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How To Find A Good Teacher #2897352 10/05/19 03:32 PM
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Hi All,

I have been self teaching myself piano for the past 5-6 years now, and I feel that it has now come to the point where I can't really improve myself much further without a teacher to show me the way from here. The question is: how exactly do I go about finding a teacher who can best help me reach my goals.?

I'm looking to greatly improve not only my pianistic technique and touch, but also my musical understanding of different pieces and ability to break them down and interpret them at a sophisticated level. I'm also looking exclusively for a teacher in real life, as I am not a fan of online piano lessons at all. With all of this in mind, what would you guys recommend I do to successfully go piano teacher "hunting"?

Additionally, what all did you do to help you find a teacher who you were satisfied with and had minimal negative experiences with? The last teacher I had 5-6 years ago for 2 years before I left her I didn't learn much under at all; if anything, it felt more like a waste of time and money than actual piano lessons, and I do not wish to repeat this kind of negative experience again.

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Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RmntcPianoLvr] #2897360 10/05/19 03:45 PM
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What was the problem with your last teacher?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: bennevis] #2897373 10/05/19 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
What was the problem with your last teacher?


The biggest problem was I really didn't learn much under her; in fact, the first year or so was just spent on pieces that I had already learned under my previous teacher, but with the aim of making it "sound better", except by the time I did relearn those pieces they sounded exactly like how I had played them before meeting her. Additionally, looking back, she was not really committed as a teacher to actually helping me improve, but I wasn't able to see it at the time. She also wouldn't let me challenge myself with pieces that I knew I could play if I just gave it enough time. For example, I learned Schubert's Op. 90 No. 2 Impromptu and the first movement of Mozart's A Minor Sonata, both of which she claimed were "too challenging" for me, but I was regardless able to learn them both on my own in a few weeks, although with some troubles every now and then during the learning process.

Finally, the school at which she taught was mostly for beginners and intermediate students (especially on the younger side), so in hindsight, that wasn't the best place for me to be with my goals; this fault is of course my own, and I want to make sure I don't repeat this mistake again.

I'm not trying to rant or say my previous teacher is unqualified to teach by the way; I just believe she wasn't the right teacher for me personally, and I want to make sure the next teacher I go under is someone who can better help me reach my goals.

Last edited by RmntcPianoLvr; 10/05/19 05:20 PM.
Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RmntcPianoLvr] #2897382 10/05/19 06:02 PM
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How to find a good teacher: ask other pianists at about your same skill level whom they take from, how they teach, pros and cons
Interview teachers: be honest and thorough about your goals, genres, practice habits. Ask the teacher to describe a typical adult student lesson, how repertoire is selected

Ask if a face to face meeting and/or trial lesson are possible
FWIW: I found my teacher by asking my piano tech for recommendations. It took me about three months of weekly lessons to realize my teacher was the right decision. Give a new teacher an adequate adjustment period.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RmntcPianoLvr] #2898282 10/08/19 01:58 PM
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First you have to look at the fruits of the teacher. If the teacher produces many good students, most likely he will be a good teacher.
However, it does not mean that his style will match your style. You need to try first.

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RonaldSteinway] #2898374 10/08/19 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
First you have to look at the fruits of the teacher. If the teacher produces many good students, most likely he will be a good teacher.
However, it does not mean that his style will match your style. You need to try first.


I agree with this statement for an instructor that teaches all conservatory-level students as they are refining technique, interpretation and analysis. I do not agree with checking ‘the fruits of the teacher’ for beginning and intermediate level students. IF you are just seeing these students in a limited environment such as a recital, you would not know if skills are being taught vs. teaching by rote to sound good for the recital. If you have more of s history, that is quite different. Spend some time in the teacher’s forum here and you will read the laments about transfer students.

I have seen several college level professors fail at teaching beginners or near beginners.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: dogperson] #2898575 10/09/19 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
[quote=RonaldSteinway]First you have to look at the fruits of the teacher. If the teacher produces many good students, most likely he will be a good teacher.
I do not agree with checking ‘the fruits of the teacher’ for beginning and intermediate level students. IF you are just seeing these students in a limited environment such as a recital, you would not know if skills are being taught vs. teaching by rote to sound good for the recital. If you have more of s history, that is quite different. Spend some time in the teacher’s forum here and you will read the laments about transfer students.

I have seen several college level professors fail at teaching beginners or near beginners.


Going to a student recital of a piano teacher is the best way to find out the result. If the majority of his 20 students played badly, we can infer that he is not a good teacher. We, of course, judge by the level, for we cannot expect a teacher who teaches only beginners to produce students who play difficult pieces. However, from the way his students play, we can tell whether he teaches correctly or not. To me, the sure thing is to see the result, regardless of the level of the students.

Always look at the quality of the students of the piano teacher. Here in my area, there is a famous teacher who produces few great students, however, her other students are very very bad. I do not think that she cannot teach, she just milk those students for the money. Yet, she concentrates her energy only to few of her good students. Therefore, look at the result of the teacher's studio, not only one or two of the teacher's star students.

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RonaldSteinway] #2898578 10/09/19 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by dogperson
[quote=RonaldSteinway]First you have to look at the fruits of the teacher. If the teacher produces many good students, most likely he will be a good teacher.
I do not agree with checking ‘the fruits of the teacher’ for beginning and intermediate level students. IF you are just seeing these students in a limited environment such as a recital, you would not know if skills are being taught vs. teaching by rote to sound good for the recital. If you have more of s history, that is quite different. Spend some time in the teacher’s forum here and you will read the laments about transfer students.

I have seen several college level professors fail at teaching beginners or near beginners.


Going to a student recital of a piano teacher is the best way to find out the result. If the majority of his 20 students played badly, we can infer that he is not a good teacher. We, of course, judge by the level, for we cannot expect a teacher who teaches only beginners to produce students who play difficult pieces. However, from the way his students play, we can tell whether he teaches correctly or not. To me, the sure thing is to see the result, regardless of the level of the students.


We will just need to agree to disagree. I would suggest you post this hypothesis on the teacher’s forum.

Last edited by dogperson; 10/09/19 10:07 AM.
Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: dogperson] #2898581 10/09/19 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by dogperson
[quote=RonaldSteinway]First you have to look at the fruits of the teacher. If the teacher produces many good students, most likely he will be a good teacher.
I do not agree with checking ‘the fruits of the teacher’ for beginning and intermediate level students. IF you are just seeing these students in a limited environment such as a recital, you would not know if skills are being taught vs. teaching by rote to sound good for the recital. If you have more of s history, that is quite different. Spend some time in the teacher’s forum here and you will read the laments about transfer students.

I have seen several college level professors fail at teaching beginners or near beginners.


Going to a student recital of a piano teacher is the best way to find out the result. If the majority of his 20 students played badly, we can infer that he is not a good teacher. We, of course, judge by the level, for we cannot expect a teacher who teaches only beginners to produce students who play difficult pieces. However, from the way his students play, we can tell whether he teaches correctly or not. To me, the sure thing is to see the result, regardless of the level of the students.


We will just need to agree to disagree. I would suggest you post this hypothesis on the teacher’s forum.



So you will still consider a teacher with majority of his students are bad as still a good teacher?

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RonaldSteinway] #2898585 10/09/19 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted by dogperson
[quote=RonaldSteinway]First you have to look at the fruits of the teacher. If the teacher produces many good students, most likely he will be a good teacher.
I do not agree with checking ‘the fruits of the teacher’ for beginning and intermediate level students. IF you are just seeing these students in a limited environment such as a recital, you would not know if skills are being taught vs. teaching by rote to sound good for the recital. If you have more of s history, that is quite different. Spend some time in the teacher’s forum here and you will read the laments about transfer students.

I have seen several college level professors fail at teaching beginners or near beginners.


Going to a student recital of a piano teacher is the best way to find out the result. If the majority of his 20 students played badly, we can infer that he is not a good teacher. We, of course, judge by the level, for we cannot expect a teacher who teaches only beginners to produce students who play difficult pieces. However, from the way his students play, we can tell whether he teaches correctly or not. To me, the sure thing is to see the result, regardless of the level of the students.


We will just need to agree to disagree. I would suggest you post this hypothesis on the teacher’s forum.



So you will still consider a teacher with majority of his students are bad as still a good teacher?


No, I’m certainly not suggesting that at all. I am suggesting that this is not a great means of evaluating a teacher. Check with the teacher’s forum


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It’s ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RonaldSteinway] #2898673 10/09/19 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Going to a student recital of a piano teacher is the best way to find out the result. If the majority of his 20 students played badly, we can infer that he is not a good teacher.


This is presumptive. If some students of a teacher (even the majority of one's students) play badly at a recital, there could be any number of problems, having nothing to do with the teacher, which cause that result. We can't infer from a performance situation that the teacher is not a good one.

If you're going to use recitals as the litmus test for determining who's a good teacher and who isn't, then maybe you could hand out a questionnaire at the recital and get children's answers to some of these questions:

1. How many times do you practice piano most weeks?

A. 6 or 7 days
B. 5 days
C. 3 or 4 days
D. 1 or 2 days
E. Practice?? All my practicing gets done at the lesson


2. How many times do you go to an extracurricular activity each week besides piano? (For example, if you have dance 3 times a week, drama club 1 time a week, and karate 2 times a week, your total = 6.)

A. None
B. 1 or 2
C. 3 or 4
D. 5 or 6
E. I can't count that high


3. When was the last time you read your teacher's instructions in your assignment book?

A. This week
B. Maybe a couple of weeks ago
C. Maybe a month ago
D. I can't remember
E. My teacher writes down instructions?


4. For kids who live with one parent in one place and the other parent in a different place, how many of those places have a piano to play?

A. 2
B. 1
C. 0 -- I just play on my teacher's piano at the lesson


5. If you miss practice days because you live somewhere with no piano, how many days a month do you spend in that home? ______ (Fill in the blank.)

------------------------------------------

There are a whole bunch more questions I could have included, but I think by now you get the picture. A good teacher can't control any of the above. S/he can make suggestions and recommendations, but it's up to parents and students to apply what has been taught, and to work toward establishing a conducive environment for such application.

Kids whose answers would be a lot of Cs, Ds, and Es on the above questionnaire -- and there are lots of kids like that these days--do not generally play well. How can they, when their lives are so chaotic they hardly have time for a 10-minute supper break, much less sustained, engaged attention to piano practice most nights of the week?

Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Always look at the quality of the students of the piano teacher. Here in my area, there is a famous teacher who produces few great students, however, her other students are very very bad. I do not think that she cannot teach, she just milk those students for the money. Yet, she concentrates her energy only to few of her good students. Therefore, look at the result of the teacher's studio, not only one or two of the teacher's star students.


Those "star students" in a teacher's recital might just be the ones who circled the "A" answers above. Good teaching + effective support at home will yield vastly better results than good teaching + unsupportive home environment.

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RmntcPianoLvr] #2898674 10/09/19 03:13 PM
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You might want to check out some older threads, and most recently a thread where I had a similar question (http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...t-piano-teachers-posess.html#Post2867059)

Since "officially" going back to piano 2 years ago (going back in terms of daily practice and learning new repertoire), I've gone through about 4 different piano teachers. 2 were from a local music school/"conservatory" in an affluent neighborhood where 85% of the students are children/teenagers. I detailed my experiences w/ those teachers in an earlier thread, but like the OP, I also did not mesh well w/ the teaching style of those teachers.

I'm currently working with 2 teachers right now. One is my "main" teacher who teaches group classes in Juilliard's Evening division (which is where I am learning right now). I didn't have any choice in selecting this teacher as the Adult Evening Program at the school assigns the teacher to the student after an audition. I have some mixed feelings about this, but I signed up for another academic year w/ the Evening program because I genuinely enjoy the group class format and my classmates are a bright bunch of piano players who motivate me to strive to practice more efficiently and perform better.

The other teacher, coincidentally, I found on TakeLessons.com - he is a concert pianist and has degrees from Moscow Conservatory & Yale School of Music. I found him by searching in specific neighborhoods and by reviews. I meet w/ him every other week as his assignments for 'homework" are more focused on musicality, interpretation and expression of the pieces I am currently learning or have learned in the past. He also has a way of intermixing music theory concepts in our lesson than my Juilliard teacher (which goes to show you how music degrees dont always translate to great teaching skills). Thats not to say my main teacher is bad, but I feel the group class format doesn't allow for discussion of much theory or technical aspects, it is more focused on covering as much repertoire as you are able to learn in order to effectively play it at the class-end recital .

I think finding a teacher that works for you, especially as an older/adult student, is quite difficult. Personality and "fit" is just as important, or more so, than whether they are going to be effective. I've had "trial" lessons with a few teachers who hold college degrees in Piano Performance, and while stating some obvious statements like "play a little slower so you can obtain better articulation in X section", it is always enlightening to distinguish how different their aural skills are, what aspects of your piano performance abilities they prefer to focus on, what "approach" they prefer to take.

As I stated in one of the earlier threads, the worst teacher I encountered simply took what I practiced and sat down and basically told me to look at her fingers and said "ok copy how I move, copy how I play this." Another aspect that annoyed me was how she would just repeat a measure exactly 3x and had my repeat it the same way she played it as if i were a 9 year old child playing "monkey see monkey do". That approach works poorly for adults. Each teacher also brings their own biases and interpretations to lessons.

For ex: I played my Brahms Intermezzo piece for a teacher who runs a local meet up group and his comments on my performance were completely focused on rhythmic irregularities in 2 spots. All he was focused on (besides correct notes) were tempo, rhythm and dynamics. Contrast this w/ the concert pianist teacher who heard me play the same piece for that week's lesson and focused mostly on the voicing of specific melody lines. He immediately had me to do an exercise in taking the melody and having me play it using chords of intervals transposed in a different key.

Every teacher has their own idiosyncrasies I feel - and its always good to take trial lessons w/ as many as you can to get a feel for which one will help you reach your goal.

Last edited by AssociateX; 10/09/19 03:22 PM.

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Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RonaldSteinway] #2898704 10/09/19 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Going to a student recital of a piano teacher is the best way to find out the result. If the majority of his 20 students played badly, we can infer that he is not a good teacher.


To approach this from a different angle than I did above:

Some good students get quite nervous in performance situations. If someone interprets a result of nervousness as having "played badly" (who defines that, by the way?), does that mean we can infer bad teaching caused that?

No, in fact, we can't. And we don't do students with performance anxieties any favors when we act as if a student who performs poorly is a reflection on the teacher. That could lead to a student having even more anxiety in a performance -- "Oh, no, I'm going to make my teacher look bad, the way I'm playing right now!"

No conscientious student needs that burden; to feel like his/her performance will make or break his teacher's reputation.

The best way to determine whether good teaching is happening comes through many hours of direct observation of the actual teaching in real time, rather than trying to decipher a hidden process that went from the teacher, to the student and through his/her environment, and to a performance. It's wrong-headed to assume that if something went wrong at the end of the line, we can therefore infer that it was the start of the line (the teacher) that was the problem.

No. That kind of narrow thinking helps neither good teachers nor students.

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RmntcPianoLvr] #2898711 10/09/19 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by RmntcPianoLvr
I'm looking to greatly improve not only my pianistic technique and touch, but also my musical understanding of different pieces and ability to break them down and interpret them at a sophisticated level.


Good for you in looking for a teacher to help you with these things, OP. I wish you well in your search. Take your time as you consider.

Let us know how it goes!

Best regards,
Andamento

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: Andamento] #2898721 10/09/19 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Andamento
The best way to determine whether good teaching is happening comes through many hours of direct observation of the actual teaching in real time, rather than trying to decipher a hidden process that went from the teacher, to the student and through his/her environment, and to a performance.
This might be good in theory, but in practice many non- advanced students would not know enough to reach a conclusion other than about the teacher's personality and, more basically, I can't imagine any teacher would permit a potential student to observe many hours of their teaching, especially if they weren't even a student of that teacher yet.The only exception would be a master class.

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: pianoloverus] #2898768 10/09/19 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I can't imagine any teacher would permit a potential student to observe many hours of their teaching, especially if they weren't even a student of that teacher yet.The only exception would be a master class.


You're right -- a master class would be an opportunity for a person to see how a teacher teaches without actually being a student of the teacher. And I agree there probably aren't many cases, if any, of teachers allowing potential students to observe them for an extended period.

I was thinking more along the lines of a trial period in which students and/or their parents get a number of weeks to observe the teacher without having to make a long-term commitment right from the outset with that teacher.

While I agree that a lot of non-advanced students wouldn't know how well they're being taught fundamentals (we don't know what we don't know), I think there are some general things that any older student (or younger students' parents) can pick up on in the teacher's approach that can provide hints about how well the teachers teach.

Can they demonstrate what they're talking about? Can they explain why such a thing is the way it is, or why one idea is more useful than another?

Do they exhibit a general sense of knowing what to do when a change in approach is apparently needed? Can they connect on the student's level, and adjust as needed to get points across?

Etc. None of that can be known for sure by watching a teacher's recital.

My point to RonaldSteinway was that a teacher's teaching and a student's performance aren't always connected. To suggest that an arbitrary number of recital students playing badly, in his opinion, is a sign of bad teaching ignores myriad other possibilities, as I mentioned earlier. He said from the way students play in a recital, one can tell whether they've been taught correctly or not. He seems not to consider the possibility that students may in fact have been taught correctly, but didn't go home and apply it correctly because, oh, I don't know, maybe they don't routinely sit down and practice for the first time until four or five or six days after the lesson, by which time they've forgotten most of what was taught.

Or maybe nerves got the best of some of the students, and a fair amount of what they could already do under normal circumstances flew out the window when under pressure, which a recital is for more than a few students.

RS would do well to consider, too, the effect someone else's difficulty in presenting their recital piece has on subsequent players. I know more than once in my childhood recital years it was a daunting feeling, watching a fellow student struggle and knowing I still had to go up and perform, wondering (worrying) that something like that could happen to me.

A recital can have a domino effect: when one falls...subsequent players can conceivably get scared and mess up, too.

Anyway...there are so many possibilities that can come into play, making recital performances, IMHO, not very good indicators of who are the good teachers, which our OP is looking for.

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: RmntcPianoLvr] #2898805 10/10/19 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
How to find a good teacher: ask other pianists at about your same skill level whom they take from, how they teach, pros and cons
Interview teachers: be honest and thorough about your goals, genres, practice habits. Ask the teacher to describe a typical adult student lesson, how repertoire is selected

Ask if a face to face meeting and/or trial lesson are possible
FWIW: I found my teacher by asking my piano tech for recommendations. It took me about three months of weekly lessons to realize my teacher was the right decision. Give a new teacher an adequate adjustment period.


Superb brief post! A face to face meeting with a promising teacher is essential, preferably after some serious phone or email conversation. This meeting will include some time together at a piano, though not perhaps a full lesson. Some teachers are too busy or too mercantile to spend much unpaid time with you. For them a paid trial full-length lesson is a fine idea.

But after that the adult student needs to make a leap of faith and give this a try, making a commitment to work with this mentor on a regular basis. It does take a couple of months or more for the two of them to get fully acclimatized to each other.

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: Andamento] #2898863 10/10/19 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Andamento
You're right -- a master class would be an opportunity for a person to see how a teacher teaches without actually being a student of the teacher. And I agree there probably aren't many cases, if any, of teachers allowing potential students to observe them for an extended period.

I was thinking more along the lines of a trial period in which students and/or their parents get a number of weeks to observe the teacher without having to make a long-term commitment right from the outset with that teacher.
Most teachers don't give or only very occasionally give master classes. Only famous pianists/teachers give master classes with any regularity. So in most cases observing a teacher in a master class is not a possibility.

What you describe in the second paragraph is also not generally possible. Most teachers wouldn't even allow an observation of a single lesson no less observations for a number of weeks.

The best procedure to select a teacher is an mutual interview followed by one or more trial lessons if the interview is positive. I would be suspicious of any private teacher who requires a long term commitment as in many lessons paid for in advance. If one takes lessons at a music school that requires tuition paid in advance, I think there are normally provisions for switching teachers if a match proves unsatisfactory.

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: pianoloverus] #2898933 10/10/19 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Andamento
You're right -- a master class would be an opportunity for a person to see how a teacher teaches without actually being a student of the teacher. And I agree there probably aren't many cases, if any, of teachers allowing potential students to observe them for an extended period.

I was thinking more along the lines of a trial period in which students and/or their parents get a number of weeks to observe the teacher without having to make a long-term commitment right from the outset with that teacher.
Most teachers don't give or only very occasionally give master classes. Only famous pianists/teachers give master classes with any regularity. So in most cases observing a teacher in a master class is not a possibility.

What you describe in the second paragraph is also not generally possible. Most teachers wouldn't even allow an observation of a single lesson no less observations for a number of weeks.

The best procedure to select a teacher is an mutual interview followed by one or more trial lessons if the interview is positive. I would be suspicious of any private teacher who requires a long term commitment as in many lessons paid for in advance. If one takes lessons at a music school that requires tuition paid in advance, I think there are normally provisions for switching teachers if a match proves unsatisfactory.



Sorry I wasn't clear. I meant in my second paragraph that the trial period would be paid. The student would actually be enrolled, and the parents would be paying tuition, just like any other student who had been there for years. By "observe the teacher" I was referring to the natural observation that occurs when a parent sits in on their child's (paid!) lessons with the teacher. (Or what an older student observes about his/her teacher in the course of their getting acclimatized to each other in the early weeks of their (paid) business relationship, which Peter alluded to above.)

I certainly didn't mean free-of-charge observation of a teacher for a number of weeks, if that's what it sounded like! No, I, as a teacher, wouldn't do that, and neither would any of my colleagues. smile

Re: How To Find A Good Teacher [Re: Andamento] #2898936 10/10/19 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Andamento
[
If you're going to use recitals as the litmus test for determining who's a good teacher and who isn't, then maybe you could hand out a questionnaire at the recital and get children's answers to some of these questions:



Why did you make a simple thing becomes so complicated? To me, if the majority of the students are good during the recital, it shows that the teacher knows how to teach the kids! The next step is to try to take lesson with that teacher whether we like that teacher or not. In the long run, there is no bad teacher who can produce many good students!

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