Trial lesson at music conservatories-- tips/etiquette?

September 12, 2019, 12:28 PM · Hi everyone.
This is my first post :)

Basically, I'm a high school senior applying to music conservatories for violin performance this fall, and I just scheduled a trial lesson with a highly respected teacher at a competitive school.

I've never had this type of lesson before, and I have a few questions:

1. What would such a teacher expect from me in terms of preparation?

2. How should I prepare/ what things should I put on my checklist to make sure I'm not showing up and embarrassing myself?

3. Are there any specific things I should or shouldn't say/do that aren't obvious no-no's?

4. Are there any particular questions I should be sure to ask?

Any answers or general tips would be appreciated. I'm not experienced with these type of lessons, but I really want to leave a good and professional impression.


Replies (5)

September 12, 2019, 12:41 PM · Go in and play something you can play well. Make sure scales are prepared as they may ask (no guarantee they will). You could ask any questions related to the school they teach at. I wouldn't say if there was a teacher you'd rather study with somewhere else (even if there is).
September 12, 2019, 1:16 PM · I'd approach preparing for this more like a masterclass than a typical lesson, and play something you've prepared to performance level (hint: something you're playing for your auditions). Dress nicely. It doesn't have to be concert clothes, but show that you've made an effort beyond sweats and a t-shirt - something along the lines of a dressy blouse and slacks would be fine.

If they want to make a change to your playing, don't argue! Show that you're coachable and willing to learn, and make your best effort to try what they suggest. Other than that, it's a lesson, and you know how to have lessons - don't be afraid to ask questions if you don't understand what they want or how to do something, etc. Your purpose in this lesson isn't to show off; it's to learn as much as you can from this teacher.

If you haven't clarified payment in advance, bring a checkbook and offer to pay.

Also, if they make specific suggestions on an audition piece and you decide you want to study with them, make sure you incorporate those suggestions into your playing by the audition!

I would highly recommend recording your lesson and listening back to it later. Remember that picking a conservatory is about "fit" with your teacher - this lesson is for you to see if you learn well with their teaching style, feel comfortable with them, think you'd grow a lot studying with them as much as anything else.

Edited: September 12, 2019, 2:10 PM · Everything Irene said, except that I would add that you should consider the lesson an audition as well as a master class. Bring in well prepared material and do not make any excuses--i.e. if you might on occasion apologize to your usual teacher because of a heavy academic week or other circumstance interfering with your practicing, DO NOT DO THAT.

Dress nicely, be polite, absolutely do everything the teacher asks you to do even if it directly contradicts something your current teacher has said (do not argue), bring in material that is already polished to performance standard, offer to pay, and maybe have a few well-thought-out questions prepared in advance to show you are interested in and knowledgeable about this particular teacher and/or school.

The correct way to offer to pay is not to say, "Do you want me to pay you?" It is, "What is your fee?"

September 12, 2019, 3:36 PM · As always, there's serious and reasonable advice from Irene and Mary Ellen. I never was and I'll never be in this situation, so there's nothing to add from my side - but I'm curious what Bruce Berg might answer. If he won't jump in by himself, you could try to pm him...
September 12, 2019, 4:03 PM · Depending on the teacher, be prepared to pay a lot. I had a lesson with one of the most prominent teachers in the world this past spring (Juilliard) and my awesome parents were willing to "invest" $350. Bring your concerto AND BACH. I had only expected to play my tchaikovsky but in the beginning i played through to the end of the cadenza and he stopped me and asked for bach. Luckilly, I had just completed my jury a few days before so i had it in my fingers, but boy if i didn't, that couldn't have been pretty. One thing you can do, it takes a lot of courage and I sucked it up and asked "what do you think my chances are of getting in?" You do not have to, but it is good because a positive answer can boost your confidence and the contrary can motivate you to REALLY push, or it's good to know earlier that you may be wasting your time.

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