How to Pick a Good Music Teacher

The first lesson can be full of jitters for new students and parents.

Maybe you got the referral from a friend, or read read great reviews

on a popular review site? You walk in and hope for the best.


That was what had happened with a new student of mine. A darling,

young 7 year old girl who already had been taking piano lessons for

two years. Both parents came for the first lesson. After a few minutes

of talking with the student and looking at the material she had been

working on, we got started. I asked her to play a piece she liked for

me to assess her playing. To my surprise, she played very well.

But there was something missing. The musical expression was lacking.

All she new was to place her hands on the keyboard and read the notes.

I gave her praise for doing a great job. Then I got to work.


We started with the first two measures of the music–an easy phrase that

repeated. We worked on smoothing out the rhythm so there was no pause

in between the measures. We did that for the first eight measures. I had her

play the whole eight measures altogether. Her parents’ jaws dropped. In ten

minutes their little girl played the piece perfectly. No stopping in between

measures to figure out if her hands were in the correct position as they were

so used to hearing. “Oh my!” the parents exclaimed, “She never played like

that before. Her old teacher just concentrated on the notes.”


I believe that great teachers are in the words of the maestro James Levine,

“a teacher conductor.” They guide their students to bring out the expression

of the music. When we got to the difficult passage there were dynamic signs

that went overlooked–FORTE!!! followed by piano. I explained what the signs

meant and guided her to bring out the dynamics in the phrase as maestro Levine

would do in his rehearsals. The parents were immensely impressed with what

they witnessed. Their daughter grew leaps and bounds in a matter of minutes.

Their fears subsided and turned into confidence that they made the right decision

in hiring a new music instructor. Everyone felt great after the first lesson and a new

working relationship developed immediately.