Classical music teachers are often stereotyped as strict, rigid, and stern instructors who slap the hands of their students when a wrong note is played. Although it is true that such teachers exist, there are also thousands of others who have different and more humane methods of instruction. From teachers who specialize in beginners, to teachers who mentor world class virtuosos, there is a whole range of people to learn from. Sometimes, students graduate from one teacher when they reach a level that the teacher can no longer match, and other students switch simply because the teacher isn’t a good fit. This goes for teachers too; many gently urge their students to move on for a number of reasons, while others seek out particularly promising students they’d like to work with.
There are countless general methods of teaching an instrument; the Dalcroze, Kodály, Orff Schulwerk, and Suzuki methods are only four of them. Additionally, many teachers create their own methods that they dish out only to their students. Later, some of these students pass on this way of instruction to their own students, and so on for posterity. The programs that various teachers use emphasize their own values and perspective on how a musician should mature.
Good music teachers know how to build community amongst their students. Through recitals, competitions, music festivals, and general gatherings, students in a studio get to know each other and some become lifelong friends. Many of the children at my elementary school, myself included, all took violin lessons from Erika, and we grew to know each other through the recitals that occurred every five months. We would cheer on the beginner students who played pieces that we ourselves had performed years back, and offer guidance to those who were new to Erika’s studio. I joined with three other students and formed a string quartet; we auditioned for the Junior Bach Festival together. I also keep in touch with one of them to this day, and we both switched from violin to viola to be in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. Throughout my elementary school years, it was a great experience to know a group of fellow musicians that spun in the same social circle and shared the same teacher.
Teachers can be your best and lifelong friends in the music world. Some lend you extra strings when you’ve snapped your own, others loan you their special Baroque bow for a Bach competition, more will put in a good word for you at auditions, and most of them help you along your musical path as best they can. Music teachers are in a tough field, and have a tough profession, yet they still love their craft and want to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. Most music teachers don’t do it for the money; that’s not the point. Instead, music is meant to be shared and given freely for all to enjoy, and music teachers are the greatest champions of this mission.