Perhaps you are one of many parents who are confused as to which piano teacher you should choose for your child’s piano lesson. Some may not even put much consideration when choosing a piano teacher. Most likely your local music store around the corner runs a music studio with a few on-site piano teachers and that was how many parents typically signed their children up for piano lessons.
I am certain that some parents would put in a lot of research into purchasing bigger ticket items such as a car or computer tablets, but when deciding which piano teacher to sign up for your child’s piano lesson, you may not put in as much effort in researching.
Here are the reasons and rationale that would help parents to make an informed choice when determining a good piano teacher:
1. Location and Distance
I am certain the first thing that springs to mind when most of you look for a piano teacher is the proximity and convenience issue. How far are you willing to travel or drive to a piano teacher’s studio? For some who do not drive or own a vehicle, choosing a piano teacher within walking distance or is convenient by local transit is most likely a very important reason, more than anything else. The location and distance is very much an individual decision.
There are parents who are willing to commit their time to travel hundreds of miles to send their children to obtain the best music education. During my time studying in London, UK, I have seen parents accompanying their child and commuted from different parts of the region with the National Rail weekly on a Saturday morning to the Junior Music Department at the Specialist Music Colleges. Parents would sit all day waiting for their child’s instrumental training with a cup of tea, sandwiches and of course a book or their mobile phone in hand from morning until late afternoon.
Speaking from my own experience, on two occasions where my piano professor had considered to re-locate from London to Berlin and Paris. I was prepared to travel all across the continental Europe where my piano professor would be settling, given that low-costs-airlines were and is still widely available and affordable. However this, thankfully, did not happen.
Contrastingly, there are some parents who will find driving more than 15 minutes across the city or town too much of a hassle.
If you’re serious about piano lesson, I recommend to consider travelling a little further, if your time or schedule permits, to seek better quality teaching and don’t let distance be a deterrent in obtaining quality piano lessons.
2. The Qualification and Experience
Many piano teachers these days have undertaken formal training and education at music conservatoires and have vast amounts of experience providing piano lessons to a variety of age groups and abilities. Even then, we need to consider what are the styles and approaches that these teachers practice in their teaching. Although they advertise that they enroll students for exams, festivals and competition etc, these are not the main reasons to conclude they are a good piano teacher.
Questions to ask a prospective teacher surrounding the quality and content of teaching may include:
- What type of materials and resources do the piano teachers use?
- What are the expectations of the teacher?
- What type/style of music does the piano teacher specialize in and teach?
- Does the piano teacher consider the practice process and management at home? Is the lesson structured, well organised and yet intuitive?
- What is the piano teacher’s approach in teaching beginners and learners with more experience?
- Observe if the piano teacher emphasizes teaching posture, pulse, quality of tone, which is part of technique, and if so, to what extent. These are the fundamental basics and yet a lot of teachers can easily ignore and neglect these aspects.
Some piano teacher have never attended university or music colleges but obtained their certification of teaching through some prestige music examination boards. These types of credentials are just as respectable while others may never have attended university nor did they even take piano exams or professional development courses themselves. If you encounter one, I personally do not recommend that you or your child take lessons from a teacher without certification.
The going hourly rate for New York and San Francisco can starts approximately around $US100 and more while in the UK the Musician’s Union recommends a minimum of between £30 and £100 depending on experience. In Australia, depending on the state, the Music Teacher Associations recommend rates between $A60 and $A78 an hour. Canadian Music Teachers’ Association does not set out a standard hourly rate as fee charging is on the onus of the teacher, generally the market rate is at $CND50 and $CND100 depending on experience and education level. Attending piano lessons or any instrumental lessons in a long run comes with a premium to pay. Imagine that your piano teacher may have started their piano training as young as 5-year-old if not earlier up and some even obtain several degrees. For this reason, parents must not undermine the costs of the piano tuition fee. As long as you choose the quality of service and teaching, your time and money is well worth invested in your child’s music education.
Often, I have come across these statements: ”Well, my child will never be a musician anyway, as long as he or she can play some tunes like Fur Elise will do it, so it doesn’t matter how the teacher teaches” OR ‘ I just want my child to pass the grade exams’. Let’s just pause for a moment, how would you know whether your child will not take music as their chosen career or serious hobby(?)if given the right kind of cultivation and training?
There are teachers who teach irresponsibly (ethical and integrity issues) resulting in the lack of depth in musicality and interpretation, other than playing very clinically with all the notations on the music scores accurately. Teaching and learning this way can lead to a recipe for disaster where the student loses interest and motivation, and eventually quits.
Piano lessons and musical training should be a lifelong journey. If you are investing in your child’s piano lesson today, why not make an effort to find a good teacher who provides quality service and teaching that can make a difference in sustaining your child’s interest, enthusiasm and learning enjoyment.
What is the driving force for the piano teacher to choose their chosen career path?
As for me, I have always wanted to be a piano teacher from the age of 10. I would pretend to be my piano teacher at the time, mimic all her gestures including how she played the piano. I would scribble all over the manuscript book with a red pen marking crosses and check marks as if I was marking theory papers. I practiced the piano till midnight and would get to the piano the very first thing in the morning even before I brushed my teeth or had breakfast. After school, I would not do my homework until I practiced my piano.
Some piano teachers teach because it is the family continuum. They feel obligated to continue this blueprint just as some businesses are built around family tradition. There are also piano teachers who venture into this profession because they were cultivated from musician backgrounds and that background had a profound influence.
Perhaps others venture into this career by serendipity. They may be able to offer and share a very rich experience because they made the discovery along the way.
One final last word, be aware of the piano teacher who have too many students and are too exhausted to provide quality teaching. As a general rule of thumb, a piano teacher should teach no more than six hours a day in order to deliver an optimum teaching standard!
Choosing your piano teacher is no different than job hunting, you need to find the right fit to support your child’s piano journey. You may find that you have to change several teachers before you finally find the right one. Essentially, your piano lesson learnt can extend beyond your piano teacher’s piano studio in years to come if you find yourself an inspiring committed teacher. Your experience will guide you along the way.