By Katharine Rapoport

Finding a violin teacher to work with is a great step to enjoy some helpful feedback on your practicing. A whole lot of teachers are out there. Finding the right teacher for you involves a combination of finding someone who is knowledgeable and having a good dose of the right chemistry — you and your teacher need to get along well and to enjoy your time together too.

Networking

Networking is a big buzzword today, and when you’re looking for a teacher, this is an excellent method. Talking to people and asking for recommendations may lead you to your perfect music teacher.

Asking friends for a recommendation can be a good place to begin your inquiries. If you happen to know some professional musicians, mentioning your quest to them is another good place to start.

Just like other professionals, musicians have specialties, and even violin teachers have particular areas of teaching that they enjoy the most. Teaching adults is a specialized area, so finding someone who’s open to teaching adults and can adjust the lessons accordingly is a bonus.

Call the local orchestra

Thanks to the Internet, most orchestras have websites with contact information. You can probably find the name and phone number of the personnel manager or general administrator. Likely, the manager won’t just hand out names and contact information for the orchestra violinists, but may take your name and then put someone in touch with you.

If you feel uncomfortable doing this long distance, why not go to a concert to hear the orchestra play? You have the chance to hear some great music, and you can get a sense of who’s around.

Inquire at music schools

Music schools come in all shapes and sizes, but if you look around, you may find one that offers a good string program for adult beginners — or for people who have come back to violin after a gap of many years.

You may think that Suzuki schools offer lessons only to young children, but in fact, your local Suzuki school may also provide older beginners or adults with a very good program.

Check out community colleges

Many community colleges have plenty of arts programs as part of their commitment to continuing education. Even if your local college doesn’t have instrumental instruction, it may offer some interesting courses about music history or theory for you to broaden your scope. Check out brochures and websites for larger institutions, and enquire about summer programs too.

Your local high school probably has a music ­program. The music teacher at a local school may be able to help you with suggestions for violin teachers, or if you’re very lucky, you may find an actual violinist teaching at your local school.

Ask at the university

Universities provide a rich resource of possibilities in music. If a university near you has a faculty or department of music, call the administrator and ask about violin lessons. Then, you have two possible avenues: finding a professional faculty member who may also teach a few students who aren’t enrolled in the degree courses, or an upper‐year student who’s interested in doing some teaching.

Hear students play

If you go to a student recital, you can tell a lot about the teacher’s effectiveness and the quality of the student‐teacher relationships from hearing the students perform. Naturally, most students aren’t prodigies. But you may gain a few important clues from the event:

  • Is the recital well organized and at a suitable venue, and does it have a clear program of events?

  • Does each student play reasonably fluently, with a sense of being thoroughly prepared?

  • Does the accompanist deal well with the students?

  • Does the teacher help and encourage the students?

  • Are the students friendly and respectful toward each other?

  • Does the audience stay to listen to the whole program, and not clatter out the moment their child or friend has finished playing?

If the event is chaotic, with breakdowns and tears, if people don’t treat one another with respect, or if the atmosphere is odiously competitive, you’re in the wrong place.

Ask at the music store

Most music stores have a notice board, and some even keep a registry devoted to making the business cards of local teachers available to customers at the store — a sort of unofficial referral association.

Mention your quest everywhere

After you’ve decided to seek a teacher, tell your friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Leads can come from anywhere — perhaps your office’s computer guru was a professional violinist in the old country and can teach you a whole lot, or the guy next door who’s putting a new tire on his car has a cousin who plays violin and likes his teacher. So mention it to everyone, and keep track of the leads you get. Being creative and persistent are two qualities that serve you well in playing the violin too!

Check out violin lessons on the Internet

A newer field of music teaching is developing where students can learn from a teacher who lives far away but who can meet and teach over the Internet using video‐calling software such as Skype or FaceTime. While this is very convenient and modern, and completely worthwhile with the right teacher, it does lack one essential: The teacher cannot help you directly with movements, such as gently pulling your bow on track so that your arm can feel the right angles or helping a finger land on exactly the right spot.

Look for a good gut feeling before you start

In the end, if you don’t feel right about your teacher, the lessons won’t be productive. So going with your gut is useful. No antacids required! After going through all the definitions of what a “good” teacher is, you may find someone outside the description who is a good choice. And you may also find someone very well qualified whom you simply don’t connect with, or whose style doesn’t suit yours.