By Alicia Britton
teacher—and we know it’s not easy!
In-home music lessons are an opportunity to create a unique bond between families and teachers. Most families at home are within earshot of a music lesson, though some family members may not be paying close attention, others may be sitting in the same room. As you’re chopping carrots, you may wonder, “Why don’t I hear more music? Why do I hear
singing in a piano lesson? Why have I been listening to “The Happy Stream” for the last three weeks?” All good questions, and from every Note-Worthy instructor comes great answers! It’s not a saying, it’s a fact: the key to any fruitful relationship is communication.
Please do not mistake this essay as a Note-Worthy advertisement. I write from the point of view of a Note-Worthy Experiences instructor and team member. The following considerations are meant to provide comfort and offer recommendations to families who are experiencing anxieties about their new musical guest and give incite to the process of a successful lesson. By engaging with your child’s music teacher, you open doors to exponential growth for your child’s musical progression and for the interconnectedness of you, your child’s music teacher, and their new music student.
Note-Worthy Experiences is true to their name; Renee Bordner is a master instructor hunter and we as teachers naturally strive to maintain the company’s reputation. Your teacher was not chosen for you out of a hat. We do not pick straws to pick our students. Your child has a teacher that has been specifically selected based on traits that include, but are not limited to: skill; personality; and well, experience. Here’s a scenario: You read the profile of the music teacher who is about to teach your child. The teacher has a masters degree and over five years of experience teaching in the real world. They arrive at your door and per previous discussion, you observe the lesson on a couch in the same room. You wonder, “Why is this teacher so nervous? Why are they stuttering? I thought they had years of experience, what’s going on?”
Well, here are two examples of what could be “going on.” One, it is possible the five years of experience were teaching out of a private, sound proof studio room that shut its door adjacent from a family waiting room. Confidence in how we teach is vital in private, and even more-so when the people who are paying for lessons can hear every word and see every step of the process. For me, it was like building a callus, I just had to teach the way I teach and know that there was success behind closed doors, so what difference does it make if they’re open. In fact, now I enjoy in-home lessons so much that when I teach in studios, I frequently invite parents into the room to observe progress.
Another possible scenario is that this is your music teacher’s first time teaching a music lesson—ever. Now, Renee would not hire an instructor that is not fully capable of carrying out Note-Worthy’s mission, so give them a chance! Great music teachers are built with experience and it is impossible to gain wisdom unless they are allowed to teach. You are most likely not the only family they will visit that day which means they are getting a crash course in teaching, say, ten, or even twenty lessons in the week before they see your family a second time. Consistency and confidence will materialize!
So what is the best way to approach your teacher when questioning experience?
Ask! Our ears are for more than music! We’d love to share with you our musical journey! If it hasn’t already been addressed in email correspondence prior to the lesson, please do not hesitate to approach your teacher; the last thing your teacher wants is for you to hesitate about taking lessons!
Consider: The First Lesson
We don’t use the word “trial” at Note-Worthy, the first lesson is the first lesson. However, this does not mean a lesson without first impressions and a teacher’s assessment. Whether you are a musical family or a complete stranger to music lessons, the first lesson is simply a pre-requisite to a second lesson. Keeping in mind every teacher has their own approach and personal flare, below is a list of standard characteristics of a first lesson:
The lesson may go on longer than scheduled. This is certainly at the discretion of mutual scheduling, but consider that initial greetings and settling in will only take this long the first time. It will not add dollars to your invoice; it will only add weight to the initial connection and assessment.
Your teacher will explore strategies to figure out how your child best absorbs information. There is a chance for success in the first half-hour; and there’s also a chance your teacher will connect with you two lessons later and discuss strategies in the best interest of your child.
Sounds may sound simple. I say sounds because it’s very possible what is being played doesn’t sound like music. But it is! There are cognitive reasons you are hearing the sounds you hear. Enjoy it!
Your teacher will find you when they need you. Music teachers are not disciplinarians or force mongers. If your child is exhibiting behavior that requires attention beyond our pay grade, your child will be politely asked to find you to save the moment and disentangle the matter.
The first lesson is often a blast! We want students to know they are capable of anything! We want students to know the glory of their instrument. And though not every lesson will be a walk in the park without stepping in a little sludge, our goal is to introduce your child to music in a way that elicits love at first listen!
Questions? Comments? Ask! Let us know! Our ears are for more than music!
Consider: What is your child telling you? What is your child telling your teacher?
No one knows your child better than you do, but ideas and inclinations of the student may be passed on to the wrong adult. There are a lot of common utterances I’ve heard from students over the years and sometimes they’re taken into consideration, other times they are ignored. Your parenting is not under question; our job is to teach music, not assist in their upbringing. However, if communications about music lessons between student and family
are blurry, it is the teacher’s job to clarify those messages, even if they are silent.
Examples of communication between teacher and student; family and student; teacher and family:
Student says, “I hate the violin.” Teacher says, “Why do you hate the violin?” And there may be many reasons. Maybe it’s physical discomfort. Maybe their dream is to play the flute. Maybe, they never asked for lessons and don’t understand why they are taking lessons. The real problem is when they identify the instrument with music itself and start to say, “I hate music.” No Note-Worthy teacher will let it go that far! It is the job of the teacher to identify issues that may be inhibiting musical progress and then it is the teacher’s job to approach the family with the student’s concerns. Perhaps you had no idea your child wanted to play flute instead of violin. Perhaps a conversation can now be implemented between you and your child to determine the best way to move forward
without sacrificing music altogether.
Haven’t had a progress update in a while? Ask! Our ears are for more than music! I am a huge fan of progress updates! When a student meets a milestone, we’ll let you know! If it’s time to rehabilitate the practice regimen, we’ll let you know! And if it seems like a student has hit a plateau, we’ll let you know! And we will have plans and be ready to discuss any or all of these breakthroughs or concerns.
Long term goals should be discussed early. Goal discussions guide the teacher’s approach and determine the appropriate materials. Teachers and families make decisions together. For example, a music teacher recommends a series of materials for the student, some provided by the teacher, some purchased and provided by the family. If a set of materials isn’t working, we will let you know and make plans for a change, and we will do so with your permission.
Have questions about your teacher’s approach? Ask!…Yeah, yeah, yeah, ears more than music…I know you know!
Consider: Understanding what you don’t understand
Not a musician? No worries, we’ve got this! If you have a desire to become more fluent in what your child is learning, primary level books have the resources you need to follow along and answer common questions your child may have when they practice. Teachers are ready to help families navigate their child’s materials for the sake of practice progress and unification. It is important to us that you know what your child is working on, even if you
don’t read music.
Consider: What if a different teacher is the answer?
This is an awkward question to consider, and that is why I saved it for last. If after a solid probation period you think your child’s teacher is not the best fit for your family, your musical guest is likely aware. We deliver the best of our abilities to each lesson and sometimes, the delivery ends up at the wrong house! Great music teachers do not take these changes personally, we take them thoughtfully, and there are only great music teachers at Note-Worthy. Music is valuable and we want to make sure that students continue to value music, even if we are not their teacher.
Thank you for your consideration!
There are plenty of resources provided on the website and in the monthly newsletters that can help answer a lot of questions. Renee Bordner has made herself more than available to all families and teachers who have signed on to the Note-Worthy team, and your teachers are also available to you for you to express any interests or concerns. Allow me to say, we are Trust-Worthy!
Alicia Britton is a voice and piano instructor for Note-worthy Experiences. Read more about her here.