'Best' teacher to choose (lots of questions). How much does formal pedagogy educ matter?

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Need to choose 'best' beginning teacher for my child - lots of questions:

My child is scheduled to begin lessons from a lady (a grandmother) in church who's teaching just to make some small change spending money and enjoys music (singing and playing). Her fee is very reasonable. I've been told she's very warm with the kids. She has lots of students. Also, she has recitals for all her students - usually at a church.

We also have spoken to a BEGINNING graduate student who is studying pedagogy at the local conservatory regarding lessons - her fee is the market rate. I've been told by one referral she is good with kids also. I don't know if she would have recitals.

We also spoke to a local piano teacher who says she has been teaching since she was 15 yrs old. She probably doesn't have 'formal pedagogy' studies, just yrs of teaching. Her profession is elem school teacher (not music teacher). Her rates are market rate also. Can't remember if she has recitals.

My questions are: - Which one would you choose and why? Would any be equally fine to have as child's first teacher?

- How important is formal 'pedagogy' knowledge in being able to teach my child correctly and 'the best'?

- Any 'negative' effects on my child if she starts lessons from the 'grandmother'?

- ALSO, is it okay to take bi-weekly lessons? (due to cost). Would that 'hurt' child's learning? (I know that ideally, the more lessons the better, but if that was not an option, would that effect child's learning DETRIMENTALLY?)

- How important is it to have recitals? (From what I hear from other moms, most other kids that I know taking piano lessons do recitals)

- How important is it to start learning classical pieces (as opposed to children's songs)? If classical pieces are important, how soon should they start being exposed to simple classical pieces?

Any other factors that I should consider, pls advise.

-- a n (ang1112@hotmail.com), October 28, 2003


I don't see any real "red flags" with any of these 3 prospective teachers. The grandmother is apparently proud enough of her students' progress to hold regular recitals. Certainly a degree in piano pedagogy sounds great, but it's not necessarily better than many years of experience. I happen to think that recitals are important, but you and your child may feel differently. I like to offer my students not only formal recital experience, but also performance opportunities ie at retirement homes as well as quarterly class parties at my home (which the students love for the "social" aspect of what can be a fairly "alone" activity most of the time). These are factors which you might want to consider when choosing a teacher, along with whether or not opportunities for competitions will be available. I would strongly suggest taking your child to meet with the different teachers you are considering, and see if one seems to "click" with your child best. I would look for enthusiasm and genuine love for music and children, and I would ask for a couple of references. Also you might ask them if they are a member of any piano teacher organization (this doesn't prove competency, but implies some commitment to music in your community, interaction and sharing ideas with other teachers, etc).

Most teachers won't do bi-weekly lessons--occassionally I do it on a short-term basis under extenuating circumstances, but I absolutely do not like doing them. Students never progress well. I think they stall on practicing, thinking "it's 2 weeks before I have to play this for my teacher," so not much practicing gets done. Or if it does get done, but there happens to be a part of the piece being played wrong (which happens with all students frequently), the student has had 2 weeks to "memorize" the mistake, and it can be nearly impossible for the teacher to correct it!

Regarding you last question, see my response to the question about what pieces should a 6-year old be learning. Annie

-- annie (no_name_poster@yahoo.com), October 28, 2003.

I just realized that your post says your child is already scheduled to begin piano lessons with the lady from your church. So in this case, unless you have specific reasons to be alarmed about this person (which I assume you don't or you wouldn't have signed up with her in the first place), then I don't consider it appropriate to be interviewing other teachers. You say she's warm with kids, has lots of students, holds recitals--these are all positive things to consider, so relax and let her do her job with your child. (are you the same person I just answered 2 other questions from? Your concern about starting classical pieces soon sounds quite the same, despite a different posting name). If so, you really do need to show some trust in this lady--if you are half as uptight as your posts sound you'll be lucky if she continues to be willing to work with you and your child. Annie

-- annie (no_name_poster@yahoo.com), October 28, 2003.

- How important is formal 'pedagogy' knowledge in being able to teach my child correctly and 'the best'?

In my opinion, it is not necessarily important that the teacher has had formal piano pedagogy training, but it is important that they have obtained knowledge in this field. This can come partly from experience. I think it is also a good sign if they have continued to research and learn in this area. They should be as concerned with how to teach your child as with what to teach your child. Every teacher needs to take the child's personality and learning style into consideration. It important that they have the ability to match their teaching style with your child's learning style.

- Any 'negative' effects on my child if she starts lessons from the 'grandmother'?

It depends if this woman is a good teacher or not. Just because she is a "grandmother" does not mean that she is not a good teacher.

- ALSO, is it okay to take bi-weekly lessons? (due to cost). Would that 'hurt' child's learning? (I know that ideally, the more lessons the better, but if that was not an option, would that effect child's learning DETRIMENTALLY?)

I, as well as many other teachers, simply do not offer bi-weekly lessons as it is far from the most effective way to teach piano. At the beginning level, the student has not yet realized the personal rewards from developing as a pianist that would motivate a more advanced student. For this reason they tend to slack off with practicing on the off-weeks and then try to cram it all in in the few days before the lesson. Even if they do practice every day between lessons, it is just not possible to cover enough new material in one lesson to keep them busy for two weeks of practicing. It can take a painfully long time to make any progress if this is the case. For most of us, it is difficult to keep enthusiastic about learning a new skill when we are seeing little progress. For this reason bi-weekly students have a much higher drop-out rate.

-- anon (noname_poster@yahoo.com), October 29, 2003.

a n, I realize the end of my post sounds rude, so I apologize. Maybe you're not even the same person as I thought. Best wishes with whatever you decide. Annie

-- annie (no_name_poster@yahoo.com), October 29, 2003.

I would like to address the question, in particular, whether a piano degree or education degree is better. Do not rule out the elementary teacher. Although I have 48 credits in music (piano primary), my degree is in elementary education. What that means is I completed 178 college credits, greatly exceeding the required 130 or so for either the piano degree or the education degree. I studied music theory for two years and piano for three years at the college level. Thinking as a young person(age 20)without as much self-knowledge perhaps as now, perhaps an elementary education degree would be better, completed that. However, this does not erase the advanced private piano classes, master classes, choir courses, the music history courses, etc. Besides, experience adds immensely to one's qualifications as well. Singing experience is good to look for also (like the lady at church).

In addition, since completing that degree, a person continues to learn and learns by doing.

-- Carrie (cmsoctave@msn.com), August 25, 2004.

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