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Music Education FAQ

1. Get the best teacher you can find for your child. Why?

a. The best teacher probably will not cost more than the worst.
b. Learning an instrument is very difficult, and takes many years of commitment.
A weak teacher will make the process even more difficult, if not impossible, and is likely to turn the student off completely from learning.
c. Many of us believe that the first teacher is the most important one. The first teacher sets the tone, instills an attitude toward learning and toward music that the student may keep forever.
d. A common mistake: ďIíll just have him/her study with the most convenient teacher and see if he likes it? No kid in their right mind is going to like working in a weak program. If there are no results, it becomes a turgid effort, difficult and with no real reward. Get the best teacher you can find for those first lessons! Nobody says, ďIíll have my 6 year old take a few months of math and see if she or he likes it? Nope, he takes at least 12 years of math whether he likes it or not.

2. Why donít teachers teach the kids the music that they listen to, i.e. popular, rock, etc?

1. I really donít know, and I believe that is an enormous mistake. By the age of 5, every kid in America has heard loads of music from television. By encouraging and teaching them to play this music on the piano you have:
a. Demonstrated that what you hear can be played on the piano.
b. Similarly, made the connection between their ear and memory and their experiences as a piano player.
c. Kids love to play songs that everybody knows, and they love playing those songs for other people. I call it a win-win situation in education.

3. How do I get the best teacher?

a. Shop around. Interview the teachers, which means having at least one lesson with a few teachers. Chemistry is a major issue in a one-on-one situation. For the younger kids, I believe it is very important that they are having loads of fun with music. If they are not, find a teacher that can provide the fun.
b. Look for the local teacherís association. In Northern Virginia, contact the NVMTA at www.nvmta.org and go to the teacher referral site. NVMTA has 300 members.
c. Remember that a great teacher can only be great with a great student and great parent. These teachers are not miracle workers. They require the attention and devotion of the parents and student in order to make the process work.

4. What should I look for in a teacher?
1. Someone that cares about your child.
2. Ask for a bio or c.v. to see what their qualifications are.
3. Try to see what the results of their work are. If they have a class, or some opportunity to meet other parents or hear the other kids, you can quickly get a feeling about the teacher. Trust your feelings.
4. The teacher need not be a performing artist or have a masters degree in education to be the best teacher for children. They do need to have a method that will produce results over time. As the child progresses, the teacher must have a knowledge of repertoire that enables the student to progress steadily and constantly improve their skills.

5. What kids do best in music?

a. Parental support comes to mind. In the initial stages, meaning before the age of 12, the parents must oversee the practicing to some degree. This means making sure that the assignment is completed every day. I hope that my students practice 6 days a week. Of course, eventually the kids want the parents to lay off, but oversight of some sort must take place.
b. Kids whose friends also take lessons find a peer group that encourages them.
c. The teacher must create an environment that makes the student really want to play the instrument and learn the music.

6. Teachers who come to your house:

a. If you get very, very lucky, you will find a good teacher this way. The top teachers, meaning the hundreds of instructors in the Northern Virginia area alone, do not go to peopleís homes.
b. The economics of teaching in someoneís home are:
1. The company that manages them keeps 50% of the fee.
2. The teacher pays for transportation.
3. The teacher, is making 50% of the income that they would make by teaching in their own studio even before transportation costs.
4. From the teacherís perspective, they have very little control of the teaching situation. It is very difficult for the teacher to put together a program that in the larger picture encourages the kids, gets them together with other students, and conduct that very important task: meeting regularly with the parents. When they are driving from house to house, timing becomes desparate, and they have to run right on the clock just to make it from house to house.
5. Is there a good teacher anywhere that goes to houses? Yes, and that would be my daughter in Brookline, MA. She is very devoted to her students, and does everything she can to help them in the long term. If you can get her or that rare soul like her, you are lucky indeed.