DISCLAIMER: This post reflects my personal experiences and feedback I receive from people through my website. It is not intended to offend anyone, so please read it knowing that it is simply one person's take on music education in Ireland.
I intended for this blog post to be an article for the teaching part of the website. In fact, for those of you who remember, I used to have a similar article up on my old website about 3 years ago. However, its that time of year again. The summer break, which means that parents, and indeed anyone looking to begin music lessons in September starts researching prospective teachers around this time of the year. Over the last four weeks, I have received over a 100 emails, from parents or students wondering what the best option is, for them. In some cases, the students have been taking lessons, or have studied music in the past, but want to change teachers. In other cases, they are reaching an advanced level, but find their teacher is no longer able to teach them. There are always many emails from prospective adult beginners, or adult students who are looking to resume formal tuition after a break of many years. There are also quite a few emails from people who have had some bad experience or the other with music teachers in the past, and some from those who are already performing musicians in non-classical genres, or those who cannot read music, but are very competent in other aspects.
In Ireland, while there is no shortage of instrumental teachers in the major cities (Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick), the smaller towns are often not as fortunate. And as is always the case, prospective students and parents have no real way of knowing much about the quality of teaching, or the personality and ability of the teacher, because there is such a high element of trust involved. However, the unfortunate truth, particularly in Ireland, is that while there are some excellent instrumental music teachers in the country, there are also far too many people trying to pull a fast one over the keen parent or student. Some of the recent, real cases are
1) A Piano teacher who opened a "Professional Piano Studio" without even having a Grade 8 or a Teaching Certificate. She had somehow managed to do this by teaching only beginners, in an area where there was a lack of any music tuition. What will become of those young students who cannot even learn the basics accurately, in a few years?
2) A Piano teacher who was charging an obscene fee for tuition for beginner students in the South Dublin area (double what nearly any experience conservatory professor, professional pianist or teacher was charging). This person's qualifications were non existant (it was not even known if she had done ANY training at all). When a parent of two of her pupils asked her to sight-read a very easy Gr 1-2 piano piece, the teacher simply said "no, I can't do it - go buy the CD!!!!". Needless to say, it became apparent to the parent, that this woman was unable to play, let alone teach. Even my younger piano pupils would have no great difficulty sight-reading a grade1-2 piece, so this is absolutely shocking to say the least!.
These are just a couple of instances where so called "music teachers" have managed to dupe enthusiastic parents. So I've put together a few points for anyone looking for a music teacher in Ireland.
- Visit www.learnmusic.info (Music Network's database of instrumental teachers and schools). Remember that while Music Network encourages teachers to enter as much information about themselves as possible, this database is NOT monitored or vetted, so in fact, ANYONE can write anything in this. However, I am sure the majority of teachers are very good, as I'd like to think anyone who goes through the trouble of filling out the excellent form on the website is not out to con people!
- If you are wondering what an instrumental teacher in Ireland charges, here are some general guidelines. Student teachers charge between €25 and €35 for an hourly lesson, sometimes they may need to charge a little more if they are commuting to the student's residence. Qualified (Teaching Certificate, Associate Diploma, B.Mus Degree) teachers, professional concert pianists, conservatoire professors charge between €35 and €60 an hour.
- Schedule a consultation lesson with the teacher once you've established initial contact. Some teachers may charge for an informal consultation, others may not. However, it is advisable to set this up, as it gives you the opportunity to talk to the teacher, and it gives the teacher the opportunity to decide if they are able and willing to teach the student. It is also useful to establish details like timeslots, fees, term dates etc at this consultation.
-At the lesson, do politely ask the teacher what their qualifications are, or whether they have any performance experience. Remember, it is absolutely untrue that there are great teachers who don't perform. If a teacher is reluctant to play the instrument, it is unlikely that they will be able to inspire the student, technically and musically, to a high level of performance. Even a teacher of beginner students should be able to perform to a reasonably high level. Be open and honest and ask the teacher where they have studied, any examinations they have recently done,etc. Some parents/prospective students think the consultation lesson is one where the teacher questions them, and they are reluctant to do any of the asking, but it is your time and money, and in most cases, you will be entrusting the music education of a child to the teacher. So be frank and honest and ask as many questions as you can think of. Any good teacher will be more than willing to discuss anything to want to know!
If you have any further questions or concerns, do email me through my website, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can! So that I don't aggravate my RSI, I don't reply to website emails every single day, but I ALWAYS respond, so don't hesitate to get in touch. If you need personal recommendations of teachers, again, email me!
All the best!!