So you’ve decided to take private lessons–good for you! We’ve already discussed why private lessons are a great idea for any musician, regardless of your commitment level. Now that you’ve decided to enroll, you’re probably overwhelmed with options. There are a plethora of instructors out there, and they all specialize in different areas. You may be wondering what to look for, or what your instructor should be doing for you. Here are a few things to consider:
1. Does the instructor have formal training?
It goes without saying that you can’t pass on knowledge you don’t have. It’s a good idea to find an instructor who has a degree in music (either education or performance) from a reputable school. Why? Well, for starters, you wouldn’t want to take gymnastics lessons from someone who had no balance, and it’s the same with music! An accredited school with a reputable music department will have taught your potential instructor everything he/she needs to know about music: performance, theory, technique, history, etc. If the instructor does not have a music degree, then some other questions should be asked.
2. What other credentials does the instructor have?
This is definitely a question that should be asked of someone who does not have a formal degree in music. There are many qualified instructors who, for many different reasons, may not have a degree in music, but have plenty of experience in performance. Even if the instructor does have a degree, it’s still good to know what kind of performance background he/she has, or even to know about other certifications or education that are related to your instrument!
If your instructor has no formal degree, but has performed with well-known orchestras, choral organizations, etc., then he/she will more than likely be a good candidate. However, if the instructor has no formal degree and has performed with organizations no one has ever heard of (or if their only experience is high school band), RUN!
3. Is he/she affiliated with a public or private school? If so, what is the school’s philosophy and/or focal point?
Most of the time, good instructors are currently, or have previously been affiliated with some type of school. This is not always the case, but it goes without saying that those who teach or who have taught at a school generally have a good idea of what and how to teach. Another point to consider, if the instructor is currently with a school, is the type of music the school focuses on. Some schools, like public schools, have more of a general education focus, while others are much more specific and tailored to different genres, techniques, etc.
4. How long has the instructor been teaching, and what is he/she experienced in?
Of course, everyone has to start somewhere, and teachers don’t simply come out of the ground with years of experience, but it’s your best bet to go with someone who has had at least a couple years’ experience, even if it has been informal. Again, you wouldn’t take gymnastics lessons from a beginner! Find out how long the instructor has been teaching, where he/she has taught, and what type of experience he/she has. It’s a good idea to know what you want from an instructor, or from lessons in general, before looking for one. Different instructors are experienced in different areas, just like different schools have different focal points, so it’s important to find one who can give you what you want!
5. Are you comfortable with him/her? Do you “click”?
While it’s not necessary to “get along” with or even “like” your instructor, it definitely makes things easier and much more enjoyable when you do! If you have more than one potential (qualified) instructor, get to know them! The most important part of lessons is your commitment to them, and you are much more likely to be committed if you are comfortable with your instructor and enjoy your lessons. Take a trial lesson or two before you make a commitment; you’re not “stuck” with your first choice, so if it doesn’t work out, take your time and keep looking!
These are just a few suggestions, and they are not all-inclusive. However, these questions will give you a good head-start and some solid information to help you decide on which instructor you will work with. Remember, you’re not stuck with your first choice! Even if you get along with and are benefiting from your instructor, your skill level and needs will be constantly changing as you grow in your practice and musicianship. You may need to change instructors for any number of reasons along your path, and that’s okay! Nobody knows everything, so don’t be afraid to keep searching for someone who can give you more information and help you reach your full potential!
Written by Melissa Baden for The Talent Notes