Choosing one teacher amongst others

Edited: August 24, 2017, 8:00 PM · Hello,

I would like to ask what is the usual etiquette while trying to choose a violin teacher.

Supposing that one is faced with a few contact who show interest, how does one go about the process?

I don't know if it is acceptable to have a first lesson with some or all of those contacts and tell them upfront that this would be a trial lesson (of course paid), then pursuant to choosing one, telling the others that I've decided to go with someone else.

How does one go about this while not seeming to be brusque. Firstly, I do not want to pass a message, even indirectly, that one is inferior to someone else, so the message must not reflect that (after all, it is also about rapport, choice of teaching style, etc...and different students might like different approaches). Secondly, one might well go back to one of those other teachers, a first trial lesson might not show everything.

What sort of proposal do i make for a trial lesson and what sort of feedback (in case i prefer going to another teacher) do i give keeping in mind the above? And is this process acceptable?

Your suggestions would be most welcome.

Replies (11)

Edited: August 24, 2017, 9:16 PM · Tammuz, I think it's wise that you're going for trials and be upfront about it. The trials would go both ways. This is what I would do:

I would ask for an 30 min lesson just to get to know each other a bit and see whether this is a good fit. I might not tell him/her that I've got other trials to go. I certainly wouldn't disclose who the others are I have in mind. If the teacher is interested in taking me after the trial session, if I need time to think about it, I'd postpone the decision until a later time when I've had up my mind. I'd give him/her a date that I'll get back to them. When I decline a teacher, I'll just thank them and tell them that at this point of my learning, I feel it's more comfortable/suitable to go with someone else. But I hope I will have chance to work with you in future, if you would be so kind to give me another chance. I think most experienced and reasonable teachers will have not problem with such approach.

August 25, 2017, 12:12 AM · I encourage students to try multiple teachers at first, so that if they do choose me, they can properly appreciate the specific skills that I bring to the table as compared to the others. I don't think most teachers would be offended by you trialing them. And if they are, I would be wary of them.
August 25, 2017, 4:59 AM · I think there's nothing wrong with scheduling a few trial lessons with different respective teachers and being up-front about it. But unless you have a really unpleasant experience, give the teacher and yourself a little time to get used to one another over the course of a few lessons, not just one. I wrote an article on the subject in the writings section of my website http://rkviolin.com
August 25, 2017, 10:15 AM · I don't know that an unpleasant experience is necessary. Sometimes you can tell immediately that it's not a good fit. I've taken trial lessons from people whom I am sure were very good teachers, but whose way of teaching I found very difficult to understand (I learn better from verbal analogies than from a "feel these muscles I'm using" approach, usually).
August 25, 2017, 10:21 AM · Yes, it can be like that sometimes. But generally speaking, give it a chance.
August 25, 2017, 10:39 AM · There is really no substitute for taking a lesson(s), but if you have some time, you might speak to other people and get their opinions, as well as hear the prospective teachers or their students play. Violin shops often have a good deal of contact with both teachers and students, and if you have a relationship with a shop, they might give you some of their opinion.

Of course, everyone's opinion could use some salt, and this is assuming you haven't already done your research.

August 25, 2017, 10:46 AM · Some teachers allow a free observation of another student's private lesson. Utilize it if available. You can learn so many things from the interaction. Also I think one trial lesson per teacher is often sufficient, and looking for a good teacher is at least as important as shopping for a good violin.
Edited: August 25, 2017, 11:11 AM · One trial is sufficient for each period of our learning. As a student, we do change over time both as a player and as a person regardless age. I would commit one at a time but not close any door. In a community where you've got multiple (top) teachers to choose from, remember that everyone knows everyone else, people have very long memories and they talk. When you go for a trial, make sure you are clear about your choice and commitment, but keep the assumption that, given chance, you might also be working with any one of them in future, in a masterclass, a workshop, or as a long-term teacher.
August 25, 2017, 5:04 PM · I did an intensive search and sent about a dozen of emails. I checked craigslist, posted on thumbtack.com, asked and visited my local music store, talked to my musician friends. I only received about 25% replies from my emails. I'm assuming you've completed your initial search process and now deciding to do trial lessons.

In my area (San Francisco bay area), most teachers offer a free 30-minute trial session. If they don't upfront advertise it, you can ask. Tell them you're situation and that you're looking for a new teacher.

"Dear First Last,

I'm a ... looking for a new teacher. I saw your profile/ad in... I'm wondering if you're taking any new students? I have (experience in violin). I'm trying out different teachers to see what best fits my learning style and personality and would like to have a trial lesson with you. (if you've had free trials with other teachers before in your area, then you can ask if they offer the same).

Regards,
First Last
"

Like most people have said, I'm certain that most teachers would understand and won't be offended if you picked other people. Though be sincere about it. My typical format is along the lines of:

"Dear...

Thank you for... For now, I have decided to... I appreciate you/r... In case.. (something in the future) or I know someone else interested, I will contact you. Again thank you and I hope you the best.

Best regards,
Your Name
"

Like others have said too, never completely close a door. I always write that part of possible contact in the future. You never know if the teacher you ultimately take won't be available for whatever reason.

August 25, 2017, 5:14 PM · Try as many teachers as you can before settling for one. They are critical for your learning and enjoyment of the instrument especially if you're new.

I dont know your background with the violin, but you might also notice discrepancies in what they teach (I was taught 3 different bow holds by my first 3 teachers!). Ask them their background and teaching experience.

Edited: August 26, 2017, 7:02 AM · Thank you all, great suggestions.

@ Yixi, thats what I'll be doing. A clear nice email about it being a trial lesson (in my email Im saying first lesson/trial meeting), having the lesson and then concluding with a nice respectful email which doesnt reject future prospects.


@ Raphael, I really liked your blog article about choosing a teacher, thank you. i also completely understand that one lesson doesn't reveal all. however, as Lydia says, it will be indicative of the nature of the teacher's method and focus. for instance, being a beginner(ish) (well, when i stopped violin, I was more early-intermediate, so there will be a period of recovery), i would like to work with someone rather analytical on basics. so, evidence of that during a trial lesson would perk my interest. Also, I'm not in the mind for 'shopping for instantaneous gratification', Ive had violin teachers before, its a long term relationship...so I completely understand what you mean by giving the teacher a chance (ie being open). it might not be possible for me to realize all that a teacher can deliver during a trial lesson., so good to 'extend one's antenna'

John C, good points but I personally wouldnt myself suggest free trial meetings with teachers. Each teacher has her or his policy and i leave it up to them to propose; i do not want to feel like i'm forcing them to adopt other policies. unless otherwise prompted, i will assume that this is a remunerable period of time where the teacher will be working to analyse my playing and give me feedback. if the teacher chooses to see the first encounter otherwise, it is up to them to suggest an alternative arrangement. also, it dépends on the culture of teaching in one's city, as you said. Here, in Montréal, it is, I think, not so common. Perhaps more common (from ads I read ) amongst some anglophones teachers who are culturally closer to how some things are done in the US (perhaps, Im not sure)


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