Finding a non-Suzuki piano teacher

said: Dec 25, 2006
 1 posts

Let’s just say that there were no Suzuki piano teachers in our area. How would I go about finding a great piano teacher for my child? What kinds of questions should I ask? My child has been studying Suzuki piano for a few years now, but is still somewhat weak in technique.

I would like to find someone who’s open to working with the Suzuki songs, but that’s not a necessity. Most importantly, I would like a teacher that will teach proper technique and tone. I would also like to avoid the competition aspect that the Suzuki approach also tries to avoid.

There are plenty of piano teachers around here and a few colleges nearby, but I don’t know what exactly I’m looking for in a teacher that hasn’t been trained in the Suzuki Method.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. :D

Kelly Williamson said: Dec 27, 2006
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
258 posts

I’d ask the same questions of any teacher… what is your training and experience, do you update your training regularly, what are the strengths of your program/what are your goals as a teacher, and can I observe a couple of lessons. Other questions: do you perform yourself? What musical activities are you involved in aside from teaching? (If you have a specific concern, like technique, I’d ask how they approach that aspect of playing.)

It might also be interesting to know if they collaborate with other teachers. This community idea is perhaps more common among Suzuki teachers, but some of the best “regular” teachers I know also work regularly with colleagues (either colleagues who teach the same instrument, or different instruments—sometimes in a group that includes Suzuki teachers, sometimes just among “regular” teachers) to be able to provide special enrichment activities. These could include occasional master classes with an invited teacher, weekend workshops, chamber music opportunities, etc.

I guess I’d love to know if they had other passions (painting, writing, volunteering, travel, etc) but I’d start with their musical and pedagogical attributes. :)


Laura said: Dec 27, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I would ask if the teacher wouldn’t mind playing something for you. It would give you a good idea of the teacher’s own playing technique, and the sound(s) that he or she can produce.

Even if it’s a little snippet (I know how it is to play something without preparation!) and the teacher feels a little rusty, the basic technique will always show through. If it’s technique and tone that you’re looking for, no matter how fantastic the teaching skills, the teacher will only be able to impart what he or she knows.

The opposite is also true: no matter how good a player the teacher is, effective teaching skills are needed to pass any of it on. But I find that more often than not, you will find an excellent, warm, patient teacher who can TEACH WELL on how to play, but doesn’t necessarily teach on how to PLAY WELL.

I believe this is one reason why Suzuki teachers are required/encouraged to undergo so much training, so that at least there is a better chance of a minimum standard that can be expected. (That’s also easier said than done, but at least it’s a start.)

It might be a little tricky to ask for a demonstration diplomatically, but it’s worth a shot if you can find a way to ask. Good luck!

Debbie said: Dec 27, 2006
Debbie MiViolin
138 posts

Also, see if you can attend a recital given by a teacher’s students. This will really help you to get a picture of how this teacher teaches. Just seeing one student of a teacher is not an accurate picture, but a recital of the teacher’s students will most likely help you to get a feel for the teacher.

said: Dec 29, 2006
 104 posts

You might ask to sit in on another student’s lesson. If you are very interested in technique, then you may want to observe several of the teacher’s students or attend a recital given by her students—you’ll probably get a pretty clear idea of what kinds of outcomes the teacher produces.

Melissa said: Jan 7, 2007
 Piano, Flute
151 posts

I feel terrible to think that your daughter has been taking Suzuki Piano for years now, yet she is weak on her techinique!
Did this Suzuki teacher not teach proper technique?
If she/he didn’t, shame on this teacher!

If this is why you are perhaps looking for a new teacher, you may want to check out:

This is a list of teachers that teach the basics of piano playing, which consists of technique, tone and listening skills. That is their focus.

If there still is not a Suzuki teacher close by. Then I agree with the other poster. The best way to know if a teacher is good, is to observe lessons and sit in on a recital to see and hear how a particular teacher’s students play. By the way, I would do this with a Suzuki teacher too!

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