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J1 Harry S. Truman, former U.S. President
Blake's Ten Teacher-Tracking Tips
In This Chapter
* Finding a great teacher
? Asking a candidate the right questions
Ëfter you decide to hire a private teacher, your next step is to find one, a good one. Oh, sure, you think it’s easy, but finding a good teacher takes time, commitment, and patience. Many pianists change teachers three or four times in the span of a career. Personally, I’ve had five different teachers.
Before you take a single lesson, it is perfectly acceptable, and highly advisable, to interview each candidate and discover their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just remember, you are the boss — you are hiring the teacher, not the other way around.
To help you ask the right questions of a prospective teacher, use this chapter as a checklist. Go ahead and take this book along with you on the interview.
Question # 1: Whom Else Hade Qou Taught)
i1 “I’ve had several students over the years and would be happy to give you their names and numbers to contact.”
J’ “Just a few: Leonard Bernstein, Rudolf Serkin, and Andr? Watts.”
J' “No one. You’ll be my first.”
You should get a list of references from the teacher candidate and contact each of them, if possible. If you were referred to the candidate by a friend or relative, it’s still okay to ask for another reference.
300 Part VII: The Part of Tens
Assess your teacher’s overall abilities by asking current and former students what they like and don’t like about the teacher.
Question #2: Hou) Long Hade Qou Been Teaching and Playing?
“Over 25 years, and 1 love it.”
J1 “I retired from public performance three years ago and decided to start teaching.”
J’ “Since lunch.”
Whether it’s years of playing, years of studying, or years of teaching, experience is a must for any good teacher. Without it, you’ll both be learning as you go, but you won’t be the one getting paid by the hour.
You may also want to know where the candidate received his education, what awards he won, or if he enjoyed a previous career as a performer.
J' “A wonderful 18th-century composer of symphonic, chamber, and keyboard music.”
* “An overrated, questionable child prodigy who wrote some works considered classic today.”
J' “Oh, isn’t that the mayor’s boy?”
A teacher who is knowledgeable about music is a teacher who can answer the myriad questions that you are bound to have. Knowledge of the great composers or music history is not the defining characteristic of a good teacher, but it tells a lot about their education and repertoire.
Question #3: What Do Qou
Chapter 20: Blake's Ten Teacher-Tracking Tips
Other questions to test a candidate’s general music knowledge might include:
IJ' What is the difference between a piano and harpsichord? (See Chapter 1.) J' What style of music did Bill Evans play? (See Chapter 18.)
J1 What is the key signature for the key of C-sharp major? (See Chapter 11.)
Question #4: Would \/ou Mind Playing Something for Me?
IJ1 “Sure, what key would you like it in?”
J1 “Well, I would be happy to play for you. How about a bit of Fats Waller?” J1 “I don’t really play. I’m just a good teacher.”
How well does your candidate play? Ask her to play something for you, nothing too tricky but nothing too easy — perhaps Bach, Chopin, or even Scott Joplin. Your ears will tell you the answer. Are you impressed with the candidate’s skill, or can your friends play just as well?
Don’t head for the door if you get the third answer. Surprisingly, even someone who can’t play very well can still be a good teacher. They may be very skilled in listening and correcting your technique without being able to make their own fingers play the music. If you like the answers the candidate gives you to the other questions in this chapter, he may be a good candidate despite not playing well for you.
Question #5: What Repertoire bo Qou Teach?
J' “I like all music. We’ll start with the classics and work our way up to today’s Top Ten.”
J' “The three Bs: Bach, Beethoven, and The Beatles.”
J' “Come again?”
302 Part VII: The Part of Tens
Most likely, you have an idea of the pieces you want to play. It’s important for every pianist to be able to play the classics — Bach, Mozart, Chopin — but, of course, they aren’t the only composers. And classical isn’t the only genre of music. (Chapter 15 introduces you to several styles of music.)
If you want to play rockabilly or jazz or R&B, find out if your teacher is willing to teach you those styles. Granted, you have to work your way up to playing these other styles by starting with the classics. But as you improve, make sure your teacher will let you pick your own repertoire to some extent.
Question #6: How Do \/ou Feet about Wrong Notes, Mistakes, or Lack of Practice?
J1 “To err is human.”