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.

Help Your Child Excel at Music Competitions and Auditions

Music competitions and auditions – the dreaded events of the music world. But are they really so dreadful? Do they have to be? Are these events important? Is there a way we can help take some of the stress and pressure off our kids before these events? Let me show you how to help your child prepare for and excel at competitions and auditions.

Participation Benefits

First of all, consider the benefits of competitions and auditions. Obviously, one of the benefits is the opportunities provided by doing well at these events. Doing well at an audition might allow your child to participate in a band or orchestra outside their school group.

Another benefit for your child is learning to deal with stress and pressure. Life is full of challenging events – learning how to cope with pressure while young will definitely be helpful to your child in the future.

Receiving comments and viewpoints from people other than their music teacher is a great help to music students. Sometimes this is in the form of a reality check – maybe they aren’t as good as you think they are. (Parental bias, anyone?)

A competition judge might hear things differently than a teacher or have a different perspective on interpretation. Comments from “outsiders” can really help a student’s musical development.

And sometimes, comments from a judge just reinforce something the teacher has been saying all along. But coming from a different source, the comments might just “stick” this time.

How Can You Help your Child?

So, how can you help your child get ready for these events? Here are some ideas for you.

Know the Requirements

All competitions and auditions have certain requirements. Perhaps your child’s teacher has outlined them for you. But it is always a good idea to read the rules for yourself and be sure you aren’t missing anything.

Is the your child required to have the music memorized? Be sure you know and be sure your child knows – well in advance of the event!  Being disqualified because you didn’t follow the instructions is heartbreaking!

How many copies of the music are required for the judges? Is an original required? Be sure you check for this and have at least one original copy of the music (if required). Be sure to have marked anything in the music that you child is changing from the original – things like pedaling, phrasing, bow markings, articulation, breath marks, etc. Be sure the music is marked the way it will be played. And played the way it is marked! Judges look for that.

Also, do the rules require the measures to be numbered? And where/how should they be numbered? Often competitions require measures to be numbered. This makes it easy for the judges to refer to specific places in their comments. Follow the rules!

Will your child be required to state his name, the name of the piece he is playing, and the composer’s name? It is a good idea if he knows this in advance so he can be prepared.

Does Your Child Know the Music?

Can your child play the music well? Encourage him to practice. Suggest that he mark and practice just the problem areas.

Have your child practice stage etiquette. For some, this is harder than playing the music! Can she correctly pronounce the name of her music and the name of the composer? Have her practice introducing herself and her music. What about after the performance? Does your child know how to react to any applause? Have him practice a bow and a smile. Or at least a smile!

Have a practice performance (or more than one). Let your child perform for grandparents or neighbors. He can practice announcing himself and the music and acknowledging applause.

Keep a Proper Perspective

Whether your child is in a competition or doing an audition, it is good for both of you to keep things in proper perspective. Look at the big picture. In 10 years, how important will this event be? Will this event determine your child’s future? If not, relax!

“There will always be someone better than you, either now or in the future.”

“It isn’t important to be THE best; it is just important that you do YOUR best.”

Consider every competition, every audition as a learning opportunity. What should your child learn? How to deal with stress and pressure. How to deal with disappointment. How to deal with success. Learning empathy – feeling for the other person. Importance of proper preparation. How to handle constructive criticism. Life goes on – learn what you can from the experience and move on. Go forward!

Keep Yourself and Your Speech under Control

Help your child by keeping yourself under control. Keep your temper, your emotions, your stress under control so you don’t negatively affect your child and his performance.

Please don’t ask your child if she is nervous. You can be nervous for her, but don’t let your nervousness be contagious. I think I get more nervous when my kids perform than they do, even still! But I try to not let them know that.

Be careful about what you say. Remember, you can’t take back what you have said, and your child will remember what you said. If they make mistakes in their performance, they know it. They don’t need you to list every one of them.

Be honest in your comments but encouraging at the same time. Sympathize with your child but help them move on.

And please, don’t play the blame game. If your child doesn’t win the competition, or get the coveted spot through an audition, don’t blame the judges. Don’t blame the room, the instrument, or anything else. What will that teach your child? Life doesn’t always go your way. Accept it and move forward. And help your child do that as well.

Know Where You are Going

Prepare in advance – know the time your child is scheduled to play, know the location of the event, and know the room your child will play in. Decide in advance how long it will take you to get there and leave in plenty of time!

It is always best to get to the event early. That will give your child time to warmup, time to get oriented, time to get mentally settled, time to breathe.

And give yourself time for the unexpected. We were driving to church one Sunday morning and were hit from behind by another vehicle. We had to stop, deal with the police, insurance, and all that. It messed up our schedule a bit, but it was far more stressful for the driver who hit us. He was taking his son to a chess tournament. Both father and son were very stressed about the event. The son was sick, the father was distracted, they ran into us. Don’t think that helped the son deal with his stress at all! Hopefully they had enough time to get to the tournament before it started!

Recognize and Celebrate Hard Work

Even though your child may not have won, or may not have done as well as he hoped, recognize that he worked hard and survived! Celebrate that she learned a difficult piece of music and faced a challenge. Go out for dinner. Or have an ice cream cone. Or just make a special cake at home to celebrate. Let your child know that you are proud of his efforts, even if he didn’t win.

Remember, parent, your goal in all this is to be a help and a support for your child. Be the one to encourage them to keep on learning and practicing!

Here are some ideas for preparing for recitals

Like these ideas? Please save and share!

Competition or Audition Stress? How to help your child.
Competition or Audition Stress? How to help your child.