Everything You Must Know to Make the Right Choice for You and Your Child
Are you considering enrolling your child in piano lessons? Perhaps you’re considering learning the instrument yourself?
As another school term approaches, you may be searching for a piano teacher. But how do you choose the right one?
In Part One of this two-part blog series, we’ll consider what to look for in a piano teacher themselves. If you want to be confident you’re making the right choice of piano teacher, then this is the post for you. Next week, we’ll delve deeper as we discuss what to look for in a piano studio. (You can find the second blog post here.)
Word-Of-Mouth vs. Google
I may be telling you this through a blog on the internet, but I’m the first to admit that word-of-mouth referrals from a friend or family member are the best way to find a music teacher. The reason for this is that the internet is unregulated, and so anyone can claim to be a “piano teacher”, no matter how unfounded the claim may be.
If you can’t get a referral from a friend, however, then this post will be extremely helpful for you. When you find a teacher via Google, the first thing to look for is whether they have a video portfolio of live student performances. This will provide insights into their teaching quality and style. When deciding whether they’re the teacher for you, you can also apply the same measures you would use to judge a teacher you found through a friend. These measures are listed below.
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If you’re serious about learning the piano, you’ll want to choose a teacher with a music degree – usually a Bachelor of Music or “B.Mus.”.
You’ll also want to know what their major is, be it performance, musicology, composition, or music technology. While a performance major must first pass a piano audition to enter their degree, this is not required of students studying other majors.
It’s also important to discover where a teacher studied. Prestigious universities such as the Sydney Conservatorium or Elder Conservatorium have a good reputation for a reason. Their entry standard is higher than the standard for lower-tier music institutions.
Your child (or you) can, of course, take piano lessons with a less-qualified teacher. But be aware that if you do so, they will be less qualified to teach technique, and prepare you for exams.
So for best results, select a teacher who majored in performance, and studied at a prestigious university. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their qualifications, either. You’ll be paying for their services, so you deserve to know.
Music Board Qualifications
In addition to looking at a music teacher’s degree, major, and university, it’s also a good idea to ask if they have a music board examination diploma (A.Mus. or L.Mus.) from one of the three main music boards in Australia – AMEB, Trinity, and ABRSM.
A.Mus. and L.Mus. students have studied to an advanced level. If a music teacher claims to teach advanced music, but has only studied up to Grade 6 AMEB, then frankly, they’re exaggerating.
Experience studying for and sitting these exams also better prepares a teacher to train their students to do so. As before, don’t be afraid to ask prospective piano teachers about their music board qualifications.
While you may, for financial reasons, choose a teacher who hasn’t successfully studied at a prestigious uni, I would recommend that you don’t compromise on music board qualifications. Always choose a piano teacher who has studied A.Mus. or L.Mus.
As a general rule, an experienced teacher is better able to teach a beginner student. They know what works when it comes to teaching, and what doesn’t. And you’ll see this in their students at recitals and in their video portfolio.
Many less-experienced teachers are actually students currently studying at university, and teaching piano on the side. These teachers are often young and enthusiastic, but their teaching methods are not proven. They are cheaper, and may end up being a more affordable option in the short-term, but remember: you will get what you pay for.
When it comes to teacher experience, you actually don’t have to take someone’s word for it. Instead, ask to see a transcript of their students’ music board exam results. If they claim to have been teaching for 30 years, but have only put students through exams in the last couple of years, be wary.
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You know the sorts of adults your child gets along with (and the ones you get along with, too). So make sure you choose a teacher whose personality will compliment your child. You definitely don’t want a teacher who will make them feel uncomfortable!
Of course, when it comes to personality, it’s a rather personal thing. But that said, you’ll generally find that the best teachers are easy going (especially towards younger beginner students), pleasant, and have a good sense of humour. They also know how to apply pressure to older and more advanced students that makes them perform, without making them feel threatened or uncomfortable.
As I said, personality is a very personal thing, so check whether your prospective piano teacher offers a free trial lesson, so you can get an idea of how your teacher and child (or you) will work together.
Making The Choice
Do you feel more confident in knowing what to look for in a piano teacher for you and your child?
Remember, when you choose a piano teacher, look for the following things:
- University qualifications (preferably B.Mus. majoring in performance)
- AMEB qualifications (A.Mus. or L.Mus – this really is non-negotiable)
- Experience (look for a teacher who’s taught for 5+ years)
- Personality (make sure you “click”!)
Next week, we’ll discuss what to look for in their studio and the way they run it.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please share them below. And if you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it on Facebook or wherever you hang out online, so your friends can know how to choose a piano teacher too.
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