I met my worst music non dual teachers in New York City, at 19, when I was studying violin at a conservatory. The school sent me to an internationally-famous violinist who taught out of his posh Greenwich Village apartment. I was thrilled.
As it turned out, this teacher had a unique way of communicating: When I played something wrong, his foot would lash out in a reflexive kick – landing on my rear end (luckily, he wore house slippers). After a few lessons, I was out of there.
A year later, I found one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. This man was not famous, rich, or even a world-class violinist. He was a rumpled new immigrant, living in a tiny walkup apartment in Queens.
He turned out to be a fantastic, creative and inspirational teacher. At 20, my playing blossomed almost overnight. Thanks to him, I passed my very first audition for a professional symphony orchestra.
Many adults have anecdotes like this. Sometimes, the worst teachers make the funniest stories. What isn’t so humorous is that they can drive talented youngsters away from music, sometimes forever. We do not want this to happen to our own children.
Now I am a director of a music school, as well as parent of musically-accomplished children. I know that anyone can hang a shingle declaring themselves a music teacher. But to find the gems, you have to proceed carefully and do your homework.
Beginnings are Important
Start with research.
1. ASK EVERYONE YOU KNOW. Aim for at least three recommendations, just as if you were choosing an orthodontist. While collecting names, also ask what they charge.
2. LOOK ON THE WEB. When you reach the website of a music teacher or school web, look for student performance videos. Watch them for high standards. If you know nothing about music, email the link to musical friends and ask them whether the students have a good teacher.
3. ATTEND A RECITAL. If all the students play badly, head for the hills! A few struggling beginners in a recital is absolutely normal and appropriate; but there should also be beautiful players.