Choosing the right cello teacher is so important. Not only will you be working with your cello instructor closely and regularly for (theoretically) multiple years - working with the right teacher keeps students motivated, inspired and challenged.
Finding the right person is the hard part. Some of us luck out through word-of-mouth, but most of us have to survive a limbo period as we "try on" various teachers to find the one who is the best fit for us.
Here are 6 tips for finding the best instructor for your playing level and personal needs.
1. Remember that it's your instructor (you're the boss)
Ego aside, you are the client and you are hiring/paying a professional to share their wisdom and expertise with you as you develop your musical craft. This means that you are the client, and the instructor works for you. Of course, once you've found your match, this relationship of power will fluctuate since s/he is the teacher and you're the student.
Until you've met him/her, however, treat the first few lessons with any instructor as an interview or trial period (and that goes both ways). You need a chance to get to know the instructor a bit, see if their teaching methods resonate with you, and determine whether they're a good fit for your current and future music goals (more on that below).
2. Have some questions ready before and during your first few lessons
This interview process will flow more smoothly, and will be less nerve wracking, if you have some questions on hand. These can be used via phone or email before you ever schedule an initial class, or you can use some beforehand and save some for your first lesson or two as a way to suss them out.
Examples of things worth asking/knowing are:
- What's your educational/professional music background?
- What age groups/levels do you prefer to teach?
- What's your teaching experience?
- How much practice do you require every day?
- Do you have a written teacher/student/studio policy?
- Will you provide regular student progress reviews?
- Do you require your students to perform during the year?
- Do you use technology in your studio (if this is important to you)?
- What's your fee schedule/preferred payment methods? Are you willing to work on a sliding scale (if needed)?
- What's the parent's role?
If nothing else, these questions open up conversations that break the ice and allow you to get a better feel for prospective teachers' personalities.
3. Don't assume you'll love the same teacher your friend loves
Sometimes, students stay for longer than they should with ineffective music instructors because they were referred by friends or family. Don't make this mistake. Just because your best friend or cousin thrives with a certain instructor, that doesn't mean you will. We're all different - and it's best to bid farewell to someone you don't resonate with so you can find someone you do.
4. Find a teacher who supports your ultimate music goals
If you've ever seen a video (or live performance) of 2Cellos, you know there are many different ways to play a cello. The cello's role has transformed dramatically over the course of 200 years, from an instrument that only played classical music, to one that can hold its own in contemporary music genres.
That being said, some instructors are more classically strict than others. So, if you desire to play modern music from time to time - or to have the flexibility to write your own - you'll want to find a teacher to support these goals and who will help you to break outside the traditional, classical mold. Otherwise, it will be more difficult for you to embrace the cello in an inspired, personalized way.
5. Be open to constructive criticism and pursuing the fundamentals
That being said, the fundamentals of music theory and cello techniques are universal - regardless of your preferred playing style. While an overly strict or foreboding teacher is undesirable - so, too, is an instructor who fails to point out problems or who lacks a strong commitment to teaching and enforcing fundamentals.
Kindness and patience, paired with diligence and attention to details, is a hallmark of an exceptional cello instructor.
6. Speak to current students for relevant references
It's always nice to hear first-hand perspectives from an instructor's current students. Ask a prospective instructor for phone numbers/contact information for current students willing to serve as referrals. An honest instructor should also provide contact information for students who've chosen to leave their instruction and migrate elsewhere so you can weigh their input as well.
If you take the time to find the best cello instructor for you, you're cello lessons will be infinitely more rewarding - and your music will reflect that.
This article sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld