Choosing the right piano teacher for your kids makes all the difference between failure and success. Pick the wrong one and your children will miss an opportunity for enormous personal and intellectual achievement. Here’s how to pick a winner that will help your children to achieve all the potential benefits of a musical education.
Music lessons, particularly piano, can stimulate intellectual growth in children far beyond almost any other activity. Kids who take piano lessons typically excel in school and later on in life. Research into the effects of a music education on kids have repeatedly shown a wide range of benefits including higher scholastic test scores, greater creativity and enhanced poise and confidence. The body of evidence shows there is a huge degree of potential gain from music lessons, but the value of this educational experience can be seriously diminished through the poor choice of a teacher.
As a retired professional piano salesperson, I had the opportunity of administering, assisting and observing thousands of piano recitals over the years, an experience which made abundantly clear the undeniable fact that not all piano teachers are created equal. I have witnessed piano recitals so bad, that if the so-called “teachers” involved in these fiascos could be put on trial, I am confident that a jury of their peers would most certainly convict and punish these musical offenders for crimes against humanity! But these sad experiences might prove useful in that they are the basis for the advice that follows.
From my years of observing piano recitals, it became abundantly clear that some teachers had a gift for excellence. When their students performed, you could recognize the music. It was performed nearly flawlessly with great confidence and poise, child after child, without fail. Contrast this to the nearly criminal class of teachers whose pupils, one after the other, can barely stumble through a piece, so mangled and uneven in tempo as to be essentially unrecognizable as music fit for human consumption.
How does a parent know in advance if the teacher they are interviewing has the gift of excellence, or if the charming person with whom they are speaking is a serial music killer? I can tell you from my personal experience that some of the worst teachers I have met are warm and friendly people, well-educated, and seeming to possess all the right credentials. Many of the worst are fabulous musicians in their own right, but sadly, not every great performer can teach. With a bad teacher, students often can not play the piano well, even after years of lessons.
On the flip side, some of the best piano teachers I’ve met should be raised to the exalted status of near gods or goddesses of piano pedagogy! These rare individuals are giving their students ALL the benefits they should be receiving from the money their parents are investing in lessons. Finding one of these teachers should be the goal of every parent who truly desires the best musical education experience possible for their children.
If you follow the steps below, your chances of landing a world-class piano teacher is greatly increased:
1. Don’t pick a teacher simply because they live near you. Convenience is one thing, but your children’s musical education is too important to sacrifice with a bad teacher who lives nearby. I’ve seen parents drive 200 miles each way, twice a week, to insure that their talented youngster had the right teacher and the perfect education!
2. Don’t choose a teacher because their rates are the lowest. You might find a bargain teacher out there who does a great job, but the chances are against it. A great teacher at twice the rate will give your children a better education in one year than they would receive in three or four years from a mediocre instructor.
3. Check to see if the teacher has a waiting list. That’s usually a pretty good sign that they are highly recommended by the parents of their current students.
4. Check their credentials. There are wonderful teachers who don’t have advanced degrees, but the best of the best usually have taken their own musical education to the highest levels.
5. Ask if they are actively performing themselves. Many of the finest teachers keep their own skills at top-notch levels and perform in public on a regular basis. These individuals take their craft more seriously than teachers who allow their skills to atrophy.
6. Most importantly, in my opinion, attend the prospective teacher’s piano recitals. If they don’t do recitals, that’s a warning sign. If they do recitals, you want to evaluate how well their students can play the piano. If most of their students have a difficult time getting through a musical piece without making a lot of mistakes, or if everyone seems to be struggling, and nothing seems recognizable . watch out!
7. Your ears will tell you a lot about a teacher. When attending a recital, look for teachers where most of the students perform flawlessly, with confidence. You’ll know it. You can hear it. And when you find one of these gifted teachers, get on their list as quickly as possible.
To find teachers in your area, look for recommendations from local music teacher associations. There are also places like My First Piano, in Mesa, Arizona that have vast teacher directories online where you can search for teachers using a variety of criteria. One of the things My First Piano is pioneering is having ALL the recitals in their luscious recital hall professionally video recorded. Their goal is to eventually have these recitals posted online for instant viewing, which will be an exciting and easy way for parents to screen a lot of teacher recitals from the convenience of their home computer, making the job of choosing a world-class teacher that much easier.
For additional information about this subject and an example directory of teachers from the Phoenix, Arizona area, please see Phoenix Piano and My First Piano Teachers-Network.
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