I just read an article at the music teachers helper website about auditioning students for acceptance in your studio. http://www.musicteachershelper.com/blog/?p=693&pg=blog&action=taking-on-new-students-developing-an-audition-process#comment-104851
I’ve thought about doing this from time to time. On the one hand, it ensures that you are going to have students who are serious and who can read music, who can hold a part, who can stay in tune. All of your students will be coming in with a basic level of ability on which you can build without needing to spend time working on matching pitch and plunking through parts for them to learn. What a luxury!
On the other hand – it seems kind of elitist to me, especially at the high school level. High school kids are insecure enough without having someone judge whether or not they are worthy of being taught. No matter how kind you may be in telling them that they didn’t make the cut, their emotional response is going to be that they are not worthy of your time. It’s part of the high school mindset. I don’t want to be a factor in someone deciding “I guess I can’t sing — so why bother?”
I have never dismissed a student for not being able to sing. I have dismissed students for poor attitude, for no-showing, for non-payment, for vocal health issues that they didn’t want to address (e.g., nodes caused by poor vocal practices outside singing such as yelling in soccer), because I felt someone else might be of more use to them in the style they wanted to learn, but never because I didn’t think they had any talent. Who am I to tell someone he can’t sing? Isn’t that my job, to facilitate his singing the best he can?
If I turned down people who couldn’t match pitch at their initial lessons, I would never have gotten to work with one of my favorite students, who is now a wonderful young basso. Working with him has been a joy, and not only because he can sing better now but because he’s a great kid with whom I’ve enjoyed working! How many great people would I not have gotten to know because I decided in the first half hour that I didn’t want to make the effort to take them from non-singers to singers?
To make that decision at an initial lesson, when people are nervous and feeling so vulnerable, just seems to me to be counter-intuitive. It takes several lessons for us to get to know each other and figure out where we’re going on this journey.
My high school students pay for five lessons at a time. This is for two reasons – to guarantee that they show up after the first week (the practical reason), and to allow them to become more comfortable with me. I can be intimidating, and not because I am on a high lofty perch but because I’m so intense about singing and because, frankly, I’m a little weird. (In a good way.)
I do like ideas in this article about structuring that first lesson and I’d like to implement them, but not because I want to determine if this student is worthy of acceptance to my studio. I think some of these ideas will allow me to determine what I need to do for new students more quickly and become more efficient in helping them progress and realize their potential.