Selecting a Teacher

Music of Yesterday


The first requisites of a good teacher are that he must possess a good musical education received from a competent instructor, and that he must also possess the ability to teach fundamentals correctly. The selection of the first teacher is really of more importance than the selection of a later one, if a later one is needed, and yet some parents are utterly indifferent in this matter.

The main reason for ‘this attitude seems to be a false sense of economy, for many of those who adopt it are people who can afford the best. There seems to be a feeling, however, that anyone who has any knowledge at all of the rudiments of music and is willing to impart such knowledge is “good enough for a start.” Later on, of course, after the children have “got a start,” they will be taken to a good teacher for the first time. This same good teacher will be expected in about a term’s time to produce young Bloomfield-Zeislers and Paderewskis. Instead of which, of course, he will be engaged in trying to undo the work of the earlier and inadequate teacher.

But the good teacher’s reputation was never made with pupils of the above kind. The pupils he has brought out will have been those who have had good foundation work properly laid by himself or some body as competent. The subject of inefficient teaching as a result of false economy is a broad one, but it is at the root of the whole subject of the advancement of music in America.


Some years ago, a friend of mine, living in a town of about two thousand inhabitants, wished to have me instruct her, and promised to organize a class for me if I would teach in her town. As I had to pass through the town weekly, I acquiesced. The number of pupils, material and price, were very satisfactory so far as I personally was concerned, but the musical conditions in that town were deplorable, and the competition I had to face was amusing. Lessons could be procured for fifty cents as a maximum down through the grades forty, thirty-five, twenty-five, and even twelve and a half cents, or two for a quarter. The cheapest teacher was also the’ most magnanimous, as she supplied ice cream socials at the end of each term of twenty-four lessons, and a reduction in price was made if a whole term was taken. Those teachers were well patronized and had large classes. How I ever managed to organize a class and maintain it always seemed a miracle when such bargain prices could be had!

The conditions elsewhere are often as in this case. The majority of people think of the sum of money they are going to pay instead of what work they are going to receive for their money, and in doing so they frequently fail to get what they most desire—their money’s worth! Barring exceptions due to competition or environment, good teachers can usually afford to charge more for their time, and arc justified in so doing, as their own musical education has been expensive and of a high standard. Children will be better taught if they go to teachers of this class for a few lessons rather than to a cheaper teacher for many.

If high-grade teaching in one’s locality seems too expensive, there are at least two ways in which good teaching may be had cheaper. One is to go to the best-known teacher and get him to recommend some pupil of his who can teach the fundamentals correctly. The other way is to see if he will not use class teaching, which is excellent, and will accordingly reduce his price. By either of these methods, a beginner may be had under the instruction of someone who has positive knowledge of fundamentals. In the end the best is always the cheapest, especially for people with less money. One year with a good teacher is worth two with a poor one.

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