20 August 2008

[talk: Finding A Piano Teacher]

I've had so many people ask me as of late, "How do I find a good piano teacher??". It's such a loaded question - so I thought I'd would start at the beginning.

I am an RMT (Registered Music Teacher) and have been for the past 16 years. This means that I have completed my musical education ( ARCT Performance, ARCT Teachers, and AVCM from Victoria) and I am an active member in the BCRMTA. Currently, my studio is not as busy as it as been in the past, due to starting our family. But up until 4 years ago, I had a thriving private studio with 40+ students. I taught Royal Conservatory (Classical), popular, gospel and theory to all ages and abilities.

Not everyone wishes for their child to be taught by an RMT. Perhaps there is a family friend, a familiar babysitter or someone who simply charges a rate that is affordable. But for argument's sake, I'm going to answer this question as though you are looking for someone who has completed or in the process of completing their education.

1. Are they Registered? That is, have they finished their studies and are accountable to some type of organization for insurance purposes as well as continuing a high standard of learning. Being involved as an RMT also allows opportunities for students to be involved in workshops and local festivals.

2. What type of music do you wish your child to learn? Make sure that if you desire your child to complete classical exams, that your teacher is affluent in the exam system. Likewise, if you wish to have a variety of music exposed to your child, that your teacher can accommodate those styles as well.

3. What is the teacher's expectation of you/your child? Ask about length of practice and how often. This should be something that is obtainable, and different teachers will have different expectations. Make sure that yours and theirs are in alignment. For my studio, beginners are to practice between 20-30min (depending on age) for a minimum of 5 days a week.

4. What is your goal for your child (annually)? Be realistic, but also be aware of what is the average rate of learning for your child's age. There is a fine line between pushing, and being too laid back. Nothing is worse than a child who has wasted a year due to lack of achievable goals being set.

5. What is the teacher's weekly outline (ie technique, sight/ear, pieces - all exam prep). A good teacher should have the year marked out in terms with possible meetings/report cards with the parents. Now - this does not always happen - but good communication with the teacher is imperative to make sure that your child is meeting all of their requirements and that mutual goals are met.

6. What is the teacher's business ethic? Ask about payment (check around and make sure that their rates are fair and comparative to other RMTs - obviously, experience and education play a large role in fluctuation between rates). Find out the teacher's protocol on missed lessons due to illness or school events - you won't want any surprises. Ask about Make Up Lessons and if they offer Master Classes (performance in small group settings with students). If your teacher is not organized in the business aspect, it may show a lack of organization for their weekly lessons. Also - you should receive a receipt for your monthly tuition for tax purposes. This can only happen if the teacher has a Business Licence.

7. Have an interview. Remember - YOU are interviewing THEM as much as they are interviewing you. Don't make any decisions on the spot, and
have your child be there during the interviewing process. At home, your child will be able to tell you whether they felt comfortable or not. Remember - not every teacher is for every child.

I have had people say that their child is "young" and that they may decide to invest in an RMT later on. I always say that, in my opinion, it should be the other way around. Bad habits, poor note reading, erratic rhythm recognition are all issues that start at the very beginning stages and can sometimes be overlooked or incorrectly dealt with by an unqualified teacher.

With all that said, please know that I sincerely do not wish to disrespect those stay-at-home moms who are teaching lessons to supplement their income. They would not be in business if there wasn't a demand for them. And most of them, some of whom I know personally, really do have a desire to complete their education but life has simply dealt them a different hand for the time being. Those, however, who teach without any intentions of completing their education often don't realize that their inexperience can potentially damage future musicians.

Anyway - that's my option, take it or leave it *grin*.

Hope that helps!

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