Private music students fall into four different categories in terms of their lesson experience: 1) those that are new to lessons, 2) those that are returning to lessons after a period of absence, 3) those that are returning after having taken lessons long ago with a different teacher, and 4) those that are transferring directly from another teacher (or had lessons recently with a different teacher). Of all these, it is the third category of “transfer students” that are the trickiest to handle when first starting lessons, in my opinion. Over the years, I've developed a set of “guidelines” for myself regarding such students. I will present these here as a list of “do's and don'ts” that any transfer student can expect me to adhere to as his/her instructor:
- Do ask a lot of questions about the student's musical interests.
- Do find out what the student did or didn't like about his/her lessons previously. - Do stick with the materials (books/music) the student had been using, at least for a while, unless they or their parents feel it would be best to make a change right away.
- Do explain my own overall teaching approach and how it might differ from the student's previous teacher(s).
- Do explain that I am very patient in seeing the results of any kind of change in approach, and that the student should try to be as well.
- Don't try to make any drastic changes with the student right away, especially in terms of technique and practice methods.
- Don't ask details about the student's former teacher, including the person's name, so that the student can feel free to discuss their previous lessons honestly.
- Don't badmouth the methods of the student's former teacher, making it clear that all instructors have their own ways of teaching, along with specific things they may choose to emphasize or ignore.
- Don't ever criticize students for the results of the poor methods used by their former teachers, keeping in mind that they only know what they've been taught and usually have no idea that there may be better alternatives.