This post is intended to serve as a helpful guide for parents and students looking for teachers, but I also hope it helps inspire teachers to continue pursuing growth in these areas. These are some of the goals I’m working toward in my own teaching.

Good private music teachers . . .

Teaching Experience

1) Have Teaching Experience

No matter how amazing people are as performers, if they can’t teach, then students won’t be able to benefit from their skill. If you’re seeking lessons for a young child, do they work well with kids? The amount of teaching experience of even an excellent musician can play a huge role. Obviously, we need to give the newbies a chance. How would I have gotten started otherwise? I had to have a few guinea pigs that allowed me to expand my experience. But as a general rule, the more private teaching experience, the better.

Performance Experience

2) Have Performance Experience

Personal experience in the field is essential for someone to be a good music teacher. Instructors’ own knowledge and level of playing will reflect in what they teach. It’s incredibly important for private music teachers to seek excellence in their own playing. This is why I’m in music school! Individuals who play relatively well and explain and demonstrate wonderfully will be better than world-class performers who can’t impart knowledge for the life of them—but teaching skill the same, the better they are at playing, the better they will train someone else to play.

High Expectations

3) Have High Expectations

Excellent teachers will push you. They will challenge you more than you might want sometimes, but that’s how we grow. If a teacher doesn’t expect us to practice, we won’t. We tend to fall to meet the expectations set for us if they’re too low. If they’re too high though, we tend to reach to meet them, and even if we don’t, we grow.

Encouraging Approach

4) Have an Encouraging Approach

Even when pushing you to your limits, good instructors will encourage the little progress they see. Even if you don’t meet their expectations, they will comment on the positive and stimulate growth. If all an instructor does is crush you, you won’t get very far unless you have a very special personality.

Connects Well

5) Connects Well With You (or Your Child)

Even teachers with all these excellent characteristics could be lacking one important quality. Do you click? Do your personalities work well together? It’s so important to have a personal connection with your teacher. Occasionally you will come across an excellent teacher with whom you just don’t work well for no particular reason. It might be good to stick it out a bit and see if it works out, but it’s also important to realize when it’s time to move on. This is why I strongly encourage a sample lesson in person, no matter how much you know about the teacher and how much you like them. Even if you know them as a person, knowing them as a teacher is different.

There’s so much more to a good music teacher, but here’s a place to start. I hope it helps! What else do you look for in a music instructor? Please share your thoughts below.

Photo Credits: Derivative of “Teacher” by janwillemsen. CC2.0 | Photo by Piulet. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Cropped from original. | Photo by Andy. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 | “Great.” by Dyxie. CC BY 2.0 | “Happy Teacher” by Nabeel H. CC BY-SA 2.0. Desaturated and cropped from original.| “2005 Christmas Piano Recital” by Kimberly Vardeman. CC BY 2.0. Vignette added to original.| Derivative of “Music sculpture” by Ruth Ellison. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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