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Because there is no parent forum, I am posting here. Sorry for distubing teachers that not interested in this topic.

From Serious parent To Serious parent- how to find a serious teacher.

A serious parent means that you decided piano has the highest priorty in after-school activities. It is only lower than eat, sleep and bathroom time. When time-schedule conflicts, other activities will yield the right of way to piano.
The post is from my experience, not 100% right. I post here wish to listen to different, critics and better ideas. Because I am a serious parent, I need your inputs too.

In US and Canada, anyone can self claim to be a piano teacher. There is no license needed to do this business.
"Anyone" includes
a 15 year old who is still preparing her own RCM 8 exam,
a 84 year old that could not hear clearly of a face to face a conversation,
a previous day-care teacher who self-taught some digital piano for 2 years.
Among them, there is
a teacher who earned his degree and teaching experience overseas. You cannot read the certifate in that foreign language.

Due to the variaty of teachers, You want to choose carefully for a serious teacher. The non-serious teachers are not necessary bad teachers. Their teaching style are just not fit for your serious kids. They are for parents that enlist piano as a third activity, lower priority than hockey, vidoe games and playdates. They have their markets. Please note that No teacher will tell you explicitly that he/she is NOT a serious teacher. Why, because non-serious teachers also like to have serious students. Those teacher might claim that when the time comes that your kid outgrow them, likely after passing RCM 8 exam, they will refer you to an elite teacher. For now, as a beginer why spend triple tuition on an elite teacher.

Because piano teaching is an alone occupation. No teamwork is mandatory between two teachers. So most teacher actually do not know how other teachers are teaching. In return, most teachers have difficult to envaluate themselves, except a few who are actively seeking learning and upgrade themselves. They might already teach decades, and think they are giving their best to kids, simply facts --- they do not know if there are better options out there. Most teachers get the market price from their transfer students’ information about another teacher. Some teachers evaluated themselves by the local contest results, so that they can set a reasonable hourly teaching price.

Instead of passively wait for the first teacher to refer you to a better teacher, So you have to do the work for search for teacher in the day 1. However, probally like me, you are music illiterate. You know little about music notes, execept one clef sign. You have never listened to baroque musics, seldom listened to classical musics. You think Romantics means the song in movie "Love Story".
You do not know the piano education system, which certifiate is for what. Even when the teacher shows you some certificates or awards you still do not understand what those mean.
You child need a teacher now, he / she will grow up daily withnot wait for you to learn music knowledege and do research on the Education system.
Here are some rules of thumb I collected from other serious parents.

In the chronics order,
(0) Look for local website for registered or licensed teachers.
Like in Alberta we have
http://armtaedmonton.ab.ca/
Though license is not mandatory, teachers build up this organzation protect the market from been abused. Some teacher register as “Piano” only, some as “Piano, Music Theory”, some as “Piano, singing”. Choose the one with “Piano” only.

Please note that teachers in some music school are not neccessory registered or licensed. The school might let a guitar teacher to teach first year piano.

This step will filter out technically not qualified teachers.

(1) First contact
Serious teachers always spend time to fully communicate to you, before decide to accept your kid or not. They will ask exact birth date of the kid, what books have learned, music list of the past two months. Do you or your older kid, or any your relatives been trained in music, etc. If you meet his minimum criteria, he will set up a 10-15 min interview to listen to the kid's play. No matter how busy he is, he will find time to interview. He values the serious students the same level as you value a serious teacher.
Non-Serious teacher decline or accept you without asking for details. Like "I have a full house now, would you contact me later." or "I have a spot at xxx time, is that OK for you?"

You can cross the names that do not arrange interviews.

(2) Interview, observe the teacher
Interview should be free.
The teacher should have two grand pianos in his studio.
The teacher will ask the student to play an own-choice. Do one or two correction. The correction should be within your kid's grasp and should immediately improve the song's quality. He is testing the kid's learning ability.

your kid's ear test
The teacher will play and ask your kid to repeat exact the same. sample,
a crescedo scale,
a chord with mp in left and mf in right,
then the same chord mf in left and mp in right.
For a brand new little child, the teacher might play several chords and ask kid to pick out the the ugliest one. The ear test should vary for the age of child.

your kid's fingers
The teacher will exam finger to look for double jointed hands.

In brief, the teacher take his time to observe the kid.

(2) Interview, teacher talk to you about his policy.

The teacher will ask your purpose the study piano. He do not care what you answered. He is using the optuntity to let you re-think, and emphasis his "Zero-tolerance on Not pratise".
He will also expect kids practise through summer breaks, except for 1 or 2 weeks vacation.

You should glad to hear those strict policy. You also do not want a teacher who takes 2 month vacation every year in summer time.

(3) Interview, Ask the teacher
Serious teacher evaluate themselve more accurate. If you ask "why charge $80, while most teacher charges $60? " He will says some solid facts to support his price.
(a) Student's awards. that his students win such such awards. So he charge $10 more.
(b) Itemized expense. that he have more recitals per year and he supplies the books, that for another $10.
a non-serious teacher will say simply "I teach better." "I am more strict than other teachers on hand shape in early years." "I inspire students to love music.". Those can probally be true, but from the line there is no solid evidences to support the claim. A Serious teacher is not a necessary a good tempered teacher, but for sure, he is a accurate communicator. Non-serious teacher proabally did not realize they words vaguely. In later I will discuss more on the accurate communication style from Serious teacher. Like, non-Serious teacher says "You need practice more." Serious teacher says "Practice this two bars 20 times a day. The page 5 times a day. This Scale 2 times a day."

(4) Classroom

to be contined.


Last edited by Deep Fish Piano; 03/08/16 10:17 PM.
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Thank you! Looking forward the rest!


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I'm looking forward to seeing what the actual teachers here think about your advice, Deep Fish.

For my part, I believe that while you make some reasonable points, some of what you're saying is pure malarkey.


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Originally Posted by Deep Fish Piano
...Serious teacher says "Practice this two bars 20 times a day...."


Are you talking about a teacher of human students?


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My issue is with the first statement...I (the parent)have decided? My daughter is not a puppet who has to perform because I chose.

Piano is a priority after eating, sleeping, and the bathroom?

You would inflict that on a child?

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Did I just read some random thoughts? Or is this some stream-of-consciousness nonsense?


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Originally Posted by Deep Fish Piano

a 84 year old that could not hear clearly of a face to face a conversation,

The teacher should have two grand pianos in his studio.

Well, that rules my teacher out on two counts. Shame really, she was world famous!


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My teacher and myself are ruled out, too... Pity! :-)

On a second thought, wait till your serious child turns 14 and wants to switch to Electric Guitar.

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Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by Deep Fish Piano
...Serious teacher says "Practice this two bars 20 times a day...."

Are you talking about a teacher of human students?

It might be for human students, but sounds like a teacher one might want to avoid. That is not a sign of good teaching, and may be a sign of poor teaching.

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Deep Fish, you entitled this "parent to parent" - and I am taking you up on that title. I came into this forum some years ago as a parent whose child had just entered university majoring in music, and as an adult music student. We had studied another instrument, and I was now studying piano, which I had played self-taught as a child and was resuming decades later, this time wanting to work seriously. One of my first main purposes when I joined was to understand about teacher-student interaction, about teaching, good teaching, what might be expected of students by good teachers, etc. I spend the first few years here learning from teachers, students, and parents both in the forum, and in private conversation. I am a trained teacher (non-music) and I have learned about music teaching since coming here. So that is where I am coming from.

You are addressing something crucial here: the fact that parents with no musical background and/or a background of having had (decent) lessons themselves, must nonetheless manage to find a good teacher for their child. And the bewildering fact that anyone can call themselves a teacher, faced by someone who already has no knowledge in the field, needing to choose a teacher among this mix.

This is an important thing.

Your post can come across as you giving advice for parents to follow. If that were the case I would be concerned about what I read. But I think that you intend it as an opening to a dialogue and ideas, because of your concern about this issue. To get opinions and ideas, rather than dictating the first things that you have thrown out here - is that correct?

What you have written reflects what you have presented: a parent whose child started lessons a few years ago, while the parents had no background in music, and now you are bringing forth this dialogue:
- from what you have experienced and seen personally, and what you have been able to gather from those experiences
- from conversations with other serious parents, who themselves would have had this mix too

What you wrote must necessarily reflect that background. For example, if a good teacher that your child studied with, or a teacher of another parent's child, examined the student's hands, then you may believe that all good teachers examine hands, and if they don't do so, this may be the mark of a non-serious (not good) teacher. The same is true for quite a few of the other specific things you have listed.

I will say that the specific conclusions such as examining hands or demanding a few measures be repeated 20X - many of us would not agree with these conclusions - and that these reflect your experiences which are still relatively narrow. But if we see this as an attempt to begin a dialogue and brainstorming, rather than you wanting to give advice -- which (advice) I do not think was your intent -- then this is all fine.

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Going through some of the main points in your post:

Speaking personally I have a bit of a problem with serious and non-serious parent. The one taking lessons is the student, the child. Having read your posts elsewhere, your concern for your child's happiness and enjoyment come across, so this may just give a wrong impression. smile

Quote
In US and Canada, anyone can self claim to be a piano teacher.

What you are actually highlighting is that some people putting out their shingle as a piano teacher have no business doing so. The specific examples fall apart. The elderly teacher, rich in experience and knowledge, and the foreign teacher whose certificate cannot be read (translation does exist btw) in particular.

Going on:
Quote
The non-serious teachers are not necessary bad teachers. Their teaching style are just not fit for your serious kids. They are for parents that enlist piano as a third activity, lower priority than hockey, vidoe games and playdates.

I would opt for good teachers and poor teachers rather than "serious" and "non-serious". And then I have a problem with "They are for parents that....." Teachers are for students. And especially a student who has an ignorant parent, that student needs a good teacher (who will be quite frustrated by that ignorance btw). But more importantly - I have strong feelings about this - ALL students, serious and not, need good foundations in the beginning, even for hobby playing, even if they only take piano for a year and never again - and this requires a good teacher.
Quote
Please note that No teacher will tell you explicitly that he/she is NOT a serious teacher. Why, because non-serious teachers also like to have serious students.

I have not actually encountered any teacher talking about "serious" or not. Some may say that students have fun, or that they get high grades, or they win in festivals. Actually throughout I have difficulty with this "serious" and still prefer "good". smile
Quote
No teamwork is mandatory between two teachers. So most teacher actually do not know how other teachers are teaching. In return, most teachers have difficult to evaluate themselves, except a few who are actively seeking learning and upgrade themselves.

I have a lot of problems with this part. Teaching in its nature is a solitary occupation. It was so even when I was a classroom teacher. Teachers learn how to teach in various ways, including teacher training, being mentored by their own teacher when they start out, interacting with their peers (btw, that is a main purpose of this forum). They evaluate their teaching through the progress of their students - and this means through benchmarks rather than some external assessment. If almost all student become good readers, and one student is having problems, then that teacher may try to solve this, but will figure her own teaching of this is generally sound. If many students have problems reading, then this gives that teacher feedback on her teaching of reading.
Quote
Most teachers get the market price from their transfer students’ information about another teacher. Some teachers evaluated themselves by the local contest results, so that they can set a reasonable hourly teaching price.

Here you are mixing apples and oranges. When I see "evaluate" together with "teaching", I do not think about price.
Quote
You do not know the piano education system, which certificate is for what. Even when the teacher shows you some certificates or awards you still do not understand what those mean.

This is indeed a problem. And a serious one. When my child asked for music lessons, I had no idea where to look. I looked in the yellow pages and found "music school". They told me they had a teacher with 35 years experience who graduated from a conservatory. I took what impressions I could from the first trial lesson and interview. Actually I was hugely impressed because he used the word "dynamics". laugh laugh laugh He said my child would learn to play with dynamics, and I was like "wow". lololol. Had he said "loud and quiet" would I have been as impressed?

Anyway, you have highlighted a serious problem that exists.

But then again, many of the solutions - the specifics - again are things I am not comfortable with.
Quote
Some teacher register as “Piano” only, some as “Piano, Music Theory”, some as “Piano, singing”. Choose the one with “Piano” only.

Please note that teachers in some music school are not necessarily registered or licensed. The school might let a guitar teacher to teach first year piano.

There is some note of caution with the jack-of-all-trades teacher who teaches umpteen instruments. However, "piano + theory" is pretty straightforward because one hopes that a piano teacher has also mastered theory since theory is part of standard music study. Is the piano + singing teacher primarily a piano teacher who also teaches singing? In that case fine. Or is it a vocal teacher who had to take a few years of piano as is mandatory for most music programs? But there are teachers who teach two instruments well.
Quote
This step will filter out technically not qualified teachers.

I would say that it reduces some of the risk, but it may also filter out some good teachers.

continuing (getting too long)

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Second part of the response, continuing to the "interview" part.
Quote
(1) First contact
Serious teachers always spend time to fully communicate to you, before decide to accept your kid or not. They will ask exact birth date of the kid, what books have learned, music list of the past two months. Do you or your older kid, or any your relatives been trained in music, etc. If you meet his minimum criteria, he will set up a 10-15 min interview to listen to the kid's play. No matter how busy he is, he will find time to interview. He values the serious students the same level as you value a serious teacher.
Non-Serious teacher decline or accept you without asking for details.

Again I will use "good" and "poor" rather than "serious" and "non-serious".
You write "If you meet his minimum criteria, he will set up a 10-15 min interview to listen to the kid's play." which tells me that the first interview you are referring to would be by phone or e-mail. Therefore as I understand it, the teacher has talked to you on the phone, and based on his questions he will decide whether or not he will meet your child. Frankly, I am not impressed by a teacher who would think that he can assess a student before meeting him based on these kinds of questions. Additionally, there are decent teachers who do not do this kind of distance interview, and prefer to meet the parent and student in the studio because this is where the real assessment happens.

I would not use this as a criterion for filtering out teachers.
Quote

Interview
The teacher should have two grand pianos in his studio.
The teacher will ask the student to play an own-choice. Do one or two correction. The correction should be within your kid's grasp and should immediately improve the song's quality. He is testing the kid's learning ability.

- Grand pianos. Some excellent teachers do not have 2 or even 1. A better criterion is the maintenance of that piano. An out of tune piano, one that has sticky keys, such things reflect a careless attitude and possibly careless teaching.
- What you describe involves a student who has had lessons, ofc. Your advice is too specific, and probably reflects your experience. A teacher may do all kinds of things other than what you described, for good reason, and corrections may not be part of it, and may also not be for the reason of testing learning ability. However a correction that is clearly beyond the child's ability, esp. with the teacher being unable to switch gears and teach to the child's level, that does seem to be a red flag.
Quote
your kid's ear test
The teacher will play and ask your kid to repeat exact the same. sample,
a crescendo scale,
a chord with mp in left and mf in right,
then the same chord mf in left and mp in right.
For a brand new little child, the teacher might play several chords and ask kid to pick out the the ugliest one. The ear test should vary for the age of child.

Again, this seems to reflect your specific experiences. Different teachers will do different things. A teacher who does not do these things may be a good teacher.
Quote
In brief, the teacher take his time to observe the kid.

YES. Observe, and interact with. (And is probably observing the parent too. wink )
Quote
The teacher will ask your purpose the study piano. He do not care what you answered. He is using the optuntity to let you re-think, and emphasis his "Zero-tolerance on Not pratise".
He will also expect kids practise through summer breaks, except for 1 or 2 weeks vacation.

The idea of a teacher asking a question and then ignoring the answer comes across badly. But a teacher guiding a parent who may not have a clear idea of what is involved, that is sound. The rest is too specific and "zero-tolerance on not practising" - dunno. What is missing completely is any idea of what the teacher's goals for his students are, how he would like the parent to help and not help. What his expectations of students are; what students need to do in order to progress (instead of "zero tolerance" - that regular practice is needed in order to move ahead, to practice in the manner prescribed, of what was assigned, that parents must provide space and time etc.)
Quote
(3) Interview, Ask the teacher
Serious teacher evaluate themselve more accurate. If you ask "why charge $80, while most teacher charges $60? " He will says some solid facts to support his price.
(a) Student's awards. that his students win such such awards. So he charge $10 more.
(b) Itemized expense. that he have more recitals per year and he supplies the books, that for another $10.
a non-serious teacher will say simply "I teach better." "I am more strict than other teachers on hand shape in early years." "I inspire students to love music.". Those can probably be true, but from the line there is no solid evidences to support the claim.

The question of "why do you charge...." is not a good question to ask, and an honest answer might not be one you want to hear. It is an insulting question. Btw some people charge higher fees in their profession in order to be perceived as being good, and some charge lower fees who are actually quite good.

Evaluation should be about how well the teacher teaches. In any case, "I am more strict than other teachers on hand shape in early years." "I inspire students to love music." hold more weight than how many recitals are being held, or money spent on awards, because this goes toward teaching. For the "inspire" part, that's an airy fairy expression, unless you can ask "How do you inspire them." and get some kind of answer that reflects thought.

The "awards" answer would make me cautious.
Quote
A Serious teacher is not a necessary a good tempered teacher, but for sure, he is a accurate communicator. Non-serious teacher probably did not realize they words vaguely. In later I will discuss more on the accurate communication style from Serious teacher. Like, non-Serious teacher says "You need practice more." Serious teacher says "Practice this two bars 20 times a day. The page 5 times a day. This Scale 2 times a day."

You are saying some important things here, but your examples are not the best.

I would say that a poorish teacher cannot or does not give the student clear guidelines so the student won't know what to do. The poorish teacher may give a piece and tell the student to practice it, and then tell the student that it is "good" or "bad", or nothing at all. A good teacher will tell the student what is good or bad, what to do about it, what to aim for.

The actual examples of "do X for N times a day" would in my book be poor teaching that will lead to mindless practising.

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Originally Posted by Eric399
On a second thought, wait till your serious child turns 14 and wants to switch to Electric Guitar.

Mine did. laugh Well, actually he added electric guitar, in university, as an instrument for letting loose because of the tight discipline required for the main instrument. When you add Garage Band, and have music theory under your belt, you can create some cool counterpoint.

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Originally Posted by Eric399
My teacher and myself are ruled out, too... Pity! :-)

On a second thought, wait till your serious child turns 14 and wants to switch to Electric Guitar.
Drums! more probably.


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Originally Posted by MaggieGirl
My issue is with the first statement...I (the parent)have decided? My daughter is not a puppet who has to perform because I chose.

Piano is a priority after eating, sleeping, and the bathroom?

You would inflict that on a child?


I guess according to Deep Fish, you don't qualify as serious.
I'd be pretty happy about that!


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If my child wanted to become a music professional, id have her apply for a local high school musical arts program and call local colleges music departments, look for recommendations, and buy a nicer piano. My son's friend gave up a car for a grand piano. Nothing on that list would be something I'd look for. Probably I would be more swayed by a teacher who was familiar with audition requirements and was able to show they had students who accomplished similar goals that my daughter eas looking to achieve.

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Originally Posted by MaggieGirl
If my child wanted to become a music professional, id have her apply for a local high school musical arts program and call local colleges music departments, look for recommendations, and buy a nicer piano. My son's friend gave up a car for a grand piano. Nothing on that list would be something I'd look for. Probably I would be more swayed by a teacher who was familiar with audition requirements and was able to show they had students who accomplished similar goals that my daughter eas looking to achieve.

More or less.
First thing is, IMHO, to look at local colleges and universities with decent music programs.
The first choice would be a renowned teacher who is also a tenured college professor, the second choice would be somebody recommended by such professor.

When you try to get a spot with these teachers USUALLY you don't ask for freebies or WHY they charge so much... You have done your due diligence before and if they take you, you are happy and follow the instructions.


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Yrs, you pay what they ask. We did this for my son when he wanted to major in flute. It was twice as the local music school, it was a terrible schedule for us, it was an inconvenient location, and the best flute experience he ever had. I didn't mind the negatives, after 4-6months of lessons, he was accepted in the program he wanted. Prior, he only had lessons in groups at the public school, zero piano, and a year of music theory. Of course he worked like crazy.

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RE: looking for local colleges and universities

Of course that's probably true in most places where the classical music scene is, well, not quite there. But if you take a place like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, you'll find that there are plenty of well-qualified piano teachers, who have no affiliation with any college/university.

For example, in my own branch of MTAC we have a couple of teachers who are also college professors of piano. And if you go to one of our festivals or competitions, you won't be able to guess which students study with a professor.


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Originally Posted by Deep Fish Piano
Because piano teaching is an alone occupation. No teamwork is mandatory between two teachers. So most teacher actually do not know how other teachers are teaching. In return, most teachers have difficult to envaluate themselves, except a few who are actively seeking learning and upgrade themselves. They might already teach decades, and think they are giving their best to kids, simply facts --- they do not know if there are better options out there. Most teachers get the market price from their transfer students’ information about another teacher. Some teachers evaluated themselves by the local contest results, so that they can set a reasonable hourly teaching price.

Many of these points may be valid where you live, but if you live in an area with a very active piano scene, then this entire blurb becomes laughably wrong.

And your ideas about how teachers set their rates and justify their rates are complete nonsense. crazy

Your deep misconceptions about the piano-teaching profession make me question your values as a parent. My colleagues and I have worked with many parents like you and, sadly, most of these parents are what we termed as "teacher hoppers."


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