I’m 68 years old, I’ve got a good violin, and I’m ready to learn how to play. I tried teaching myself, but that didn’t work. I needed a good teacher, and I found one. In fact, I found three. So, how do I select the right teacher to work with?
While my experience as a violinist is quite limited, my experience with education is based on 37 years as a teacher. I may not know what to do with a violin, but I know what to look for in a teacher. No matter what the subject matter may be, a few things stand out above all others. Let me offer some qualities to look for in a teacher that may help you if you are searching for someone.
First of all, right from the start, the chemistry between the student and teacher is the make or break factor that outshines just about everything else. I don’t mean they have to be buddy-buddy, but it’s important that the personalities of the teacher and student blend in a way that make the experience valuable. For me, a sense of detail, enthusiasm, patience, and a sense of humor are vital.
I understand violin lessons can cost between $30 and $200 an hour. I would presume the more expensive lessons would be with someone with excellent teaching and playing credentials. Frankly, at this stage, I don’t know enough to give an educated comment on those prices. I’m in the $40 range simply because of my budget. I want to learn how to play a violin, but I don’t’ want to go broke doing it.
I think it goes without saying that the amount of experience in both teaching and playing is important when selecting a teacher. Is the person a classical violinist? Folk music? Bluegrass? Jazz? Is that really important at this stage in your lesson history?
What are my goals? Now, for me, I want to get a good sound out of the instrument, I want to be able to sight-read music, and also pick up songs by ear, and perhaps improvise on the violin. Other goals will reveal themselves as everything unfolds.
What kind of music do you want to learn? I’m wide open with this issue. I don’t want to lock into one specific genre. I like to quote Duke Ellington, “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.” I’m open to it all.
What do other students have to say about this teacher? In this day and age, many teaching websites include reviews from current and former students. Check them out. Even though the chances of finding a bad review are slim I think you can get a good general feeling for the satisfaction level from most students.
The teacher’s website, YouTube, recordings, performances.
Are there any videos of the teacher playing and/or teaching? Recordings? Is there any chance the teacher will be playing live? Check these out. Every bit of knowledge will help.
Interview the teacher, and perhaps take a sample lesson with that person. A lot of teachers offer this, and I think it’s well worth the time. After all, lessons are a long term investment, a free sample is a great idea.
Having said all of this, I want to reemphasize the search for someone to give private lessons is very personal and subjective. I don’t think one teacher will fit all styles of learning. Let me state again that even though someone may be a skilled teacher, and a good communicator, there is something to be said for the chemistry between the student and the teacher.
Now as I said, I’ve found three excellent teachers, all of whom I hope to work with in some capacity over the next few years. How did I find them? I did it the old fashion way – I asked people. I asked people in music stores, I looked at Internet sites that list string teachers, and I asked some friends. I simply did some digging around, asking around, and it all came down to three good teachers.
So here is what I found.
Teacher Number One is very experienced in orchestral work and small ensembles.
Teacher Number Two is a very popular and respected teacher and professor.
Teacher Number Three is experienced in a wide variety of genres, well traveled, and has won awards as a teacher.
All three are professional in their approach. Each offered to meet with me prior to any formal lessons, and all of them are excited about their craft. I could have gone with any of them and I have a feeling things would have worked out.
I went with Teacher Number Three – Mirabai Peart. Why? Pure and simply, I was excited to work with her. Her website shows a background in a wide variety of genres, she is active as a musician, touring and recording, and comments from her students were glowing. Also, the price works for me.
I wrote to the first two teachers and told them my decision. They were very professional. Both were gracious, encouraging, and one even offered suggestions for future music. I am so impressed; I still hope to work with both of them somewhere down the line.
So, in the end it was and is a gut, chemistry, excitement, and eagerness that brought me to my teacher. I wanted someone with imagination, experience in teaching, a wide knowledge of genres, and a sense of adventure.
Next week – The First Lesson.Tweet
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