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Choosing a Violin/Music Teacher

There is always lots of controversy over working out which violin teacher will be the right teacher to teach your child.  Some parents think that if the teacher can play really well that he or she will also be able to teach well. However, this is not always the case. There are some amazing performers out there who do not have the patience or ability to teach.

Every child is different and every child has different learning needs. So a teacher who can adjust their teaching style to the child and use a variety of different learning strategies is just as important in ensuring the best possible musical education for a child.  Therefore, it is really important to find a teacher who can not only play the violin well, but has learnt how to teach the violin to students of all ages and ability.  Not many teachers have this quality, and in fact, only teachers who complete a specialist degree in music such as a Bachelor of Music from a top university will have undergone a compulsory unit in pedagogy (the art of teaching) for their instrument.

For example, the University of Sydney offers the Bachelor of Music (Performance) through their specialist faculty, the Sydney Conservatorium ("the Con"). All string players (violin, viola, cello and double bass) undergo a compulsory unit called String Pedagogy 1 (with an additional pedagogy subject for more advanced teaching techniques and concepts).  Within the string pedagogy unit, string players learn to teach their instruments.  This includes the basic principles of teaching and learning string instruments, teaching and developing posture, psychology, motivation, and different methodologies for different ages, abilities or needs.

Here are our top 8 tips to help you interview your child's future music teacher:

  1. Qualifications. Ask the teacher about their qualifications. Where did they study? When did they graduate? Have they completed their degree or are they still a student? This is important as there are many places (mostly found in music shops and music schools that sell lessons for a variety of different instruments) that hire high school students or university students not studying music, who have only completed very elementary grades on their instrument, charging parents the same amount of money for lessons as a qualified and professional teacher. Another thing to consider is whether the teacher have a specialist music degree or do they simply have an arts degree with a major in music?  This is a very big difference.  Majoring in music means that the teacher has only done electives relating to music.  It may in relation to performing, writing music, or even critiquing music.  A teacher who has a specialist degree in music i.e. a Bachelor of Music, would have received training in performing, aural, harmony, music history, pedagogy as well as electives related to the instrument or major. Teachers should also be able to show you their qualifications if asked, if they don't, you probably wouldn't want to be sending your child to learn from them.

  2. Experience. How experienced is the teacher? Do they only follow the AMEB syllabus or do they have knowledge about teaching methodologies and different styles of playing? The experience of a teacher is also important.  Ask the teacher how many students they have, how many years they have been teaching, and ask them to show you recent Exam results of students.  If they are reluctant to show this to you, then see this as an alarm bell! 🔔

  3. Cost. Be wary of teachers that seem to be offering their services at a bargain price. $Cha-ching! According to the NSW Teachers Association, degree-qualified music teachers should be charging around $90/hour for lessons. This of course may vary depending on the location and demand for music lessons, but generally speaking, any teacher charging less than $70/hour, should be approached with caution, as they generally will lack experience and qualifications to teach. Prices will also depend on whether the teacher travels to your home or whether you go to their studio, as well as where the teacher is based.  Again, ask the teacher about the qualifications and experience.  If the price doesn't reflect this, then think again.

  4. The range of abilities that they teach. A great teacher should be able to teach students of all ages, abilities, grades and levels.  If a teacher tells you they can only teach up to 4th grade, this is a sign that they are not qualified, nor experienced.

  5. Can they play? A good teacher should be able to demonstrate and play the pieces your child is learning as well as pieces that can show the technical complexities of their instrument. When attending the first lesson, ask the teacher to play you a piece. They should have their left hand fingers over the fingerboard, without the neck of the instrument resting in the palm of their hand (i.e. a round left wrist), their bow hand should be relaxed and curved with the fingers looking supple and spring-like, and they should be able to demonstrate vibrato. Listen for things like, do they make a clear, beautiful sound as they play? Can they demonstrate different types of accents? Do they play in the higher positions (this is where the left hand moves up the fingerboard toward the bridge)? (See photo below!!)

  6. Methodologies. A good teacher should be able to explain different teaching methodologies to you. Please note, AMEB is not a methodology but a syllabus that teachers may choose to follow in Australia. Most good teachers will use a range of methodologies and tailor this to the child's ability and learning needs, and they should be able to explain and demonstrate this to you.

  7. Inspiration and Motivation. A violin teacher will inspire and motivate students.  They will also help students break down difficult problems and help students overcome barriers to playing.  This can be determined after several lessons, so our advice to parents is to monitor the progress of the lessons and your child.  If your child is still learning the same thing 10 weeks later, it could be because either your child is not interested in learning the violin, or the teacher is not the right one for your child.

  8. Other important things. In NSW, all music teachers need to have a valid Working With Children's Check.  This check cross-references the teacher with the police database to ensure that your teacher is able to work around children. It is also advisable to sit in on lessons where the child is under the age of 10.

There you have it!!! I hope this guide helps you chose the most suitable music teacher for your child. Please stay tuned for more posts about music education and violining!!

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