So you want to find a music teacher for private lessons? That’s great! Whether it’s because you have aspirations to become a professional musician, or you are wanting to hone your skills to perform in a community music organization or you are just are doing it for enjoyment, taking private lessons are a fantastic investment. With private instruction, you get the kind of personal attention you need to succeed.
“Where can I find a teacher?”
That’s a good question! There are several resources out there. You just have to tap them!
- Word of mouth – you may know someone who has taken music lessons at one time or perhaps someone has children in music lessons that you could talk to. If you are already part of a community music ensemble (a church choir or local band, etc.), ask around. Someone is bound to have a connection to a music teacher.
- Community Music Schools – do an internet search for a local community music school. These schools are fantastic and filled with so much more than just private teachers. Some offer theory and history classes, some even have performance opportunities like bands, orchestras, choirs, and chamber music groups. Some of these community schools even send teachers to your home for your lessons. And often the rates for lessons are less expensive through these schools than if you work with a freelance teacher.
- Local Universities – you can call your local college or university’s music program (do an internet search and try to find the faculty members who teach the instrument you are interested in) and ask for a referral. The faculty member at the university may not be able to teach you but they may be able to refer you to a local teacher or a graduate student who would be able to take you on for lessons.
- Online resources – there are some organizations and websites that are dedicated to hooking up students with teachers. I am not affiliated with any of these online organizations but you can peruse the sites and see if there is a teacher who would fit your needs.
- Professional Organizations – there are many organizations that music teachers belong to for professional development and networking. Below are just a few.
- Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) – mostly piano teachers
- National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) – obviously voice teachers
- Statewide Professional Organizations – do an internet search for a professional music teacher organization in your state (i.e. New York Music Teacher professional organization search will yield several results)
“I found a potential teacher. Now what?”
Contact them and set up a lesson! When you make first contact either on the phone or via email, first tell them WHY you want to take private lessons and then ask the following questions:
- Where do the lessons take place?
- How long are the lessons? 30 minutes? 45 minutes? 60 minutes?
- Is there a charge for the first lesson? (some teachers may offer a free or discounted first lesson)
- What are the lesson fees for lessons after the first lesson? (if the charge for the first lesson is different than regular fees)
- How do you prefer to be paid? (cash, checks, credit cards, after each lesson, monthly, etc.)
- What would you like me to bring to the first lesson?
- Do you have a cancellation policy?
- Do you have an opening for a trial lesson in the next week? (or the next two weeks or whatever)
Once you have asked these questions, you should be ready to prepare for your first lesson!
“I have scheduled my first lesson! How do I 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.
You also want to do some research on your new potential teacher. Hopefully they have a website or if you found them through one of the online resources listed above, read their profiles thoroughly so you know a little of their background, what styles of music/instruments they teach most and other information. You should be prepared to ask them some questions on their background and more importantly their students. Just because a teacher has attended the best music conservatories in the world and have performed in fabulous and exotic places doesn’t make them an excellent teacher. You want to ask them about their student’s successes – specifically the students that share your same level and goals.
And that leads me to the next point – GOALS. It is very important that you can verbalize clearly why you want to take music lessons. You will want to tell your new potential teacher these goals in the first lesson:
- Are you doing it 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 park band, etc.)
- Are you in middle/high school and you want to join the orchestra? star in the school musical? play in the pep 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 the goals are, you want to be clear with your teacher and then you can determine whether or not this teacher can help you reach your goal. Then you might want to go even farther by specifying your goals – perhaps you have a specific technical issue that you need to address, or you have certain repertoire that you want to perform, or you have an audition coming up that you need to prepare for. Whatever your goals are, make them clear to yourself and your teacher.
“I had my first 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!