When it comes to choosing a teacher for yourself or your child you want to make sure the teacher you choose will give you quality instruction. Teaching philosophies, techniques and goals will greatly impact what kind of instruction each teacher gives. It can be an overwhelming task to pick a teacher, especially if you don’t feel qualified to critique in this area – however, it’s imperative that you do! Even if you are unfamiliar with music you can gain insight and knowledge just by asking questions. Ask the same questions to a few different teachers. Teachers are usually very happy to talk about their teaching philosophies!
Here is a helpful list of questions, designated by category, that you can ask a prospective teacher in order to evaluate their teaching style.
- What is your professional and educational background in music?
- What is your teaching experience?
- Where do you teach/What is the atmosphere of your teaching environment?
- What age groups do you teach?
- Do you have a written studio policy?
- What is your cancellation/rescheduling policy?
- How much practicing do you require from your students?
- What role do you expect parents to play in their child’s practicing?
- What do you expect from weekly practicing?
- Do you require students to learn scales and etudes?
- What are your requirements for students to progress from song to song?
- What books or materials do your students use?
- What kinds of music do you teach?
- What materials/accessories other than an instrument do you require your students to purchase?
- What emphasis do you put on correct technique?
- How do you evaluate student progress?
- In your opinion, what’s the most important thing students should gain from taking lessons?
- Do you offer Studio Recitals? Are they required?
- What festivals or competitions are available for your students?
- Other performance opportunities?
- What are your lesson fees?
- Are there any extra fees other than lesson fees?
- When/how are lesson fees paid?
You do not need to ask every question on this list, but do choose at least one from each category so that you get a broad overview of a teacher’s style. You may also have questions of your own to add! Remember, no question is stupid. Teachers do not expect that you know everything (or anything) about music and are more than happy to answer any question you might have for them!
Emily Williams is the creator of Strategic Strings: An Online Course for Violin and Viola Teachers