Pragmatic Mom

February 4, 2010

Choosing a Music Teacher

My sister is a piano teacher in California.  She has a three-year wait list and her students have rich and rigorous experience that includes not just the requisite recital, but monthly performance workshops, classical musical competitions, and juried piano recitals to earn certifications of merit.  Her students are serious about piano and practice everyday and the time commitment is a significant one.

Our  piano teacher is less rigorous than my sister because I had to coax my children into taking piano lessons.  Our teacher is less rigorous, and the repertoire is less classical.  My oldest dabbled in piano for 5 years then recently switched to flute with a new teacher who flute studio is more similar to my sister’s approach.  But because my oldest truly loves to play flute, she can commit to high level of dedication and daily practice sessions have become less of a chore for her.

My experience with choosing a music teacher is:

  • Pick a teacher whose personality is compatible with both your child and you.  This is potentially a long relationship and your  music teacher will start to feel like part of the family.  …and breaking up is hard to do!
  • While there are advantages to starting music lessons early, there are also drawbacks.  Make sure that your child’s first experience with music teacher (instrument not mommy and  me classes) is a positive one so your child doesn’t get turned off permanently.
  • I have talked to professional musicians who have said that a particular instrument “called out” to them and sometimes at an surprisingly early age.  Listen to what your child says if she repeatedly asks for music lessons for a particular instrument.  That being said, give your child the opportunity to try many instruments. “Quitting” an instrument doesn’t necessarily mean your child is a quitter.   And transferring from one instrument to another does not necessarily mean starting all over again from the bottom.  My oldest started with piano, took percussion in 4th grade, quit percussion after 1 month, but then found the flute and loves it.  My sense is that she will be playing flute for a long, long time!
  • Getting your child to practice on a daily basis is never easy.  It’s the rare child who will initiate practice on her own on a consistent basis.  Apparently there are bookshelves full of books on how to get your child to practice.  I’ll research and blog on this particular topic later.

This MTNA article can be helpful when trying to select a music teacher.  Link:

Choosing a Music Teacher

How Do I Find the Right Teacher?

You’ll want a teacher who will inspire and nurture a student’s musical growth and instill lifelong love of music. When seeking a music teacher:

  • Consult with friends, family and others who are acquainted with teachers in your community.
  • Ask for recommendations from local music teacher organizations, music stores,  schools or churches.
  • Arrange to interview prospective teachers, in person if possible, before making a commitment.
  • Ask permission to attend a recital of the prospective teacher’s students.  (this is a good one because you can “see” ahead as to what kind of progress you can expect from this teacher!)

How do I Interview Prospective Teachers?

Teachers are willing and eager to explain their techniques and objectives. The following are types of questions to ask during the interview:

  • What is your professional and educational experience in music?
  • What is your teaching experience? What age groups do you teach?
  • How do you participate in ongoing professional development?
  • Are you nationally certified by MTNA?
  • Do you have a written studio policy? Will you review it with me?
  • Do you regularly evaluate student progress?
  • What instructional materials do you use?
  • What kinds of music do you teach?
  • What other elements are part of your teaching curriculum?
  • Do you offer group lessons?
  • Do you require students to perform in studio recitals during the year?
  • Do you offer other performance opportunities for your students, such as festivals and competitions?
  • Do you use technology in your studio, such as computers, music instruction software, digital keyboards?
  • How much practice time do you require each day?
  • What do you expect of your students? Their parents?

What is the Parent’s Role?

Parental support in the learning process is vital. Whether or not you know anything about music, take time to listen to your child play, provide exclusive practice time on a quality instrument, and celebrate his or her continued accomplishments.

How is Music Beneficial for All Learners

Today there are unprecedented reasons for making music a part of everyone’s life.

Students taking music lessons now will determine the place of music in America and the value society places on music tomorrow. Regardless of what these students ultimately choose a profession, music making will remain a part of their lives, whether it’s listening to music, attending concerts or serving as leaders in arts associations, and community and church music programs.

Benefits of Music Study:

  • Hearing music stimulates the mind.
  • Music instruction enhances abstract reasoning skills.
  • Grade school students who took music lessons generally scored higher on cognitive development tests.
  • In older people, music helps lower depression and decreases loneliness.
  • Playing an instrument strengthens eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.
  • Music lessons teach discipline, dedication and enable students to achieve goals.

How Important is MTNA Certification?

MTNA’s Professional Certification Program exists to improve the level of professionalism within the field of music teaching and helps the public readily identify competent music teachers in their communities. A Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM) has demonstrated competence in professional preparation, teaching practices, ethical business management and lifelong learning. An MTNA certified teacher is your best source to facilitate musical learning in an environment that encourages student confidence, independence, teamwork and high achievement. To date, more than 3,500 teachers across the United States have earned the NCTM designation.

My personal take on MTNA certification is that it is not a deal breaker.  (This article is from the MTNA so take this last paragraph with a grain of salt).  My understanding of MTNA certification is that it’s wonderful but also a time-consuming process to apply so not all teachers are willing to go through this.  Type A personalities will tend towards “certifications” but a certification is not necessarily a stamp of approval  that this is a wonderful music teacher for your particular child.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: