When a new student first walks in my door, my goal is to get to know him/her. These are the three main questions:

1) What is your goal for piano/voice?
2) What kind of music do you like?
3) What kind of music do you dislike?

For many students who have taken lessons before, this is a new sort of concept to them. Normally, there isn’t a lot of say-so from the student as to what will be learned. The teacher usually goes by a certain method that has proved good results, and sticks to it. I have my favorite methods books (that make teaching a bit easier), but not every student learns alike, nor do they all enjoy the same things.

I’ve found that being open and willing to try and learn new things to accommodate students is one of the most helpful things for me to do as a teacher. It means a little more work and creativity from me, but usually, more learning and enjoyment from them. It can be hard to motivate a student if everything he or she is learning is disliked.

Of course, there are many times when a song must be learned in order to achieve a new technical skill or concept–and learning perseverance is also a good thing 🙂

In conclusion, allowing the student to set his or her own goals is a great way to focus and motivate. Every student is unique and gifted in many different ways; my philosophy is to make use of that.