How do I select the best private music teacher?

Everyone tells the same story.  We’ve all heard of (or heaven forbid, had) a private music teacher who left students with everything from a mediocre or unsuccessful learning experience to any of a number of undesirable outcomes.  And the music store/phonebook/Craigslist/friends offer so many options.  Conversely, often only one local teacher is available for your instrument.  How does a parent choose the best private music teacher?

At the bottom, I’ll answer these questions about my teaching style.
To learn more about world-class private music study and my tremendous handmade bassoon and oboe reeds, visit the Lessons and Reeds pages.

I put together this short video to demonstrate my reeds and teaching:


 

Once you’ve gathered a list of potential teachers and begun to contact them, this list will provide some clarity in your decision process:

  1. Seek personal recommendations from other music teachers and students you know.
  2. Prepare a list of questions to ask the teacher(s) you have chosen, eg. What is his/her teaching/performing experience, how does he/she handle varying student learning speeds?
  3. What approach(es) does he/she use in instruction?
  4. How much will it cost?
  5. Is there any possibility of a concessional rate?
  6. What are the options for payment?
  7. How available is he/she?
  8. What form do the lessons take?
  9. Where are lessons held?
  10. How long are the lessons?
  11. What are the rules about cancelling a lesson?
  12. Is there any facility for contact between lessons?
  13. What are the arrangements for holidays?
  14. Will you be involved in the decision-making process?
  15. Trust your instincts – if you feel comfortable with the teacher, your child probably will, too, and vice-versa.
  16. Is your teacher able to handle the day-to-day changes that adolescence brings?  Will he/she be willing/able to be flexible yet firm?

Additionally, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I feel welcomed by this teacher?
  • Does he/she listen to me?
  • Do I believe that I can disagree with him/her?

These questions and more might help you clearly decide if a teacher will expand your child’s life experience through success in music.  Private music instruction is a challenging profession – we all find our niche.  If one teacher doesn’t work for you, keep looking!


My answers:

2. What is his/her teaching/performing experience, how does he/she handle varying student learning speeds?

I’ve been performing professionally since 8th grade, approximately 20 years. I began teaching privately a few years later, maintaining a student here-or-there throughout high school and college. After graduating from CCM, I began teaching full-time, 45 students weekly studying oboe, bassoon, and flute in the Dallas area. I now reside back in east Tennessee and my studio is a smaller subset of my three-part business; I teach all three instruments to students from 7-18 years of age, make excellent handmade oboe and bassoon reeds for customers here and abroad (6 countries so far), and perform professionally.

I work with each student’s individual profile and learning style.  Several All-State qualifiers and smiling, happy students and parents at all levels of achievements later, I must be doing something right!

3. What approach(es) does he/she use in instruction?

I operate by the methods I experienced in my Montessori upbringing. While keeping the basic fundamentals in mind (efficient breathing and mouth usage, relaxed/free disposition), I try to provide the student with as free and instinctive a learning environment as possible, and I praise their self-trust and hard work. We laugh together as often as we can, high-fives are common, and mutual respect is paramount. When making a decision, the reasoning behind it is clearly laid out and reinforced, and self-awareness is introduced with care. In other words, I work with students on their level, enhancing their instincts and building up their playing while having a lot of fun.

4. How much will it cost?

My rates are very reasonable for the focus and attention you will receive both during the lesson and throughout the week. In addition to your lesson time slot, I am available anytime during the week for questions and advice via text, email, or phone.

5. Is there any possibility of a concessional rate?

I am available between lessons to answer questions and fix problems, I often transcribe new music for your enjoyment, and I develop myself constantly to provide you with the best learning experience. Music lessons aren’t “cheap” — they’re tremendous value.

6. What are the options for payment?

I accept payment via check, cash, or PayPal.

7. How available is he/she?

We will work together to design a schedule that benefits everyone.

8. What form do the lessons take?

We will spend a period of time together once or more each week. During this time, you will play a lot of music. We will work through the previously assigned material, clarifying practice tips, developing trust, and reinforcing your enjoyment of music. If that sounds a bit nebulous, I agree! I trust my instincts, and I draw on the myriad subtle changes in any moment of the lesson to offer the single best explanation that the student needs to hear; my students’ success and love of music proves that this is the right way.

9. Where are lessons held?

I prefer to teach either at the student’s school during band class or after school or at a single location convenient to both of us.

10. How long are the lessons?

I offer lessons in 30, 45, and 60 minute lengths. I advise 45 minute lessons strongly at first — a 30-minute lesson features only about 20-25 minutes of usable instruction time, but a 45-minute lesson features 35-40, nearly double for only 1.5x the fee. 60 minute students of mine are by far the most successful students, and many started at that length from day 1. Double reed students are smart enough and focused enough for any length of lesson time.

11. What are the rules about cancelling a lesson?

Please notify me at least 24 hours in advance. Lesson time slots are non-reusable by me; absences without notice result in forfeiting your lesson fee. However, notice >24 hours results in a credit forward.

12. Is there any facility for contact between lessons?

I am available for text and email at any time, and telephone periodically.

13. What are the arrangements for holidays?

We will work out the best schedule for both of us. I always ask if students want lessons during one-day holidays or long breaks, and many do.

14. Will you be involved in the decision-making process?

This learning process involves the person at the center of your life, your child. I will keep you informed at all times if changes need to happen.

16. Is your teacher able to handle the day-to-day changes that adolescence brings? Will he/she be willing/able to be flexible yet firm?

I have been teaching young students for many years; I’ve helped them maintain their focus even as they struggle with their identities and emotions, and with excellent communication we have managed to maintain thriving, trusting, positive relationships.

**Do I believe that I can disagree with him/her?

Without discussion, especially when tense and nervous,  we can’t both work together for your child’s success.  I have only had two major disagreements with sets of parents in the past, both of which raised everyone’s hackles — and only one of those resulted in the child leaving lessons.  The other student developed into one of the closest, most trusting relationships I’ve ever had with parents.  Please tell me that you disagree — we’ll end up much happier.


For more information on private study, visit the Private Lessons page.

To purchase tremendous handmade oboe and bassoon reeds, visit the Bassoon and Oboe Reeds page (or click the reeds below).

American scrape oboe reed windows   Tiger Reeds handmade bassoon reed