Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Finding The Right Teacher For Your Music-Loving Kid

How do you match your child with someone competent, trustworthy, and inspiring?

Once your child has zeroed in on the instrument they would like to learn, the next step is to find a teacher. For many families, that means scouting about for a good private music school and instructor — which can be a challenge on many levels. Asking friends and parents of your child's peers for recommendations is a natural first step, but it doesn't have to be your only method. There are other ways to evaluate if a teacher is likely a good fit for your child and if they can help plug your kid into your local music scene.

In the internet age, it is fairly easy to do some research on your new potential teacher. At North Main Music, each of our instructors has a detailed bio on our website, describing their education and experience, as well as their teaching philosophy. You’re also welcome to call us to ask questions about an instructor’s background, teaching style, and their students’ successes – specifically the students that share your same level and goals.

How can I tell if a teacher is a great match for my child?

This presents a particularly tricky minefield for parents who aren't musically inclined themselves, or whose own memories of childhood lessons are occupied by boring old bats or sadistic, tough-talking taskmasters--or a combination of both. Given the perceived layers of mystery that all too often surround learning to play music, novice parents might wrongly assume that bad teaching is just the way things are supposed to be, but this is far from the truth. 

If you remember only one piece of advice when choosing a music teacher, remember this golden rule: More than degrees, titles, or awards, a teacher’s level of emotional intelligence — the awareness of their own emotions and the emotions of others–will determine their effectiveness as a teacher. Is your candidate responsive to your messages, questions, and input? Are they flexible and spontaneous? Can they balance structure and fun, and do they seem to genuinely love what they do? These are the characteristics that truly matter, and that keep a student engaged, challenged, and committed to music lessons.

The Trial Lesson

At North Main Music, we offer a trial lesson for just $32, so you can to test how the personalities of a teacher and your child mesh. During the trial lesson, you are welcome ask questions: What's the teacher's background as a musician and as an instructor? What kinds of teaching materials and music does she use? How much practice time is expected for students, and does that vary by the student's age? Will the teacher allow the student to record the lesson? (This can be a terrific practice aid, especially when it comes to remembering how something is supposed to sound.) What are the expectations for students and for their parents?

A good teacher will be a friendly, encouraging, and inspiring presence — even when a student hits rough patches. He will point out the student's weaknesses without being harsh or dismissive, suggest innovative ways to overcome challenges, and create engaging ways to tackle even rote activities like playing scales or honing fine motor skills. The instructor's age and experience might or might not be a deciding factor; oftentimes a newer teacher’s youth can help a student, especially a teenager, feel more at ease. On the other hand, another student may be more motivated and inspired by a “seasoned” musician with a great deal of experiential wisdom.

So what if you try out a teacher for a little while and you're just not sure it's a good fit? It's crucial to trust your gut. It's better to make a change sooner rather than later, especially if you feel like a teacher's experience, energy or approach just isn't right for your child. Sure, that will probably be an uncomfortable conversation, but isn't that preferable to wasting money, time and your kid's initial enthusiasm? At North Main Music, we are always open to feedback on how to make your child’s lesson experience as positive as possible, and we are happy to work with you to match your child with the best teacher for them.

“We scheduled a trial lesson! How do we prepare for it?”
Congratulations! You’ve made a great first step. Now you need to do a little preparation. First you need to find an instrument if you don’t have one. Start your research but you may not need to purchase anything just yet. Ask you new potential teacher for advice on that. We also have a comprehensive FAQ page on our website, which may answer some of your questions as you prepare for your first lesson.

And that leads to the next point – GOALS. It’s very important that you can verbalize clearly why you want to take music lessons. You’ll want to tell your new potential teacher your goals in the first lesson:

  • Are you doing this just for enjoyment?
  • Do you want to strengthen your skills so you can be a part of a community group? (a church choir or musical theatre troupe or band, etc.)
  • Are you in middle/high school and you want to join the orchestra? star in the school musical? play in the jazz band?
  • Are you considering majoring music in college?
  • Do you want to start a band?
  • Do you want to be the next American Idol?
Whatever your goals are, make them clear to yourself and your teacher so that, together, you can determine whether or not this teacher can help you to reach them and make the most of your learning experience.

“My kid had their trial lesson. How do I know he/she was the right teacher?”
You might not be able to answer this question after just one lesson. But here are some things to think about:

  • A good teacher should be able to nurture and make you feel comfortable and good about yourself especially when you are having difficulty mastering the subject
  • A good teacher should challenge you to achieve to a level that maybe you think you can’t attain.
  • A good teacher should be honest with you but not in a belittling way – in a way that elevates you to a higher level.
  • A good teacher listens to your desires and goals and creates a plan to achieve those goals.
  • A good teacher can communicate their ideas clearly to you and when you don’t quite understand, they can come up with several different ways to communicate the same concepts until you understand (because not every student learns the same way).
  • A good teacher is willing to tell you when you should find another teacher if they feel like you have achieved everything you can with them.
  • A good teacher will not belittle you if you decide that it is time to move on to another teacher.

You know you are with a good teacher if you leave your lessons feeling excited about what you are doing! Of course there will always be some times that you will have a difficult lesson here and there but the right teacher will guide you through those difficult times and celebrate your success when you come through it.

Good luck on your search!

The above article was inspired by/adapted from this article on and this one on