1. Take trial lessons with at least 3 different teachers.
Sample and choose and never feel bad if you think you need to move on. This is not a charity, it’s your musical future. You always have a right to find a better fit.
2. Figure out who the best teacher is, not who is the most famous. We all can be star struck sometimes. You need training more than info. Check out my other blog on how to pick a teacher and good teaching.
3. Study with someone online.
- The internet has democratized location. Live somewhere rural, or no where near the best teacher, or don’t have a ride? No problem.
- Online teaching has never been easier and gets better every day. It’s 80% as good, and 10% better than in person.
- The Good - study with anyone, save money because no middleman bureaucracy like a school, more convenient, save on transportation time and costs, possible to meet for two 30 minute weekly lessons (or more frequently) which can be better.
- The Bad - can be frustrating and more tiring on Zoom, helpful to have good mic/internet/computer, hard to work on tone/sound so most likely need to supplement with in person lessons or by sending recordings.
If you want to compete for the very top schools you will likely need a professional teacher.
Investigate local university teachers, freelance teachers, and orchestra players - Consider that the best teacher may be a local grad student, a contrabassoonist, a retired band director, or of course the famous principal player in your area.
Most big cities have freelancers who have specialized in teaching and consistently send students to top music schools.
Ask other players in your youth orchestra, district honor band, all-state ensembles, etc for their teacher’s contact info and take a trial lesson. Be respectful to your current teacher by letting them know you are going to take a lesson with someone else. Be polite about it, perhaps “ask” if you can take another lesson, but don’t let them pressure you out of it. You have the right to switch at any time. You are the customer.
If the person you want to study with says no, ask again once a month. Be persistent. Build a relationship until they say yes. Ask what you can do to get to the level they would teach.
Ask the teacher at the college program you want to go to if they know anyone or have former students in your area.
Take lessons every week. I’ve thought many times that I knew how to practice on my own, but I didn’t. If LeBron James has basketball coaches, you need a coach on your instrument too. If you don’t feel motivated to take lessons, find a new teacher that will challenge and inspire you.
How did you find your teacher?