When you call a piano teacher for the first time, what do you ask? Usually, the first two questions people ask are:
- How much are lessons?
- What time slots do you have open?
Valid questions, of course!
But they shouldn't be the first questions you ask your prospective piano teacher.
In your goal to find the best instructor for you, you need information. You're actually conducting an interview.
You're looking to find the best person for the job of teaching piano lessons to you or your child.
Interviewing a Piano TeacherWhat To Ask
What method do you teach? Even if you live in a small town, chances are there are piano teachers that use several different piano methods. Most teachers still teach the traditional classical method.
Others teach newer methods such as Simply Music and Suzuki. Still others may be classically trained, but choose to teach specific styles such as jazz, new age, or worship (church music).
What style you choose depends on your goals!
What's your musical background? Notice I didn't say, "What are your credentials?" or "How long have you been teaching?"
I think it's much more important to find a teacher with a genuine love of music and teaching. Your prospective piano teacher may be just out of college, or just started teaching after having another career - so she may not have years of experience. But she might still be a wonderful teacher!
What is your teaching style? Some teachers have a curriculum and requirements for practice that are strictly followed. Others have a less structured teaching style.
What motivates you? What motivates your child?
What kind of parental involvement do you want? Most teachers welcome parents observing lessons, especially initially. Some methods actually encourage full parental involvement in each lesson. Find out what your prospective piano teacher expects of the student and the parent.
Being involved in the lesson process can dramatically improve your child's success and motivation! Ask the teacher how you can help, what to keep an eye out for, and how to encourage practicing.
Can we visit your studio and/or have an introductory lesson? At my studio, I have free introductory sessions to introduce people to myself, the studio, and the method I teach. They get to hear music, have a mini lesson, and ask questions.
It's important that you meet your prospective piano teacher and see the studio (or home) before you begin lessons. The best learning happens when you or your child are comfortable in the learning environment and have good communication with your teacher!
Interviewing a Piano Teacher...The Formalities
Once you've discovered a piano teacher you might like to work with, you can move on to the details of piano lessons.
What do you charge for lessons? Cost of piano lessons varies. It depends on your teacher's experience and whether you live in a city or rural area. Even within a small town, prices vary widely. Don't be a piano lesson bargain shopper! Excellent instruction does have a price tag. This is how your teacher makes a living, and lessons are an educational investment.
Also ask whether your teacher requires payment weekly, monthly, or by the school semester. Different teachers will have different policies.
What is your attendance/cancellation policy? It's unfortunate that we live in a world where people are simply less honest - and less respectful - than they used to be. Many teachers, including myself, have had to become more strict about lesson attendance.
Most teachers do have a cancellation and make-up lesson policy. Make sure you clearly understand and agree to the policy before you begin lessons.
What are your studio rules? Depending on whether your teacher uses her home or an office to teach, she may have specific instructions for her students. One of my previous teachers asked that we take off our shoes - to keep her house clean! I don't allow gum or candy, and ask students to wash their hands before lessons begin.
Above all? Be courteous.
You're on your way!
Embarking on piano lessons can exciting, scary, fun, and intimidating, all at the same time! But finding the perfect piano teacher can make all the difference.