|How to find the best music school for your child|
How to discern a truly reputable music school of quality and care from other generic music teaching service providers?
It can be a daunting task to find the right music school out there, particularly for parents without a musical background. Many music teachers advertising on the newspaper or internet claim that they offer fun music lessons, prepare students for examinations and auditions, provide annual concerts as performance opportunities. Music stores, music book retailers, piano stores also offer music lessons. And your neighborhood teenager girl who has played piano for a few years may also claim to be a piano teacher… There are musical service providers everywhere, but how do you find the best music teacher / music school for your child to ensure that you have made the right investment in your child’s potential and in time and money?
How can you prevent unknowingly putting your child in a “mass musical experiment” when you sign her up in a music course? What can you do to ensure that as a parent, you are choosing a school that provides the best possible education to your child?
These are the key questions to ask when you look for a music school for your child:
(1) Does the school focus its energy in teaching? Does the school help to locate the specific musical or artistic niche of the student in order to help your child develop his/her talent in the most effective and efficient manner? Does it have an artistic profile assessment that can help evaluate your child’s musical interests and proclivities? In case if you child turns out to be highly motivated and outstanding, does it have the resources and special fast-tracking programs to help your child soar exponentially to the next level?
(2) Verify teachers' credentials
All music schools claim that they have professional, enthusiastic and experienced teachers. How competent are they? What are their credentials? Do they have working knowledge of teaching, or they have a full understanding of the dynamics of education – with a thorough understanding of the psychology of learning, motivation, with a passion in teaching, but are also accomplished artists? It has been found that some schools and music academies (which are mostly music referral services) only provide first names of their teachers on their websites without revealing their true identity and credentials. A truly accomplished school takes pride in their faculty members – in their artistic accomplishments and what they have achieved in grooming students, hence are not afraid to reveal their true identities.
Searching for a suitable teacher can be a hit-or-miss endeavor. When you key in “music teachers” on the Google search bar, there are over a million search results. How do you select a suitable teacher for your child with this information overload? A truly reputable music school of quality and care helps you locate the best teacher for your child – through matching personality, level and developmental goals. It is also important for the school to ensure that the child receives quality instruction from the early stages. It will be counter-productive if the student acquires bad habits or performance ailments in the learning process and that one needs to waste time to unlearn in the future.
Also, verify if the school has a reputable teaching faculty panel. What are the credentials of the teachers of the school? Can they actually perform proficiently on their instruments to inspire their students? Do they offer an artist in residence program so that students can have first-hand interaction with outstanding artists since an early age?
(3) Check out the website of the school: Many music schools have websites that may look elaborate, claiming that they are the biggest / largest music school in town, with a large number of students, with experienced and professional teachers. However, as one examines in greater detail, we realize that there is a lot of distortion of information. Let's examine how certain claims can be downright misleading.
(4) Bigger does not equate better - Many schools claim to be the largest music school in town? Claims as such are not verifable and has little correlation with credibility or quality. What does the “largest school” actually mean? Is it in terms of size of venue? Student population? And does that include student turn over? Does having a large student population necessarily mean that a school is of high quality?
(5) When one examines a music school – the first important question to ask is: who operates the school? Is it a “one man show”? Or is the school simply operated as a “teaching assembly line” or a teacher referral service? Or is it directed by a team of truly caring educators with professional experience, appropriate credentials and international stature as concert artists – who actually have the capacity and resources of helping students maximize their potential? Is the school modulated by a panel of expert advisors who constantly infuse the school with dynamics that can enhance quality learning for each and every student?
(6) Concert preparation process - almost all music schools offer end of year concerts for students. This is already a given. But what goes on before the concert? Is there any coaching towards concert preparation so that students develop familiarity with the concert stage before their performance to help them develop a sense of stage and to prevent performance anxiety? Are students coached to develop confidence on stage? Besides an annual or biannual recital - does the school provide students with other performance, masterclass and competition opportunities? Does the school open up career paths for students who wish to further their musical pursuit?
(7) When one carefully examines the school venue – many music school are located in shopping centers with a few teaching modules. Students generally attend lessons in small modules with upright pianos. Check whether the school has facilities to enable the artistic development of the student – does it have a concert hall for regular practice, rehearsal and performance experiences? Does it provide a professional recording studio to offer recording facilities for feedback and audition demonstration as well as for audio and video demo preparation?
(8) In the survey of websites of music schools, it has been found that many music schools use stock photos in their website. It is indisputable that stock photos enhance the overall aesthetics of the website. However, using stock photos with the intention to deliberately mislead readers is another thing. Verify that pictures presented as the school venue on the website are indeed representative of the school venue. Certain pictures in music school websites can be misleading to the client.
(9) Many music schools try to imitate outstanding music schools but copying the exact color scheme, style and presentation of their websites, to the extent of plagiarizing their motto, mission statements, or services. The problem is that, to the undiscerning eye – they all look the remarkably similar. It becomes exceedingly difficult to judge quality for the inexperienced consumer. One sure fire way to check out services that appear too good to be true will indeed be delivered as promised, is to ask to speak to the director of the school. Make sure that they can substantiate the program with knowledgeable information, and offer tangible solutions to assist your child’s musical progress.
(10) Another useful way to evaluate music schools through browsing their websites is to look for quality content. Most website are inundated with superfluous words such as “experienced teachers”, “preparing students for examinations”, “offering annual concerts”… Basically they gloss over the website with keywords, but does not explain in detail what they do. What are the details of their programs, approaches, methodologies, or student accomplishments?
More important is to evaluate whether the website offer any quality content? A content rich website that aims to educate the public and showcase their track record of accomplishments are signs of credibility.
(11) Many music schools out there claim that they send their students for Examinations, and competitions. Others claim that they provide CEGEP and University Entrance audition preparation. The bottom line is to look at the results? What is the success rate? Preparing students is not enough – helping them achieve their goals is key.
(12) As a consumer, one needs to be even more careful when one sees official logos of major institutions being embedded in music school websites (for instance, the RCM logo). Lately, there has been a lot of misleading and illegitimate use of the RCM logo in the market and also illegitimate claims to be affiliates of the RCM. Some schools put up the RCM logo indicating that they teach the RCM program, and send students to RCM examinations. Beware of illegitimate use of these endorsements and affiliation logos. The truth is that anyone can teach the RCM program and send candidates for RCM examinations. This is NOT an affiliation or endorsement, and presenting this in such a manner is misleading. An RCM examination center run by official RCM center representatives offering RCM examinations by examiners from the RCM College of examiners, or and a center where RCM pedagogy workshops are regularly conducted is indeed a true affiliate of RCM. When in doubt, verify with the principal organization.
(13) Beware of teacher referral services - Some music schools or academies are in fact teacher referral services. There is no administration staff, no school location – they simply collect tuition fees and refer the student to a teacher in a private studio. This is outright misleading, as the parents believe that they have signed up their child for a specific music program offered by a school, yet the school does not provide the infrastructure necessary to enhance the optimal develop of the student.
(14) Claiming to deliver excellence - Excellence is a very high order. Certain music academies claim excellence in service and rates. Let's examine that critically. Good service is a must for all businesses to survive nowadays. And what does excellence in rates mean? Good prices? That sounds attractive, however, are they able to offer excellence in education? Isn't the ultimate aim to offer quality education to aspiring learners? Objectively, "excellence" should not be claimed by an institution. It is rather a specific frame of mind and culture that a community shares and upholds. Evidently, we can all perceive quality and excellence when we are exposed to it.
(15) Evaluate Content in Websites Critically: Even more interesting is that with the advancement of internet, many music school start to optimize their websites to enhance their ranking on the search engines. In so doing, they attempt to implement generic texts in their website, adding in generic copywriting texts such as "we are the largest music school", or "we are the best because we're the biggest. Instead, we believe we're the biggest because families think we are the best...", or " there are several different studios to choose from. We invite you to compare all of the features and options to see why our studio has been chosen more than any other dance and music school". Note that these are directly copied from a generic copywrited template that are primarily used to increase visibility and promote ranking on search engines. As a fun exercise, simply cut and paste these phrases and conduct a Google search and you will be surprised at your findings. One of our students tried putting this text in the Google Searchbox "there are several different studios to choose from. We invite you to compare all of the features and options to see why our studio has been chosen more than any other dance and music school" at least two full page listings of schools came up with the identical text! (Please see Google search table below right for using generic text to promote websites on the internet)
As you evaluate a music school's credibility and reputation, the best way is to look for substantial content. Are there articles of interest to parents, teachers and students? How is the quality of their articles? Are they helpful and insightful? In this age of information, quality content is key. Does the website offer any quality evidence of their accomplishments? Any quality video of their student performances that they take pride in presenting?
(16) Evaluate quality of performance in videos
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million… With the popularity of incorporating videos in websites, many schools put up videos of their schools. As potential customers, evaluate video content carefully. See if the school takes take pride in showing its students’ performances? Are there any videos of the teachers’ performances? What is the standard and quality of the performances posted? Many videos just presented short clips of instructors teaching or students playing at an instrument with a voice over – in other words, one cannot really hear the quality of the performance. The simplest way to evaluate is, just ask this question: Would you ever want your child to play like this?
Student achievements are evident. A video clip of student performances of the school demonstrate the degree of quality and care in their teaching which goes way beyond any testimonial or textual description can deliver. Based on the factual information provided above, and guided with your instincts - best of luck to your search of a musical institution of quality and care for your child!
Lambda Fast Tracking Piano Program for motivated young musical students
11-year-old Pianist Emily Oulousian - student of Lambda's Piano Fast Tracking program rehearsing Scriabin's Etude in D# minor Op. 8 No. 12 for the Piano Competition organized by the Armenian Embassy in June 2012