What to Expect from the First Lesson with a New Music Teacher

Are you starting your child with a new music teacher? Have you had to leave your music teacher? Maybe you moved, or the teacher moved, or the teacher just wasn’t working out. But now you have found a new teacher and are ready to get started. What should you expect from that first lesson?

The New Teacher

I hope you have found a great music teacher to continue with your child. Does the teacher offer a trial lesson? Have you gotten any references from this teacher? Have you checked out the references? Does the teacher have a printed (or online) studio policy covering payments, recitals, missed lessons, and make-up lessons? Have you read through the studio policies?

Still looking for that perfect teacher? Check out these suggestions.

Or are you still thinking about changing music teachers? Consider these ideas.

Prepare Your Child for the First Lesson with a New Teacher

Be sure your child is aware of what is happening. Does he know he is getting a new teacher? Does she know she is not going back to a former teacher? For some kids, this could be a big deal. Some are very resistant to change, or apprehensive about meeting new people. (I have a couple girls like that!)

Tell your child what you know about the new teacher. What is the teacher’s name? What should they call the teacher? How far will you have to travel to get to the new studio? Does your child know anyone else who takes lessons from this teacher?

It’s a good idea for you to plan to stay in the lesson with your child for the first couple of lessons (especially if your child is younger, or very nervous/upset/apprehensive about the whole process). This will give your child some reassurance and will allow you to observe how the teacher teaches and interacts with your child.

Your child should be prepared to play some music she has worked on recently, something she has played in the past. The teacher may ask your child to play something she worked on several months ago, some scales or technical exercises, a favorite piece, and some sight reading. All this helps the teacher understand your child’s musical understanding and abilities.

What Should Your Child Bring to this First Lesson?

  •         Any music used in the last year or so
  •         All method books, theory books, and technique books
  •         Assignment notebook from the last teacher

Teacher Assesses the Student

                During this first lesson the new teacher will be trying to understand your child’s musical abilities. What has he learned so far? What does he do well? What does he need to work on? The teacher will also be looking for any technical problems your student may have, and posture problems that need to be corrected, any issues with form or technique that need to be addressed.

                Don’t be alarmed if the teacher suggests changing a bow hold, or changing a hand position, etc. This is part of the reason you sought a new teacher – you want your child to make more progress with his instrument. Changing certain things may be just what your child needs! This is not necessarily a criticism of the former teacher, but an improvement to help your child.

                The teacher may also suggest new music, or a new series of method books. Again, this is not a direct criticism of your former teacher. Different teachers have different approaches, and different lesson books are more effective with certain approaches than others.

You Need to Assess the Teacher

Observe

As the lesson progresses, you should be watching how the teacher interacts with your child. Is this someone your child will relate to? How professional is the teacher during the lesson? Is there a connection with your child?

I remember watching my son’s trial lesson with one of his cello teachers. He had my son play a piece, and then asked him why he played it the way he did. The teacher just wanted my son to think about what he was doing, and to have a reason for the way he played the piece. The teacher made a couple suggestions, then had my son play the piece again. It sounded so much better. I remember thinking that, yes, this was going to work. He studied with that teacher until he finished high school, and really enjoyed working with him.

While watching this first lesson, you should also check out the condition of the studio. Is it safe? Is it clean? Is there enough room for student, teacher, equipment, instruments, etc.?

Ask questions!

Do you understand all the studio policies regarding payment, missed lessons, make-up lessons, recitals, performances, etc.? If the teacher wants you to change method books, ask why. Why does he/she prefer this other set of books? What will your child gain from switching to a different set of books? How will this affect your child’s progress? Ask the teacher what he/she sees as issues that need correcting/changing. How will the changes benefit your child? The teacher should be able to give good answers to all your questions.

Final Evaluation

Think through this first lesson. Carefully consider what you observed.

  • Will your child adjust and enjoy working with this teacher?
  • Can you trust this teacher to do what is best for your child?
  • Will the teacher’s approach work with your child?
  • Do you feel that your child will make good musical progress with this teacher?
  • Will working with this teacher help your child enjoy playing her instrument more?
  • Can you work with the studio policies?
  • Are both you and your child comfortable with this teacher?

I hope you have found a great teacher that your student will feel comfortable with and learn from! Tell me about your favorite music teacher in the comments. (Or maybe, your least favorite teacher!)

How Do You Know if it’s Time to Change Music Teachers?

Thinking about changing music teachers? Why? I’m not saying you shouldn’t, just wanting you to be sure you have thought this through.

Your child’s relationship with his music teacher is unique. Think of it this way. Your child spends time, one-on-one, with this teacher almost every week. Often, a special bond is formed between your child and her music teacher. Music teachers can have a great impact on a child’s life. Don’t break this bond without a good reason. Don’t change teachers just because it’s the thing to do. Think this through carefully.

Reasons to Look for a new Music Teacher

Obviously, any hint of abuse, bullying, inappropriate behavior, or anger issues on the part of the teacher should signal that you leave immediately.

That should never be tolerated. But if you aren’t at the lessons, how will you know? Does your child leave the lessons in tears repeatedly? Maybe your child will say something. Perhaps another parent will pass on a warning. Maybe your child will suddenly begin to hate going to lessons. If that happens, talk, ask, find out what has happened.

A teacher who is constantly unprofessional in her teaching might indicate that it is time for a change.

Perhaps she is always late. Maybe the studio always looks like a disaster recently struck. Or the teacher is always distracted during the lessons. Maybe the teacher just never really pays attention to the student. Of course, any of us can have a bad day, but if this behavior is continual, it might be time to consider a different teacher.

If either you or the music teacher moves, it might be in your best interest to find another teacher closer to you.

A good teacher is worth traveling for, but there are limits, especially when your children are younger. (And if your children suffer with motion-sickness!) Our violin teacher moved four times while my girls were studying with her; each move was a little bit further away from us. Because we homeschooled, we had some flexibility in our schedule so we could schedule lessons to avoid the worst of the traffic. But if the teacher had moved any further away, or only taught during rush-hour traffic times, we would have had to look for someone different. (I am glad we didn’t! She was a wonderful teacher for my girls!) You have to decide what is best for your family.

A major personality clash between your child and his teacher might signal that it is time for a different teacher.

You want your child to benefit from his music lessons, to progress, to enjoy them. If every lesson turns out to be a battle of the wills, maybe you need to find a different teacher who can work better with your child.

Sometimes your child may need a different approach to the lessons. Not all children learn the same way.

Not all teachers teach the same way. If your child is struggling to progress and learn from this teacher, and the teacher is not willing to adapt and try to work with your child, perhaps it is time to find someone who will be a better “fit” for your child. (Assuming your child is practicing and following instructions!)

Your student has progressed to the limit of the teacher’s abilities.

Not all music teachers are prepared to work with advanced music students. Some work best with younger students. A wise teacher will recognize her limitations and advise you to find a more accomplished teacher. There will also be teachers who will not see this, and you (or your child) will have to figure this out.

Before you change teachers, evaluate.

                Except for situations of abuse, take time to seriously evaluate your current music teacher before you come to a final decision to change teachers. And look for your child’s input as well.

  • In the current situation, what do you feel is wrong, or missing?
  • What do you want to see changed, or different, with a new teacher?
  • By changing music teachers, what are you hoping to accomplish?

I thought this article gave a good approach to this idea.

How to Leave Your Music Teacher (or, “Breaking up is Hard to Do”)

Be considerate

Don’t just not show up for the next lesson. Don’t leave a voicemail telling her you aren’t returning for lessons. Your music teacher has scheduled a time for your child. She has made her budget including your child’s lesson fees. Be considerate of her time and efforts. Give her some advance notice of your decision.

Be professional

Handle this yourself, in a face-to-face meeting. Don’t have your child hand the teacher a note at the end of a lesson. Don’t send an email. Talk to the teacher yourself, explain your decision and reasoning. And set an end-date, a date for the last lesson. If you are on a monthly or semester payment plan, finish out the contract, if possible. Of course, if the situation is at all abusive, leave immediately.

Show your appreciation

I hope you and your child have a good relationship with your music teacher, and will regret, on a personal level, leaving for another teacher. This current teacher has invested a lot of time and effort in your child. Demonstrate your appreciation with a gift. Maybe the only reason your child is leaving this teacher is because she is going off to college. A gift is still appropriate.   

To Summarize:

  • Sometimes you need to change music teachers. But think through your reasoning carefully.
  • Evaluate why you think you need to change teachers, and what you hope will be different with a new teacher.
  • Show your former teacher respect and appreciation as you leave.

You might want to check out this post about finding a music teacher.

How Hard Should You Push Your Child?

How hard should you push your child to excel in music? Or, for that matter, in anything? Can we push them too much, too hard? We all want our kids to be great, to do great things, but at what cost? How much should we push them?

There is no right answer! There are too many variables involved! But most of us need to be pushed at some point. Pushed to continue, prodded to practice, nudged to strive for perfection.

How hard should you push your child?

It depends. Depends on a number of things.

  • How old is your child?
  • What is your child like? What kind of temperament does he have?
  • How do she respond to “pushing?”
  • What is the relationship like between you and your child?
  • What are your child’s goals? (Not your goals for them!)
  • How serious are they about what they are doing? Is this a passion of theirs, or just another interest?
  • Do you “prod and nudge,” or are you “pushing and shoving?”
  • Are you looking at things from a realistic perspective?

All these factors play into how hard we should push them to excel.

Can You Nudge a Child Towards Greatness?

All of us are different.

Each of us has different goals, desires, learning styles, interests, passions, etc. What works for one child might totally backfire with a different child. Some children are much more self-motivated than others. Others take longer to develop that self-motivation. So we may need to gently push them in that direction. But at the same time, we don’t want to push them to the point of rebellion. The joys of being a parent. I often thought that each child should be born with their own unique instruction book. Life would be so much easier that way.

Always encourage your child to do their best.

Not just in music, but in everything in life. Urge them to be the best they can be, and always strive to improve.

Always support them and their efforts.

And then encourage them to exceed their current abilities, to progress, to move forward.

Help them to love what they do.

Practicing is not always fun. Practice can get boring. Maybe your child is working on a piece they don’t like at all. Or maybe they think their current music is too hard, or too easy. But none of those are reasons to give up or quit. Encourage them to keep on. Push them to continue, to get past the current “season” of dislike, the current plateau. At some point they will thank you.

But don’t push them so hard that they start to hate their music, their lessons, their instrument.

Don’t push them to the point that they resent playing. Recognize that they may have other interests as well. Give them time to be kids. Yes, you can require them to practice and go to lessons, that’s a given. Make music a part of their life, but don’t make music their entire life unless that is what they want.

Self-Motivation is the Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal is for them to become self-motivated to practice and do well. Unfortunately, most of us are not born with that; we have to learn it, have it “drilled” into us.

LIFE LESSON ALERT: Self-motivation applies to all of life!

If any of us are going to be successful at anything, we must become self-motivated. Learn to go beyond the bare minimum required. Exceed expectations. Don’t be afraid to push your child in that direction. Some day they will thank you.

You might also enjoy this post – Realistic Expectations