Sunday, April 17, 2011

Choosing the right music instructor Pt. 1

Question: What are my plans, or goals for my child?

This isn’t as easy to answer as you might think, and your answer will be different depending on the circumstances that brought you to looking for a music instructor. Perhaps your child has shown a genuine interest – maybe at age5 or 6 they are listening intently to Glen Gould or Horowitz and begged you for lessons every day for months. It’s a rare occurrence but not one that is totally unheard of.  More commonly, a child will be exposed to a music performance and this will spark a desire to try out the new thing they have seen. More common still, lessons are a parent’s ambition for their children as music is part of a complete education woefully left out of our public schools (that is, here in the USA where I live).

The reason these situations are of so much importance is that it will alter the kind of instructor you seek out. For the child that in grossly ambitious beyond their years, you are going to need the kind of teacher who can deal with prodigies – I would argue that it isn’t as important to hire someone who really understands children because a youngster in the first situation is likely to be very self-motivated. Of course, this is also the most rare of circumstances and you must be very very sure that your child fits that first description.

An example of the kind of youngster who probably doesn't need to be told to practice. 

Here is another one.

The second situation is one that has to be handled gingerly, your child shows a genuine interest to learn and you want to seek out someone who will challenge them, but at the same time understands a correct pace of learning for all developmental levels. My advice would be to find someone who focuses on collaborative work between student and teacher, where music can be as much a social outlet as an intellectual one. This method tends to keep the students engaged all the while enhancing their intellectual needs.

A wonderful performance by a teenager who has probably worked quite hard for some time

In the third situation, one where the parent is responsible for initiating music lessons, it is important to find a teacher who is sensitive to the fact that not everyone aspires to play Carnegie call. I know this should sound like a given, but you have to remember that most music instructors were at one time (or still are) aspiring professionals – meaning they fit into one of the first two categories as children  It is not the norm at all, that a music instructor would be so desperately out of touch  - but it can happen. For this reason, it would be advisable to find out how many diverse activities are implemented in the program. For instance; are musical games played? Is there use of technology? Is the instructor willing to pursue music interesting to your child and so on.

Where it all starts - my students love learning this piece

It should be noted that any professional teacher, of any quality what-so-ever should be able to construct a viable lesson plan for any of the above three situations. Most of us who have received degrees in music were required to take some amount of pedagogy and  developmental psychology. Still the more important thing to take away from all of this is that you should be very upfront with potential instructors regarding your child’s interest level.

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