Are you or your child interested in beginning music lessons? Or maybe your family is looking for a new music teacher for any reason. Below is a local music teacher’s suggestion on questions you should first ask yourself, the intended student, and the potential teacher.
Questions for the Parent/Guardian
As an adult, there are a few items you must first ask yourself to determine if it is possible for your family to pursue music lessons. Cost is generally the first consideration: lessons can get expensive rather quickly with an instrument purchase, maintenance and upkeep, the necessary learning materials, gas to and from lessons, and more. The second main consideration is scheduling: many teachers’ prime business hours are outside of normal work hours. Additionally, most performance opportunities, like recitals, are scheduled for weekends.
What does your budget allow when considering the fees for music lessons, books, performance fees, a new or used instrument and the required maintenance?
Can you carve time out of all work, school, sports, and social commitments in order for you or your child to attend lessons after school or on weekends?
Can you assist your child in his/her music study to the best of your abilities? This depends on the teacher, but could be anything from helping the student read the directions on the page, making sure he/she practices regularly, to actually taking lessons alongside your child for his/her motivation.
Questions for the Student
Obviously, if your child is the intended student, some of these questions may need to be tailored to your child’s comprehension depending on his/her age. It’s essential that you and your child are clear on what interests your child and through these questions, you can determine if he/she is ready for a commitment to music lessons. If you are an adult considering lessons, ask yourself these questions:
Why do you want to take music lessons?
What types of music do you want to play?
What performances would you feel comfortable with? Examples of this are playing for relatives at family gatherings, performing a memorized solo recital, playing at a coffee shop as background music, etc.
How long can you practice every day?
Do you understand that sometimes you will have to make choices between your favorite activity and music lessons? How would you reach a decision in this situation?
Questions for the Potential Teacher
Though listed last, this category is the most essential. Communication about expectations may be the most important contributor to success in this partnership. Starting off with direct communication also sets the groundwork for collaboration when challenges or issues arise. Most teachers schedule an interview with potential students and his/her guardian(s) before any commitment is made. This a chance for all parties to vet each other. If the teacher does not suggest this, you should and be sure to determine any costs associated with this meeting.
What age or prerequisites do you require for new students?
What kind of instrument do you require and what resources can you recommend in order to begin the purchase process?
Do you have a place/store/person you can recommend for us to purchase an instrument/materials? Will we get a discount if we purchase these from your recommended place?
How long are the lessons you offer and how often are they scheduled?
What do you charge? Are materials included in the cost?
How often do you bill and what kinds of payments do you accept?
What are the late fees associated with late payments?
What information or payment do you need for me to insure we have a spot next year/semester/schedule change, etc.?
Do you offer a sibling or family discount?
When are lessons offered and how do you schedule them?
What options do you offer if my family’s schedule changes and I need to change the lesson time?
What is your policy for missed lessons? Do you offer makeup or rescheduled lessons? What is the timeframe you need for cancelations?
Do you offer refunds for missed or cancelled lessons?
Do you require your students to attend summer lessons?
Business Practices and Studio Policies
Do you require a contract for your students to study with you? If so, what are the terms and what are the grounds/terms for termination?
What is your drop/off pick up policy? Do I have to walk my child to/from the door? Can I have someone else pick up my child and what documentation do I need to provide to you so that you know this person is an approved contact?
Do you follow the local school district’s schedule or have a schedule of your own?
What performance opportunities do you offer and/or require?
Expectations of all Involved Parties
Open communication regarding the expectations of all involved parties is crucial to success in a student/teacher partnership.
What materials do you use in your teaching? My child is interested in “insert specific interest;” how do you teach that?
What are your expectations of the student, his/her guardian, and yourself as a teacher?
How long do you expect your students to practice each day?
Do you contact parents/guardians via text, phone call, or email?
How do you handle challenges/issues?
If my child is near or almost 18, will you include me in your communications with him/her so that I am kept apprised of how lessons are going?
Lastly, be prepared to answer some questions about your family, the intended student’s study habits and technology use, your family’s schedule and interests, and more.
While this list is by no means all the questions you can ask, it is a solid starting point. I strongly encourage everyone to schedule such an interview with a potential teacher. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and to get to know each other.
It’s important to remember that the student will be spending a great deal of time with the teacher. Children who are interested in taking lessons should ideally be involved in the teacher selection process and decision making, to an age-appropriate degree.
If you or your child is uncomfortable for any reason or feels the other party did not provide acceptable answers, then continue your search. Remember that the teacher reserves the same right in his/her student selection process as well.
Best of luck in your search! Consult our Teacher Directory today.