I was making enchiladas the other night and realized I didn't have any avocados. You can't have Mexican food without avocados! So, I ran to the store to remedy the situation. Since I was going to be using the avocado that day I picked several up to test their ripeness until I found one that was perfectly soft, but not bruised. Dinner was saved!!
What does grocery shopping have to do with music? Not much. However, in this case I knew what I needed and wanted and was able to find the best fit. Other times I may not need the avocado for several days so I'd look for something completely different.
Let's contrast this with a common way people search for a music teacher.
- Child wants to take harp lessons
- Parent knows someone who takes harp lessons
- Parent calls and gets the name of the harp teacher
- Child starts with that harp teacher
You can interchange "harp lessons" with "piano lessons" or any instrument. The point is that if we're more particular with our groceries than potential long-term teachers it could have a big impact in many areas including skills, technique, motivation to practice, budget, overall experience. My mom did this process when I started harp lessons, but now that I'm immersed in the music world I'd like to share tips on finding the perfect fit for your child's music teacher.
#1 Contact the local music store - many music stores offer lessons on site. They may also have a teacher directory that you can peruse.
#2 Contact a nearby university/school - Colleges and universities often have prep divisions in the music school. If that's not an option or the college is too far away to attend, the professor of the instrument you're looking for may have recommendations of current or former university students who teach lessons or the professor may teach private lessons as well. If there are no colleges nearby, contact the high schools (especially ones that are known for good music programs or orchestras).
#3 Look for local chapters of national associations or groups - In the harp world the national association is the American Harp Society (AHS). Their website is www.harpsociety.org. You can locate the local chapter and get in touch with harpists in the area. Other organizations include the American String Teachers Association (ASTA). If you are looking for a different instrument, this may be a good question for the university professor - they will be able to point you in the direction of the associations for their instrument.
#4 Methods or Schools - Suzuki, Dalcroze, Kodaly, Eurhythmics, Let's Play Music, etc. There are many methods of teaching music and by looking into the various methods you may find a teaching philosophy that matches your child's needs or personality. Some of the methods have local schools set up as well. For instance if you live in Nashville you could google "suzuki Nashville school" and find several options. On the websites of the websites they usually have a "teacher locator" which can be helpful to see options of teachers and instruments in your area.
#5 Ask a professional musician - If you know a great violinist, but you're looking for harp lessons, ASK! Musicians often play together in orchestras and may have a recommendation for you.
If you've used a few of these ideas and asked around for "neighborhood teachers" you should have a list of several names. After looking at the teachers' websites and weighing out first impressions of what you know about them, choose AT LEAST 3 to meet. Call and say something to the effect of "I'm looking for a harp teacher and am hoping to take a trial lesson." If you say that it's a trial lesson up front there is no need to feel uncomfortable if you decide to go with someone else. If possible, you may want to schedule watching another student's lesson and then have time with the teacher one-on-one afterwards to go over any questions or show you or your child the instrument up close.
MUSIC LESSONS ARE SO ENRICHING AND WONDERFUL! And every music teacher is different. By making a little extra effort you can find the perfect fit for you or your child. Trust me, it's worth it!
Good luck in your search!