How to Choose a Piano (or Music) Teacher

If you’re like most parents, you’re probably wondering where the summer went. back-to-school specials are in full swing, and you’ve probably got a mile-long list relating to soccer schedules and PTA meetings. And music lessons.

Don’t wait to look for a piano teacher: Many already have their fall schedules booked. But if you are at the beginning of the process, here’s a brief road map to finding the right teacher for your child.

Finding Potential Teachers

Many music teachers rarely advertise. Most of us find students from word of mouth, and of course, the better the teacher is, the less her or she needs to advertise. So you generally won’t find your town’s most popular teacher in the yellow pages.

Many piano teachers do have websites, which you can usually finding by searching for “piano teacher” and “your town, state.”  Websites may give a little bit of information about the studio, its location, and the teacher’s credentials and philosophy, along with contact information.

You can also ask for recommendations at the local music stores, piano shops, sheet music stores, and the like. Note, however, that some music stores offer in-store music lessons, so they may steer you to their teachers.

Public school music teachers are another resource. They tend to know the private music teachers in the area, and can give you some names of teachers who have good reputations.

Also check to see if your area has a community music school. These schools generally vet the teachers. Many require college music degrees, or significant performance experience.

Questions to Ask a Music Teacher

The following issues are some that you’ll want to cover in your interview with a music teacher. Some are purely practical. Others address issues of compatibility and teaching philosophy.  There’s not right answer to any of these questions: An excellent teacher may or may not have a music degree, and may or may not have performing experience. But the questions will get you talking to each other, and will help you feel out your compatibility.

  • What qualifications and experience do you have?
  • How long have you been teaching?
  • What ages do you typically teach?
  • Do you teach one style of music or many, and how do you decide?
  • Do you do studio recitals?
  • Do you participate in any out-of-studio programs (such as state contests or Piano Guild competitions)
  • How long are lesson times?
  • What is the cost?
  • What is your payment policy?
  • What is your make-up and cancellation policy?
  • Where are you located (or do you teach in students’ homes)?
  • What is your availability?
  • Is there anywhere I can hear you play? (Answers might include local gigs, the Internet, or a CD)
  • Do you have any experience dealing with a child who…. (has ADD, Aspergers, is four years old, has a learning delay issue, etc.)?
  • What is your philosophy about teaching music?
  • What kind of instrument is required?
  • How much practice do you require?
  • What can I as a parent do to help?

Having an open conversation with a teacher and being sure all your questions are answered is the first step in establishing the foundation of a relationship that lasts for many years.