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How to Audition a Teacher: 3 Critical Questions

How do you “audition” a new harp teacher?

Maybe you’ve moved to a new city, or perhaps your teacher relocated. Maybe you’re new to the harp, or you’ve been playing a while but it’s time to get back to lessons. Whatever your reason for looking for a new teacher, you can feel a little confused about how to make the best choice.

While no one can offer you a guaranteed successful selection method, there are a few important considerations. These considerations go beyond the obvious ones of location, availability, price and personality. Those points are good places to begin, but they don’t help you see into the future – your future with the harp.

To address that more important issue you must first ask yourself this question: what do I want to do with the harp?

You may not have a very clear picture of what your harp journey could look like. It is likely, though, that you had at least a vague idea of what you wanted to do with the harp. Perhaps you wanted to be able to play at church, or to play for those who were sick, or to find a new way of creative expression. 

Contrary to what you might think, this step is especially true for adult students. Youth has no exclusive right to creativity, growth or progress. It is proper, possibly even essential, that you have a specific aim in mind. Your desire will help motivate you, energize you and keep you moving forward.  

The more clarity you have around your harp goal or your harp vision, the easier it will be to help you find a teacher who will be a good partner to help you achieve it.

Let me explain with this brief, non-musical personal example.

A number of years ago, I had to switch dentists. I liked my dentist, but I was moving to a different state, and even the twice yearly check-ups would be impractical. Reluctantly, I looked for a dentist in my new area.

I found one that had good recommendations, was close by and honored my insurance. I went for my first visit, and I liked his manner. He seemed to go a good job with my teeth. 

But I had an ongoing issue with one tooth, mainly a cosmetic problem, and I couldn’t seem to get him interested in fixing it. Over time, I initiated conversations and tried to be very clear about my concerns. While he seemed responsive, he never recommended any course of action. In fact, most of his conversation about it was about what wouldn’t work.

I was trying to describe to myself the difference between my experiences with my new dentist and my former one. Suddenly, the words came to me: my former dentist took the health and appearance of my teeth personally. My smile was his responsibility. That level of commitment to his work was what was missing in my new dentist. My new dentist was good, but he didn’t have that same passion for his work. 

Your harp teacher should have a similar deep personal commitment to your success. This is not a commitment to perfection, or playing at the highest level, or playing the hardest pieces. It is a commitment to your satisfaction in your achievement toward your own goal.

Given that sort of partnership as the ideal teacher-student working relationship, here are three questions to ask a prospective teacher that may help you find the information you need to make your choice clearer.

  1. This [your harp goal] is what I would ultimately like to do. Would you be interested in helping me do that?
  2. Do you have other students who have achieved the same or similar goals? What can you share with me about their experiences?
  3. How do you believe we could get there? What kind of plan would you suggest?

As the teacher answers, listen for the level of energy or excitement. Is there a sparkle in her eye? Or do you sense some reluctance to offer answers to any of these questions? Naturally, without learning more about your skill level, your preferred learning style, your practice habits, and more, your teacher will not be able to offer a concrete “guaranteed” plan for success, but he will be able to suggest the most likely course of action.

I would sum up the process this way: speak your dream and find the partner who will honor it and help you achieve it. 

Then go practice!

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