It is very difficult to find good music teachers because there many things that work together to make a teacher “good.” It is also very difficult to gauge a teacher’s abilities as we often lack transparent means to make such evaluations. Imagine driving through your town and you see a sign stapled to a telephone pole that simply says, “Piano Lessons (555) 555-5555.” The teacher on the other end could be highly qualified and experienced or not, there is no way to tell without calling. Still, you see this kind of advertisement all the time. Is a teacher better simply because they are connected to a music store? Maybe, maybe not.
As parents, it’s important to be informed about the teachers you are hiring. In general, there are two ways to evaluate music teachers: one is the personal connection they can make with a student (which I will discuss in a later blog post) and the second is evaluating the content of what is taught.
What should be taught in music lessons?
First, lessons should be a balance of learning proper technique and enjoyable playing.
Good teachers know how to balance this at any level. One of the key ways to make this evaluation is to see if your child has an enjoyable experience making music in the first lesson and feels successful. Success can be something as easy as playing Mary Has A Little Lamb or succeeding in a duet with the teacher. Students are more likely to practice and excel if they enjoy what they are doing.
There are two other things to know about the instructor in regards to technique and enjoyment: First, understand what level of training the instructor has acquired. A conservatory education is not necessary, but knowing good technique from bad is important. Second, know what training the instructor has had in music pedagogy. This can come through formal education or mentorship, but it is crucial. Many people are excellent musicians but not gifted as teachers. Make sure your teacher knows the difference.
Second, good teachers should be introducing students to great music and encouraging your kids to enjoy it regularly.
The works of great composers and musicians enrich our lives much like art. Listening to great music develops our sense of musicianship and encourages us to pursue excellence in our discipline. With such a wide range of recordings available (free on YouTube or Spotify), listening is easy and should happen regularly.
Third, children need to make their own music.
Writing and improvising music helps children learn music theory in applicable and relevant ways. Learning music theory should be more than just a workbook exercise. Music theory is the knowledge we need when we are creating music and is best learned when we apply this knowledge in creative ways.
Here’s an example. Think about putting your children in an art class. Are they simply learning how to replicate a Monet or are they encouraged to be creative and expressive? They learn technique and theory about painting and use of color, but they grow best when they get to paint their own scene applying what they learned.
Music theory is the same. Students learn the same theory Mozart and Beethoven used, but when they apply it themselves they learn better. Further, when they have truly learned a concept, they begin to easily recognize it in musical literature, understand it, and play it better.
How can M3 Creative Academy Help?
Many music teachers do a wonderful job accomplishing the goal of teaching technique in enjoyable ways. Most good teacher have struggled with the other two goals because time is limited and resources for teachers aren’t readily available in a format that works with lessons.
To help teachers and parents, we offer our online Composition Classes For Kids. Through these classes, children grow in their knowledge of music and create their own enjoyable works of music. We also launched our Music Appreciation series. These free videos and accompanying worksheets help you and your children enjoy classical music in a tangible way. New videos and worksheets are being added regularly and will be distributed through email, Facebook and our Website. To download them now, please follow this link.