Piano teaching is one of the few completely unregulated jobs left in the U.S.. To be a piano teacher you need not apply for a license or have any specific credentials. Literally anyone can hang out a shingle declare themselves a piano teacher! So it’s important to do your homework when selecting a teacher for your child because finding a great teacher can be tricky.
No matter what your goals are for your child’s piano study there some things that everyone must learn to be successful at the piano. I believe that note reading, proper piano technique, basic music theory, and ear training are a must for every student. Whether you want to play classical music, popular music, or jazz you will need these things. Look for a teacher who teachers these elements of piano.
Good teachers fall into one or both of the following two camps. Teachers that have a degree or degrees in music from a conservatory or university and those who are professional working pianists. I believe that it is essential for piano teachers to be able to play well themselves. To complete a degree in music as a piano major you must pass playing exams (called juries) and be able to play well. People who major in music also study music theory, music history and many other music related subjects. Therefore a teacher with a degree in music is a pretty safe bet when it comes to competency.
It becomes a bit more difficult to determine a teachers level of expertise when it comes to working pianists who haven’t completed a degree. These people run the gamut from greatly skilled musicians to people who sound pretty good but really don’t know much about music at all. Be sure to do your homework in these situations. Don’t be afraid to ask where and with whom the teacher has studied. Ask about what styles he/she plays and if he/she teaches the elements of piano study mentioned above.
That being said, the best players don’t always make good teachers. Teaching is an art in an of itself. So how do you know which teacher to chose? You really want to chose a competent teacher that your child likes. Someone who cares about and can motivate your child to practice and learn to play the piano.
The best way to find a great teacher is to look for great students. If you know a child at church or at school who plays well find out who his teacher is. Ask his parents to refer you to his teacher. After all good teachers know how to teach students to play well. You can also contact you local MTNA*, they keep a list of teachers. MTNA members must be degreed and are serious about ongoing teacher education. Another organization that maintains a list of great teachers is the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Suzuki teachers need not be degreed however they must pass an audition and attend intensive teacher training.
Most teachers have websites and there certainly is nothing wrong with using the internet to look for a teacher. If you find a teacher online that looks good to you, by all means give her a call and set up and appointment. I recommend going with your child to the first few lessons and maybe even longer depending on your child’s age.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of ways you can find a great teacher for your child. It will take a while to know whether of not the teacher you have chosen is the right fit. It sometimes it is a matter of trial and error.
As a parent you will know better than anyone if you child is studying with the right teacher. If your child is practicing regularly, making progress and is enjoying piano lessons you are on the right track.
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