Today's blog post comes from Phil Amalong of The Zoen.
"I used to take lessons when I was a kid and I wish I had continued. I really liked playing but my teacher and I didn't get along."
"I wish I had taken private lessons when I was in band as a kid. I would have enjoyed it so much more if I had gotten good at it! My parents let me try a few lessons with a neighbor who could play, but they didn't want to drive me to a 'real' teacher."
"My band director always encouraged us to take private lessons, but I was just into 'having fun.' Now I realize how much more fun I would have had if I had learned to play better!"
"I wish I would have been more active in getting my kids music lessons—I just didn't know how or where to find a teacher that they'd really hit it off with."
As a professional performer and music educator, I've heard endless variations on the above statements. I'm somehow seen as the proper confessor for these personal divulgences—after performances, at events and gatherings, in everyday interactions with people. Many "I only wish..." stories and sadly, much regret. I find myself offering encouragement: "It's never too late…" and "You're here at this concert—thank you, we need great audiences," both sentiments I strongly believe are true.
In hearing these "I wish" stories, I'm reminded of and grateful for the wonderful music teachers I was fortunate to have. I can see how they shaped my future in profound ways, taught me to have discipline in learning to play and love music and opened many possibilities in my life.
What should we do when we want to provide our children with the benefits and lifelong joys that private music lessons offer? After all, we're really busy. It's yet another activity and expense to fit into our shrinking week and budget. We wonder if our children will appreciate the lessons. We wonder: how can we find the teacher who's going to be the perfect fit and will really help our kids "get it?"
The last question is the key. The right teacher unlocks the wonders of music and shares a lifelong gift. Fortunately, we live in a great time for finding the perfect music teacher. Our connected world means we're no longer limited to the neighborhood teacher or even the choices within our town, suburb or metro area. A music teacher can now be anywhere—hundreds of miles away in a different city or time zone and you don't have to leave home to have lessons with them. You can find the perfect music teacher and connect online for lessons over live 2-way video chat. That means you have a lot of choice.
Sounds good, you might say, but how do I find that perfect teacher 500 miles away? A simple Google search will reveal a seemingly endless number of options for "online lessons". You find plenty of video lessons, but you're looking for a person to interact with—a live mentor for your child. Many individual teachers offer online lessons via webcam so keep refining your search until you find them. Consider turning to an online community like The ZOEN with a roster of music teachers across many instruments and genres.
Regardless of whether you choose to go with an individual or a company, do your research. Read and learn about your prospective teacher's interests and expertise. You've got access to many, many teachers, so take the time to find the right one. Here's a pro tip: many teachers will offer a free trial lesson or interview. Free trials are an important way of finding the right teacher by getting to know them and their teaching style so be sure to ask for one!
My hope is that in a few years parents will be telling me how much their children enjoy playing in that community orchestra or college band, making music with friends, or writing songs. That they'll be telling me about the wonderful inspiring music teacher...who lives 500 miles away. I'm looking forward to fewer "I only wish" stories and more "I'm so glad" stories!
Phil Amalong is a teacher, composer, performer, recording artist, entrepreneur and VP of Community and Content at The ZOEN. For more insights into online music lessons and tips for music students and parents, visit The ZOEN Blog.