So you or family members have decided to take piano lessons. You have gathered some names from friends, relatives or a local music store. You are ready to start calling, but not sure what to ask. I am always amazed at some of the questions I am asked and more amazed at the ones I am not asked. Here is a list of questions I would recommend asking any professional teacher.
1~What is your music educational background?
~You want to know this. There are many teachers who do not have degrees in piano pedagogy, but have had wonderful teachers throughout their studies, so this should not turn you off. If a teacher teaches many instruments, make sure they have a solid background in piano (not just a year or two of group lessons). Some teachers will have advanced degrees. This is wonderful, but make sure they are vested in teaching and not solely in performing.
2~What is your teaching philosophy?
~This will tell you quite a bit about the teacher. What do they expect from their students? Do they have goals for their students? Do they follow a specific curriculum? How do they interact with their students?
3~Do you teach online or in a studio?
~These days, this is also an important piece of information. Some teachers are now only teaching online, while others teach only in their studios. This will be a personal preference for you. Some students do well with online lessons, where others flourish in a studio setting. There are also teachers who offer both.
4~Do you require students to participate in events in addition to lessons?
~This will give you an idea of your commitment to lessons. Most teachers will ask their students to participate in an annual recital. Other teachers may require students to participate in a multitude of events which many include standardized testing, theory testing, community service, local festivals, and competitions. There are so many options that it is important to know what is or is not expected.
5~How long have you been teaching and what ages do you teach?
~This will help you gauge the teacher’s experience level. Some teachers only like taking beginners, while others only like teaching more advanced students. The majority of teachers will take a variety of students from elementary school to adults.
6~What style(s) do you teach?
~Do you want to learn Classical Piano, how about Jazz or maybe Pop? This is important to know, as some teachers are more suited to teach in one area than another. Some will be able to teach in all areas, so see where their interests lie.
7~Do you only teach piano or do you encompass other areas of music?
~Many teachers only teach basic piano skills. Others will also incorporate theory and music history. Some will also have students learn how to compose and improvise, so there is a wide variety of areas to consider.
8~How often and how long are your lessons?
~Again, this is a personal choice. Most teachers in the US give a single lesson per week. Lessons can range from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the teachers studio or the age of the student.
9~Do you teach over holidays and summers?
~Some teachers take all major holidays and summers off, where others teach almost every week of the year.
10~What is your tuition schedule?
~This should be the last question you ask. Why? Because, you need to gather information before making a judgment call on how much lessons cost. There are as many different tuition plans as there are teachers: hourly rates, monthly rates, quarterly rates, semester rates and even annual rates. Many teachers do a combination of rates. Just remember, you get what you pay for and the least expensive is not always the best.
I hope this has helped as you embark on piano lessons.