Finding A Teacher
Please, find a teacher right away!
Have you heard the saying, "For the first six months spend a thousand dollars a month on the very best teacher. Then after that you can give him to anybody you want!" Well that's a little extreme, and I certainly don't advocate just changing teachers after six months. The point, of course, is that a careful foundation laid will pave the way for future success and ease of playing. Habits, either good or bad, are formed early, and the more basic the habit the harder it is to change in the future. It reminds me of the constant repair work I have to do on my home. If I have to replace the kitchen sink, not a terribly big deal. Or if I decide to upgrade the entryway with nice tile, again no problem - but if I discover problems with the foundation then I really start worrying for my bank account. While this might seem obvious, it never ceases to amaze me how many parents let their children go without a private teacher, perhaps just learning in the school group setting, and say "well if she is still interested in a couple years then I'll give her lessons." Now don't get me wrong, there are very excellent public school instrumental music teachers out there. I have taught in the public schools and completely relate to their predicament. Many school districts have very limited funds for music education. Often I have had only 30 minutes/week to teach a group of 15 violinists. Sometimes I've been lucky and have had 45 minutes. I can barely tune all the instruments and attend to the missing shoulder pads, broken strings, missing music, in that amount of time! Even with utmost efficient teaching there's just not time to fix the myriad of "bad" habits that inevitably creep into everyone's playing.
Quite often I receive new students who have already played for a couple years without a (good) private teacher. Without a doubt, the biggest challenge I face is keeping the student motivated and having fun while I try to fix all the bad habits which the student so diligently ingrained for two years!
Where do I start looking?
Whew, now that we got that out of the way, you are on to looking for a teacher. Well, I live in Seattle and know which teachers I would recommend although there are new ones arriving in town every month and I wish I could meet them! Your local university or music conservatory is a good place to start. Or perhaps the local professional symphony orchestra. Here's the thing: If you contact a violinist, he may very well be biased to recommend himself as a teacher. He might be a fabulous performer, but that doesn't mean he is a good teacher. But how about contacting a prominent cellist and asking for a recommendation for a violin teacher? Then again, they may just refer their friends and relatives. So I think the best and most un-biased source is your local middle or high school orchestra director. He/she is most likely familiar with all the local teachers. He is likely aware of who the teachers of his best students are, and likely has to find private teachers for new students every year. The school teacher sees first hand the results of a teacher's work. First research to see which schools in the area have the best music programs and then contact that teacher.
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