Choosing your music teacher is an important decision. Whether for you or your child, the teacher you choose must be competent, patient and engaged in the process in order for you to see growth. Unfortunately, music education in many western countries is not taken all that seriously. This makes for a very loosely regulated space, which is a double-edged sword. Less regulation, at best, means more innovation and creativity. On the other hand, it can also produce fertile ground for charlatanry. Now, depending on your situation, it is possible that the music teacher has vetted and chosen you, too. Here are some important things to consider before you get started.
A Teacher Should Perform Music
This probably sounds very obvious, but a surprising number of people overlook it. If you were looking for a tennis coach, you would not choose someone who had never played tennis in a serious capacity. The coach might be past his competitive tennis years, or he may have an injury. But it would be important to you that he had once been a successful tennis player. When it comes to music, age is less important; you can continue playing music well into your later years. A person who has never experienced performing music at a professional level is unlikely to have much to offer you on any long-term basis. Music is not a museum exhibit or a technical science. It is mankind’s oldest craft. Most of your learning will happen not in a classroom, but when the time comes for you to play music to entertain, console or mystify the people around you. Not every musician is a good teacher, but every good teacher has at least some history as a musician.
Teaching Music Requires Knowledge
In our times, particularly in Western countries, music (like the arts more generally) tends to be relegated to the fringes. A common assumption is that music is “just entertainment” or a kind of “hobby”. This is one of the more bizarre aspects of the superstitious, gullible (post)modern mentality. In fact, the music that you and your family listen to has a profound effect on your mental states and even your well-being. This was obvious to Plato. Parents need to give this the same amount of mature thought they give to their child’s diet and lifestyle.
Entrusting your own mind, or that of your child, to a musician is, to put it simply, a big deal. To successfully train somebody in any musical discipline requires knowledge in a variety of fields such as music theory, history, anatomy (to foster correct playing posture and prevent injury) and psychology. You should ensure that the teacher you choose has a worldview that aligns with yours as far as possible, because this person will be charting the course that you will follow. Like most things, music is not value-neutral and you should ensure that the teacher’s vision is commensurate with yours from the get-go.
Choosing a Music Teacher: the Administrative Aspect
When choosing a music teacher It’s important that you think about reputation and institutional access. If a person advertising music lessons has no connection to either a professional music ensemble, or an institution of learning, you should ask why that is. Teachers should be accountable to a group or an organization. Your child will benefit from this whatever professional network the teacher has.
The fact is that there are many people who can play a song and a scale and rely on that to make a bit of extra income. If you are nothing more than some additional income to your music teacher, then whatever you are learning could just as easily be learned on YouTube.
Value for Money
Finally, you need to think about the value your music teacher brings to your life or your child’s education. Fortunately for you, when choosing a music teacher in this day and age, you have a major advantage. The Information Age makes it easier than ever to learn online. The internet is an amazing resource and it has the potential to radically transform every aspect of human culture, including how and why we learn things. This should drive innovation by forcing educators to seek to create more and more value for their students. There are many ways in which teachers can do this, both tangible and intangible.
Tangible steps include developing fresh resources, tailoring existing resources to your child’s needs and providing opportunities to play music. Intangible value includes the ability to motivate and inspire, as well as demonstrating continual learning and growth. Music lessons are a service like any other, and in the information age, the buyer has the advantage. Make sure you’re getting the service you deserve.