After attending a fantastic concert you suddenly decide you want to learn how to play the guitar, trumpet, or perhaps something more exotic like an oboe, dobro, or tympani, but have no idea who is the best teacher or what to pay them to show you how to manage the stops, strings, struts, or whatever. You’ll be glad to know that nobody knows. There is no foolproof method for deciding who is the best music teacher or how much to pay. It’s a lot like choosing a doctor or auto mechanic; there is no sure way to tell except by testing the teacher’s ability.
While the city offers a $25 license for teaching music, few bother to get it since it is not mandatory. Actually anyone who wishes to just has to stick an ad in column No. 247 of the Union/Tribune classifieds, or any paper, and simply call himself a teacher to begin soliciting students.
Popular suggestions for testing the teacher’s ability to teach involve checking his credentials, his students’ ability, or his own performing ability. While members of name organizations like the San Diego Symphony or other smaller orchestral, jazz, folk, or rock groups use their association with a performing group as a tool to encourage students, playing well is not necessarily criteria for teaching ability.
Bernice Fenwick of the non-profit California Music Teacher’s Association naturally recommends members belonging to that organization, but doesn’t rule out competent freelance teachers. The Association deals mainly in classical music, all ages welcome, and offers a scholarship program plus recitals and merit certification. Lessons average $8 to $12 an hour and the organization’s referral service accepts only instructors with music degrees or accredited ability.
Those seeking folk, jazz or rock instruction will do best by hitting the classifieds where the average price runs $6-$10 an hour, Or the music stores where prices average $6-$8 an hour for instruments, with voice lessons running from $6 for traditional folk to $20 for pop and opera. Music stores that don’t give lessons usually have a referral service. Those that do give lessons sometimes offer them as a sales inducement, but those who tie lessons with a sale may be only interested in the sale and not whether you learn to play.
The maxim is you get what you pay for, which is not to discredit the $5-10 bracket since that is what the majority charge, but understand what you are paying for and be cautious about entering into long term agreements with anyone you’re unfamiliar with.
Anyone charging more than $15 an hour (and it can run as high as $30-$50) had better be a protege of Pablo Casals or Miles Davis and hardly worth it unless if in these inflated times you can afford a costly habit or are seriously planning on making music your career.
To get your maximum money’s worth most teachers advise a minimum of one hour a day practice at the scales. Anyone not interested in at least that much work is wasting his own money and the teacher’s time.
Like any other service-oriented business there are music teacher rip-off artists, those that are simply unsuited for your needs and geniuses who will unlimber your haphazard fingers so that you can move beyond the elementary to mastering the three B’s whether they be Bach, Beethoven and Brahms or the Beatles, Band and Bop. One instructor warned that all students learn in spite of, not because of, the instructor’s abilities.
And keep in mind George Bernard Shaw’s quip that artists who can’t perform, teach.
The following prices are per hour:
$2.50 (classes) - $5 (private): Bob Labeau’s Guitar Shop (Bob Labeau, ex-manager of Heritage) guitar, 5 string banjo, classical, folk, pop; beginner through advanced. 222-6686
$6: Folk Arts (Virginia Curtiss, W. B. Reid and other local performers) Virginia— specializes in children; W. B.— guitar, blues, and ragtime. 291-1786
$6— $9: Welch’s Music, band, piano, guitar (uses local teachers and music students) 223-6777
$6— $9: Blueridge Music (Ron Jackson, member of Squatter’s Rites), finger, flatpick, Jazz, blues, folk, rock ‘n’ roll, guitar, autoharp, mandolin, dulcimer. 753-1775
$7.50: Ozzie’s Music (local teachers) band instruments. 276-5060
$8: Albert’s Music City (Pat or Peggy, uses local teachers) band instruments, accordian, mandolin, guitar. 460-7640
$8— $12: Music Teacher’s Assn, of California (Bernice Fenwick) referral service. 296-4467
$10: Folk Instrument Study Center (Walt Richards and local performers) fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, bluegrass, traditional, also custom made banjos. 280-3522
$10: Blue Guitar (Wayne Stromberg, Martin Henry and other local performers) Stromberg- advanced guitar; Henry— guitar, song arrangement, traditional voice. 291-1830
$10— $15: Jim Hoffman, referral for San Diego Symphony (see below). 232-3078
Members of the San Diego Symphony
French Horn— George Cable 466-2489
String Bass— Peter Rofe 297-1775
Clarinet— Peter Swanson 295-4360
Violin— Margaret Shakespeare 239-8878
Violin— Al Pierno 449-7097
Oboe— Ron Fox 453-0028
Trumpet— Joseph Gyetvai 286-3598
Trombone— George Halbig 299-7377
Bassoon— John Ottaino 583-3590
Flute— Damian Brisill-Hall 297-2477
Percussion— Danle Mitchell 291-7793