” ]The way you speak to the teacher will lay the foundation for your relationship and set the tone for how the teacher responds to you.  Be sure your confidence is always balanced with respect.[/box]

The first conversation with a prospective teacher is a wonderful opportunity, so get comfortable and try to enjoy yourself!  This may be the beginning of an experience with an individual who will become a treasured part of you and your child’s life!

Do you have additional questions to add to the list?  
Share them in the comments!

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