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Private music lessons: How to find the right teacher?

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My 9yo has been participating in orchestra with the local elementary school since September.

He has been playing the violin and seems to have fallen in love with it. He practices for over an hour every day, and spends much of his free time working ahead in their book, teaching himself new songs.


We are considering private lessons for him so he can work at a pace that is right for him, rather than that of a class of 35 other fourth graders, but I don't know where to begin.


We currently rent his instrument from a local violin maker who recommended a teacher. I would like to call her, but I don't know what to say, other than telling her we are interested in lessons.


What do I ask her? What should I be looking for?


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First I would inquire as to how much experience she has with teaching children. Not all teachers are great with kids. It might even be a good idea for you to contact some of her current students' parents to find out how they like her style of instruction.


Definitely check for cost of lessons, frequency she recommends/requires, how much practice she expects, whether you may/are required to stay during lessons, whether siblings are welcome to also sit by quietly (if this is an issue for your family), etc.


This might be a really good time to get in touch with potential instructors as many of them have holiday recitals where you could go and listen to their students. In the early phases of music lessons, I like to have the student and teacher somewhat matched in terms of musical styles. If your ds loves classical and the teacher specializes in and plays in a zydeco band, it might not be a great fit. A more advanced student will be better able to experiment with a different style or just extract what they need from all the rest being taught. But beginners usually don't have the maturity or flexibility to know what are essentials and what are stylistics. Some teachers will say that they play/teach all styles, but ask what they are currently performing or playing themselves. It can be frustrating for a student to be given Ode To Joy to learn when they want to be able to play Cotton-eyed Joe, or the opposite!


Another question I would ask regarding violin is whether the teacher will be expecting your ds to read music or to play by ear. My dd and I both play bluegrass/old time/gospel style of fiddle, which is mostly learned by ear. In my understanding, most classical violinists learn by reading the sheet music and perform pieces they have memorized. Neither is better or worse IMO, just different.


How exciting for both you and your ds. I love taking advantage of the periods when my dd is enthusiastic about her music. But be forewarned that there may be times of lesser interest. We seem to experience a succession of peaks and valleys regarding interest level, but have continued to press forward and are enjoying the results.

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Here is a link that I have found extremely useful. It is geared to piano, but most things would apply to violin also. In my experience, lots of teachers just want to sign them up without spending much time figuring out if the fit is right. But if you come prepared with your own questions, you're more likely to discover a potential misfit before you start. Also, don't be afraid to change if the first choice doesn't work out and you've given it a good try. IMO, it's harder to find a good teacher for a talented student than an average one. It seems to me a lot of teachers get in a rut of teaching the same thing in the same way to all the students which is exactly what you are trying to avoid. Look for enthusiasm in a teacher- and if your student starts to lose interest, take a very close look at the situation. While it's natural for all students to go through cycles of more and less enthusiasm, a prolonged lack of interest could mean it's time to find a better fit with a different teacher.




Good luck,



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I agree with the above posters in regard to what to look for and what to ask about.


We've had great luck getting names of instructors by calling local colleges. I'll call or e-mail the professor (or department) relative to the instrument, and ask for recommendations.


I'm usually able to get 3-4 names that way. Then I meet with the potential instructors. Several times, we've done lessons for a month on a trial basis, to make sure that the instructor and student are a good match.





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We have had the best luck with teachers who are genuinely trying to build a private lesson program. My DD's cello teacher is well on his way to building a very strong cello program. It is very obvious that that is his goal.


DS had two viola teachers who were doing lessons while they waited for a full-time teaching position. He lost both teachers when they got a full-time job and they cut back on their private lessons. He recently started with a teacher who has a studio that is her full-time job.


We have had difficulty finding just the right teacher for DS, but I think we've finally hit the jackpot. We were lucky with DD's teacher. She has been with him almost since the beginning.

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request a single, introductory lesson, rather than signing up for an entire semester. Sit in on the lesson with your dc so you can assess whether or not you think the teacher's approach is a good fit for her. Have a sample lesson with more than one teacher before you decide. Some teachers will offer the introductory lesson at no charge; others charge the usual fee. Either way, I have found it to be a worthwhile investment of time and / or money.

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