You might be wondering what a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional ™ knows about music lessons for kids. Well, I’ll admit I’m no George Gershwin. But all work and no music makes Neal a very dull Pilgrim. My entire family is actually pretty involved with music. Each of my children has taken up one instrument (at least), which means Papa Pilgrim had to crack open the wallet and pay for lessons.
Of course, that means I’ve had to become an expert at getting the best music lessons for my ducklings at the least possible cost. Here’s what I learned along the way.
1. Never ever buy lessons from a music store.
If you simply apply that rule, you’ll already save yourself a bundle. I know something about this firsthand. Believe it or not, when I was a young lad of 15, I taught drums — my first small business idea! I know that was a very long time ago, but things haven’t changed much. The studio gave me 40% of the lesson fee and they took the balance. What does that mean for you?
If you can get the same teacher to give your kids lessons privately, you’ll save 60% – at least. I’m not suggesting that you hang around the store at night, corner the piano teacher just as he’s leaving and secretly get his contact information. There are much better ways to get great music teachers at very low prices.
2. Don’t ask other parents for referrals.
Let’s face it. Every parent thinks their kid is the next Elvis Presley – and they are convinced they’ve got the best music teacher in the world. Forget it. They aren’t impartial. And your friends really aren’t qualified to judge a good from a bad music teacher. (The same concept is true for other referrals. I went to the dentist without getting dentists’ names from friends and saved a bundle while getting world-class service.)
3. Go to local middle school and high school concerts.
Listen for the best players. They won’t be hard to spot. They’re usually the kids with the solos that rock oh so sweetly. After the concert, go to the parents and ask them who their teachers are. Approach the music program directors and ask them too. Many of the teachers give private lessons as a second job. (You should also call the local colleges. Speak to the chair of the music department. Tell them about your child and what you’re looking for. Many times the chairperson will know of professors or students who are a good fit. This is a fantastic resource as well.) In our case, all the best players were studying with one teacher. That made it easy to know who to call.
Keep in mind that the very best teachers are going to be in demand and probably expensive. That’s why, if you are on a budget, you should get the names of at least three music teachers. If your child is just starting out and you’re not sure if she’s going to stick with the tuba, there is no sense in spending an arm and a leg on lessons. Go with the second or third-choice teacher until your little angel proves that she’s serious about music.
4. Call music stores that do not sell lessons.
This is actually the best resource possible, and it’s how I found the man who teaches me drums to this day. Yes…Pilgrim Man still hits the skins every now and then. I called the best drum store in the world, Pro Drum Shop in Los Angeles (free plug). I asked my main man Jerry, who mans the counter, who would be a good teacher for an old guy like me.
Jerry gave me the names of three people. The drum teacher I selected was and is super professional. He tours around the world with well-known artists. He’s been on Letterman and makes records all the time. But he takes an hour a week to teach me, and his rates are beyond fair. There is no way I could have found an instructor of that quality at that rate on my own.
5. Forget Craigslist.
I love Craigslist for selling your stuff and for launching a business. But I don’t recommend it if you are looking for someone to spend time with your child. Besides the weird security issues ,which I don’t even want to think about, you have no way to judge if this person is a good teacher or not. The best judges of teachers are other teachers – that’s why I provided the ideas I did above.
At the end of the day, a good music teacher is one who inspires your child to improve on her instrument. If after a few months (at the longest) your child either isn’t practicing enough or isn’t improving, you should move on. Try either another teacher or another instrument.
If you’ve gotten lessons for your children, how did you find the best music teacher?
We sort of lucked out. Our son’s school was desperate for tuba players, so he may not be getting individual lessons, he is getting free group instruction (and free rental). He did have a background in sight reading and fingering having played the baritone and euphonium before. The biggest thing seems to be consistant practice at home.