Choosing the right violin teacher can seem more difficult than learning the darn instrument sometimes, but I assure you it’s not. Let’s explore what sets the best violin teacher apart from a lame teacher, shall we?
What Kind of Student Are You?
Choosing the best violin teacher really depends on you. Teachers have different styles and strengths. There are some that are terrific with beginner children. Others are better with older kids who are more advanced. There are no Swiss-Army violin teachers out there. No teacher is perfect at teaching all students. For me, I seem to do my best teaching with teens or older students who are more advanced. That doesn’t mean I don’t teach beginners. It just means I do better with older students.
Your perspective teacher should fit your mold. If the student is very young, you should look for a Suzuki teacher or one that specializes in very young beginners. If the student has already had some instruction, you should be looking at a teacher who enjoys advanced students. These teachers are usually performers in the local symphony or otherwise active in performing. Sometimes advanced teachers also teach at a nearby university or college. It’s up to the student to recognize what type of teacher will work best for them. Also, consider the age of the teacher, and choose appropriately. If the student is a young child, ask whether he would be comfortable with an older or younger teacher.
Private Lessons in 2020
It would be irresponsible of me to not mention our current, ahem, situation when it comes to interacting with other humans. The pandemic that has swept the world continues to dictate how we can live our daily lives, even as we head into the fall. I have almost completely turned into an agoraphobic germaphobe because of it. I’m only half kidding. Almost all of my teaching is done online now, and I see only one student a week in person (with proper precautions of course). The other teachers in town are either doing the same thing or just quitting until things get back to (mostly) normal.
If you’re looking for a private teacher right now, expect to learn online. Violin lessons usually require a fair amount of up-close-and-personal interaction between teacher and student (more on that in a minute). This is just not safe right now. If you can find a teacher who will see you in person, you should wear a mask. All the time. Period. I am a card-carrying member of the mask police, and you will comply! Seriously, wear your masks people.
Types of Teacher Philosophies
The best violin teacher will have the perfect blend of firmness and fun. Demanding and friendly. Hard and soft. These teachers do this to keep students motivated by being friendly and kind, while also standing firm and demanding results. As I said above, no teacher can do both equally well. I tend to have trouble with the firm and demanding part. I hate making students cry (I have many times, sadly) or get upset. On the other hand, back in the day, teachers were really tough, almost to the point of being mean. I’ve heard horror stories of teachers who were actually demeaning students. Only the toughest could survive. Luckily, our culture has changed over the years.
The best instructor will give you realistic expectations and stick to them. Students should know what is expected of them from week to week. Likewise, teachers should reward students who meet or exceed their expectations while firmly (but not harshly) telling less hard-working students to improve their practice habits. Ultimately, a good violin teacher will teach a student how to practice. He won’t practice for the student, though.
How Do You Find the Best Violin Teacher?
The best place to get information on prospective teachers is from parents or students of that teacher. Good teachers will have contact info available for you to talk to existing or former students. Failing that, check out the teacher’s social media. He should have a Facebook page specific to his teaching or music career. If not, see if you can look at his regular FB or Twitter posts. Are they okay? Do they feature any questionable content or hate speech? Hopefully not.
Does your prospective teacher perform? If so, where? Is it a reputable ensemble or a barely-there community group? Does she have any videos up on Youtube? Do your research. I don’t think it’s necessary to do any kind of background check or anything like that. It’s quite invasive, and without the subject’s permission, illegal. If the teacher has established herself with any of the above-mentioned social proof, I doubt they are a hardened criminal. That said, always go to the first lesson along with the student (if you are a parent). If you don’t like the way the teacher behaves or speaks to your child, run the other way.
Finding the best violin teacher for yourself or your child may seem daunting, but with a few minutes of looking around the interwebs or talking to other parents, it’s really not that bad. In any large city with a good symphony orchestra, there are plenty of good teachers to go around. Not all good teachers have a regular performance career, which is good because they can give 100% to instruction. Some teachers are heavy performers and may cancel lessons often in order to perform somewhere, so keep that in mind as well. Others may go on tour and be gone for weeks at a time. This is not ideal since students need regular and consistent lessons in order to improve. Take a look around, ask some people, and think of the questions you want to be answered. Then pick the best violin teacher you can find.