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Guidelines for Choosing a Teacher in Safety and Confidence

1. If you are arranging a lesson for yourself or for a child, take all the same precautions that you would normally observe when meeting any stranger. The first step should always be a telephone call where you make a straightforward assessment of the prospective teacher. Don't be afraid to ask the following questions:

  1. How many pupils do you teach at the moment and would you mind if I spoke to them about the service that you offer?
  2. How long have you been teaching? Do you have a referee for your services that you could suggest?
  3. If you were to teach my child, may I attend the lessons? OR May I bring a friend with me to my lessons?
  4. Do you offer a consultation lesson prior to any financial arrangements?

2. Make sure that any arrangements you make are made on fair and even terms, in general it is unlikely that any responsible teacher would object to any of the questions above. Some teachers may indeed insist on a chaperone to be present at all times when teaching minors.

3. It's good to talk! We strongly discourage negotiation with teachers by email and enthusiastically recommend picking up the telephone. The spoken word is by far the best first step in establishing confidence on both sides. Don't make arrangements for you, your child or your money with an individual you only correspond with by email. You will be at risk.

4. Don't be afraid to pursue references and recommendations since for good teachers, these will only prove helpful and supportive. You may need to do this after your first consultation before making any further arrangement. Be completely open about doing this; no responsible teacher will mind you making such checks.

5. When you finally meet your prospective teacher, preferably at an obligation-free consultation, be clear about what service you need and direct the consultation so that your questions are answered. Music tuition is often a long-term commitment and a good teacher-pupil relationship is so valuable and so fruitful that a little care and attention in making a good decision is well worthwhile.

6. To get a fuller picture of the style of tuition offered, you might ask some of the following questions:

  1. What is your approach to instrumental technique?
  2. What repertoire do you encourage your pupils to study and why?
  3. How do you teach theory?
  4. Do you prepare your pupils for examination, such as the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music?
  5. How do you teach general musicianship and music appreciation?
  6. How do you develop sight-reading skills in your pupils?
  7. Do you encourage your pupils to seek regular opportunities to perform in public, such as in festivals, competitions and private recitals?
  8. Do you encourage your pupils to play in ensembles?
  9. What do you expect of your pupils?
  10. Do you give progress reports on your pupils?
  11. Do you make notes for your pupils during lessons?
  12. What is your professional background?
  13. What qualifications do you have?

7. Be sure about the service that you want for yourself or your child. Remember that a teacher will be interested to learn about the full extent of your musical interests, your aspirations and preparedness to take on the commitment that learning a musical instrument requires. The more open you are about your expectations and interests, the more useful the consultation will be.

8. Don't feel obliged to make a decision there and then. You may need to make more than one approach before you meet the teacher for you.

9. When you do make an financial arrangement with a teacher, be clear about the fees being charged and how and when they are to be paid. You should also ask if the teacher has a cancellation policy and who should be responsible for the purchase of materials and sheet music.

10. If you have arranged tuition for your child, you should continue to take a close interest in the progress being made. Make an effort to sit in on lessons regularly enough to be sure of how tutorial time is spent. It is often very helpful to teachers to have the opportunity to discuss how your child's skills are developing. Never leave your child with a relative stranger unless you are absolutely certain that this is an appropriate arrangement. If in doubt, sit in on the lesson!