May 2012

How to Choose a Violin Teacher

May 5, 2012 18:38

When choosing a violin teacher (or music teacher) for yourself, your son, or your daughter, there are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration. First and foremost is the question of value. What do you consider important in choosing a teacher, in general? How much does music play a role in your life and/or how much of a role would you like music to play in the life of your child?

Let’s address the role of the teacher first. As is the case in any subject, a teacher has the ability to make or break a child’s enthusiasm and sense of interest in a topic. How many of us have memories of teachers who just made a particular subject dreadful! On the flip side, so many of us also have memories of a special favorite teacher who made a subject come alive. Because violin lessons are so intensive in nature, the necessity of student-teacher chemistry is vital. Violin lessons are usually conducted in a one-to-one fashion and last 30-60 minutes on average. In my opinion, the student-teacher relationship should be the final determining factor in choosing the right violin teacher. Many violinists offer trial lessons (even for free!) where both teacher and student can try each other out to see if there is a good fit.

Now, a word about price. Learning the violin takes commitment. You or your child will need weekly lessons. Here in Boston, prices can range from $25-$200 per lesson. A well-known teacher with high credentials, such as a doctorate degree, or a performer in a major orchestra might charge $100/hour or more. A student in college will likely charge on the low-end. Please don't be put off by the cost. Experience matters and musicians have to eat! There are also only a limited amount of hours available to teach, due to the after-school scheduling of most students.

Are you musically inclined? Would you like to impart your love of music to your child? Or perhaps as an adult, you would like to develop a hidden talent! Music is really a labor of love. Whether professional or amateur, the commitment necessary to learn a musical instrument is so great that one must truly love to communicate in order to be a good musician. There is something magical about conveying your innermost feelings through your instrument. In reality, it is a partnership between the performer, the composer, and the audience. While most children are not ready to understand this partnership yet, they can certainly benefit from the discipline that music lessons provide.

In fact, so much more is taught than just how to play the violin! My students learn how to be really good listeners. They also develop character and self-esteem because they are taught never to give up. Yet, they are also taught to seek “out-of-the-box” solutions to problems that cannot be solved through repeating passages alone. Both of these traits apply beyond the music lesson and translate into life skills.

From a practical standpoint, what are your ultimate goals? Please know that if you are an adult and would like to be a virtuoso like Itzhak Perlman, it is unfortunately too late, as it takes over 10,000 hours of practice. Still, it is NEVER too late to learn how to play at a decent level with proper guidance. Furthermore, if your mind is technically inclined, and you enjoy putting together puzzles and/or computer programs line-by-line, you are particularly suited for the hobby of music making, since a musical piece is learned by putting together many parts, phrase by phrase and section by section.

From the standpoint of violin lessons for children, there is a highly important dynamic between the student and his or her parent(s) that comes into play. While I do not advocate a one-size-fits-all approach, many of my students have a parent sit in on the lesson. Others have parents help them practice their music at home. This is a great way to build a rapport between a child and his or her mother or father. In this day, how many parents wish they had a way to relate better to their children?! Music lessons provide a great way to bond.

At the end of the day, music, when taught properly, is all about communication through love. There is no better way to express feelings, whether between parents and their children, the teacher and student, or between the performer and the audience, than through the wordless wonder of music.

-- Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A.

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