Seven Factors on Choosing a Teacher for Advanced Study

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A former student mentioned that a question that they had been asked in an interview was why a student would choose to study with them? For those that teach or aspire to teach, especially on a high level, this is an important question to consider (and have a good answer for), and for those looking for a teacher the answers to this question can point you in the right direction as well. The following are some things to look for as a student considering options for advanced study.

1. Their background and knowledge in general. This you can pick up upon by looking at their biography online and exploring their recordings and print publications, if any. Someone with a broad educational background can be preferable; they will have a bit more understanding of the big picture and how different approaches will work for different students. This is to say also to be aware that some teachers have a very set way of teaching that, while valid, may not work for you.

2. Performing experience, especially orchestral. Of students I have encountered the vast majority that aspires to perform on a professional level wants to perform in an orchestral setting. If you fit in that category, it would serve you well to study with a teacher that has that experience, especially full time experience in an orchestra in a large metropolitan city. Not only have they taken and won auditions, a teacher that has performed most of the major horn repertoire in ensembles that play on a high level will have many insights that another player without that experience will simply not have.

3. Sound. At least, even if the background is not as glowing as it might be, be sure the teacher has a great sound and has worked out their playing well. If their sound is not really there they probably are not going to be a lot of help getting yours there either.

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kopprasch4. Teaching style. Teaching styles can vary a lot. Ask to take a sample lesson. What you hope for is a teacher that can give clear feedback without taking their comments over into a land of some sort of strange head game.

5. A teacher that is serious about their teaching. As in teaching is a serious interest of theirs, not just one of the things they do to make extra income.

6. Student successes. Because you want to be a success too! The success of a teacher, though, can be hard to measure and develops over time. And as I have said in other articles, some teachers have successful students in spite of their teaching; actually those students might have won jobs sooner with another teacher. They were just so hard working and talented that literally they could have studied with anyone and won a job eventually.

Along the same lines, it would be interesting to know as a student going into a studio what the burn-out ratio is; there are teachers who for whatever reasons have, let us say, a higher than average number of students who quit horn.

7. Connections. Where ever you are you will make connections, actually, and it is something that should occur naturally. Hopefully the teacher can help you some with this and also your student colleagues.

In general I would add that you need to look beyond “where they teach” as while yes, that does indicate something (they met the standards of that school), it does not really say if they would be a good teacher for you or if the school is a good choice overall. Students get all interested in facilities and such (and geographic locations), but really they need to focus in on topics related to the above list.

And finally a reminder–this is the time of year to be looking at the topic of teachers carefully if you are thinking about college horn study. Deadlines are moving earlier and earlier every year, and for best consideration for limited scholarship funds it is time to start working on applications. Good luck! (And think about study at Arizona State!)

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