Something I didn’t realize when I was younger was how often I was going to study music under someone new. If you’ve played music for more than a year, you’ve probably already had at least one “new” musical mentor, either as a new teacher, an additional teacher, or a new director. And every time, it’s stressful until I figure out what the new person is like. Every teacher is different, and going into that first lesson I never know what to expect. Here’s a guide to making a good impression when you don’t know what you’re walking into.
Dress better than you think you have to. I’ve heard stories of teachers that made it mandatory to dress for a performance for every lesson. While that’s probably not going to be your new teacher, try to dress nicely for the first lesson anyway. It shows that you care about the lesson and your first impression. If your teacher shows up in casual clothes, then in the future so can you. Take your cue from them.
Listen more than you talk. The best way to give a good impression is to be a good listener. Furthermore, the first lesson a teacher should be straight up telling you their expectations. Give solid answers to questions, but focus on listening and absorbing what the teacher is telling you.
Also, record your lessons! In general, not just the first one! There are apps for smartphones that you can use to record and don’t take up too much memory – use them!!!
Make as much eye contact as you can. If I’m not making any eye contact, I’m not giving someone my full attention. You don’t have to stare the person down, but make it a point to make eye contact if they are looking and speaking at you. Look away if it’s awkward, but still least try.
Explain your thinking, but don’t contradict the teacher. If you’re asked why you do something, or how to do something, explain it. You’ll usually be corrected in some part of your answer. Don’t interrupt or follow up with anything that begins with “but.” They are the one teaching you! If you doubt whether something they said was correct, look it up later. If you need to, ask a clarifying question – “I thought that…” is much more polite than “But that’s not right/what I was taught.”
Accept that the new teacher is going to have different methods than those you used to use. Every music teacher teaches a little differently. Some teach a LOT differently. If their students are generally successful, just roll with it for the first couple lessons. Different doesn’t mean wrong. If after a month or two it just isn’t working, mention it to your teacher. At the first lesson, however, roll with it.
Don’t put too much stock in your first impression of the teacher. First impressions aren’t always, or even often, accurate. Don’t make any judgements about your new teacher until you’ve had at least a few lessons. Teachers you initially LOVE could end up steering you down the wrong technical path, while teachers you don’t “get” at first could end up unlocking your musical potential. Your first lesson is just a taste of what your academic relationship is going to be. Let it grow naturally.