I got calls from four prospective students this week with room to take only one. What to do? I decided to invite each student for a sample lesson so we could get to know each other. “New Girl # 1″ came for her first lesson. “She’s been playing in band for two years and is bored with it” said her mom. She wants to learn more than the band director is teaching. “That sounds like good motivation” I thought. But when I heard “New Girl #1″ play I began to change my mind. After playing for two years she didn’t tongue (she breathed after every note!) and she could hardly read music. The beginning piece with only the notes A & B was challenging for her. After telling her about my program (a lifestyle as some of my students call it), she didn’t seem excited and when I asked her if she was prepared to practice an hour a day she was hesitant. I think it is impossible to tell from a first lesson how a student will end up after a few years (I’ve had many surprises!), but I just got a feeling that “New Girl 1″ and I had different goals so I suggested another teacher who lives closer to her and will do a great job.
“New Girl #2 then came for a visit. She was so shy she never looked at me and I felt it was more her mother’s idea for lessons than hers. When I asked if she wanted to come back on Friday for a lesson she answered, “Well I guess so unless my friends and I have plans.” Woops-not the attitude I’m looking for. Talking to the mother of “New Girl #3 on the phone last week I asked if her daughter was excited about the flute. “Well as excited as any 14-year-old is about anything.” Yikes.
It was hard telling these students that I couldn’t take them but after some mismatches, I’ve grown to know I’m not the right teacher for every student. I don’t need a student who is advanced (in fact I prefer beginners) but I do need a student who is excited and anxious to learn. Perhaps you’re a teacher who specializes in beginners, young children, or even kids who are not too serious about their instrument. That’s great. Every child (and adult!) deserves a chance to learn and have music be a small or a large part of his or her life. But it is important as a teacher to know yourself and your specialty so everyone ends up happy. When the student and teacher are a good match it is magical!