How to Find the Best Music Teacher for Your Child

Parents often wonder how to find a music teacher to inspire their child’s love for music. Merit School of Music makes it super easy.

When Heidi and Jeff Ruhe began looking for opportunities to help their two boys further master their trumpets, they knew they wanted a place that not only fueled the boys’ love of music but had music teachers who could become role models.

And Jeff Ruhe admits they are pretty discerning parents when it comes to activities their boys are in. They wanted a place that was emotionally and physically safe — and also fun and full of opportunities to learn beyond just playing black notes on a white page.

Their south suburban middle school music teachers suggested they check out Merit School of Music, a nationally-accredited music school in Chicago that strives to offer the best music instruction in the city, drawing in students from 139 ZIP codes in Chicagoland, southern Wisconsin and Northwest Indiana through their high-quality group classes and ensembles, private lessons, summer camps, early childhood classes, tuition-free Conservatory and much more.

So, they did a walk through and sat in on a class — and it didn’t take any convincing that it was the place for Lucas and Benjamin.

“You could just tell something was definitely different, the level of musicianship, the culture of teaching,” Jeff Ruhe says remembering that visit. “The teachers are just unbelievable. More importantly to us, they are good people who set a good example.”

Heidi Ruhe also put a real priority on finding a place where the boys could grow and blossom as musicians and as people. She says she was looking for a place that built their confidence and perseverance along with other life skills and developed a broader view of the world, all while still having fun.

“I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say it’s had a life-changing impact on both of our kids. There’s no other scenario that I can imagine where they would have had exposure to the level of teaching and musicianship that they’ve had at Merit,” she says.

Jeff Ruhe says they’ve found nothing else like it in Chicago.

What to look for in a music teacher

It’s not always easy for parents just starting out with music or looking to give their child more opportunities to know where to turn to find the best music teacher for their child, particularly if they aren’t connected through their local school’s music programs.

A Google search or Facebook neighborhood group referral might be the first thought, but it still takes a lot of work to find a fit. And if it ends up being the wrong fit, it might take an emotional toll.

Adrienne Thompson, who raised eight musical kids all on different instruments, knows how hard it can be to find a good music teacher, but she says it’s so worth the effort.

“Music can have such an impact on a child’s life. It’s just something I wish that every child had the opportunity to do,” says Thompson, who brings years of experience as a music teacher and orchestra director to her role as Merit’s Vice President of Student Services & Enrollment.

She offers a few tips to keep in mind or to check off your list when looking for a music teacher.

music-teacher-how-to-find-the-best-girl-playing-oboe-and-smiling
Photo credit: Merit School of Music & Kyle Flubacker Photography

Beyond seeking someone enthusiastic about sharing their love of music with others, your child’s music teacher should be patient and encouraging because mastering music happens incrementally over time, she says. The teacher must know how to keep your child enthusiastic and motivated while making learning fun.

“Sometimes kids can get discouraged, but find someone who helps keep that in perspective and can help set goals that are achievable so that the child can see that they are making progress, that they are having fun and enjoying what they are doing,” she says.

She also says it is particularly important that the teacher gets to know your child as an individual and can adapt their teaching for each child’s learning style. They are not just teaching music, they are teaching that student music, Thompson says. Parents will especially want a teacher who knows how to communicate well with them and includes them in the process.

Fortunately, Merit School of Music’s faculty can easily meet the needs of students on all levels, she says, from beginners to students contemplating a music career and everyone in between, making it easy to find just the right music teacher without all the legwork. As early as 4 or 5, students can begin to learn the building blocks of piano or violin. Then, thanks to the highest quality teachers, they progress on their musical journeys learning the technique and musicianship necessary to conquer Mozart, Chopin, Montgomery and Price.

Plus, Merit creates a safe environment, performing safety and background checks to give parents peace of mind.

“One of the things that’s really nice at Merit, you are in the community,” she says, adding that students meet other students with similar and different life experiences. Your child will be “working with people who are concerned about the whole child and the health of the whole child,” not just people concerned with teaching music, she says.

Jeff Ruhe also suggests parents look at a prospective music teacher’s resume before picking one. He says he felt great knowing the backgrounds of the faculty teachers at Merit were more than impressive.

Plus, he says he especially appreciates how Merit brings nationally known musicians and colleges to the students. When it came time for Lucas to consider life beyond high school, Ruhe says he learned more about applying to college at Merit than anywhere else.

“Merit is so much more than a music school, it’s a community,” he says.

Heidi Ruhe puts the decision to enroll their boys at Merit at the top of a list of the best things they have done as parents.

“It’s hard to imagine a better-kept secret,” Heidi Ruhe says. “It’s just a special place, an amazingly special place.”

Learn more about Merit School of Music at meritmusic.org.


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Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Since 1984, the Chicago Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for Chicagoland families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.

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