Jen Cluff ~ Finding a Flute Teacher

Canadian Flutist and Teacher


A young person asked about how to find a private teacher (on a severely restricted student-budget) and really make a go of flute lessons. She'd been wanting to for years, but her parents would only allow it if she was serious and she showed true progress. The article below is based on her limited budget, and newness to the "teacher finding" idea.

Since that time I've also written articles on Why you need a private teacher, and How to Progress Until Lessons begin. But back in 1999, here are the humble suggestions I came up with for finding one's first private flute teacher and how to manage a small budget sensibly.

Original Question: $150 is all I have to spend ( available from parents) , so I said.... let me take lessons for that amount of money, and they are now thinking about it. But I have to be the one to call around and find a teacher myself before they consider it. So here are my questions:
How do I find a really good teacher? And:
What exactly do I ask a flute teacher when inquiring about lessons?"

Jen replies:


1. Using the phone book find:

a) A Conservatory of Music or Community Music School
b) A nearby College or Private School that has a Music Program
or perhaps best,

c) Call the largest local University's Music Department. Very often the folks working the at the Music Office will likely have some knowledge of the most productive and well respected flute teachers in the area. (as students entering that University on flute tend to come from the studios of top private teachers). Ask how to be directed to a list of accredited flute teachers in the area.

Online: You can also use an online flute teacher search by country and state/province at: or can phone the symphony office of your local symphony, and ask if you can have the name of the lead flutist (Principal Flutist.) Look up their phone number or email, and politely phone and ask whether they can recommend a private teacher, or have students who will teach private lessons.

2. For internet users in small towns: Use a google search to locate a flute association near your hometown. Ex: Florida Flute Association or 'British Flute Society' etc.

A great number of the United States and various countries around the globe have online flute teacher listings. I've personally found them in about 20 states, and in about 6 countries, while just helping flute players online try to locate a teacher. To do a google search go to and put in the search terms "Flute Teachers" and the name of your state or country. Or you can try "Flute Association" etc.

In the U.K. there's a music-teacher finder that is geographical and gives price ranges too:

A huge number of private flute teacher listings can be found by going to where there's a private flute teacher search by country and state, and also at other large flute source sites (ex: Greater Boston Flute Association, or ).

You can also do a general 'private flute teacher' search using and simply putting in the terms "Flute Teacher" and the name of your town.

Ex: "Flute Teacher" Austin Texas or "Flute Teacher" Vancouver.

Check out the flute teacher's credentials, (A Bachelor's Degree in Music, and/or history of productive teaching studio and happy former pupils etc.) and try and meet and greet them in person at an introductory lesson or two before committing to any one teacher.

And always try and study with the TOP TEACHER in your area, or take their advice about who to study with if they have a full schedule already for the year.

What to ask when you contact a music teaching Conservatory, Music School or University Music Department by phone?

Say to the people of above music conservatories, Universities, or local music schools and other institutions:

Would you kindly provide me with:
a) names and numbers of the area's accredited flute teachers?
b) any highly recommended private flute teachers who may teach at a music school or private residential studios?
c) Do you have any recommendations yourself for the best 'private flute teacher' for a teen-beginner or adult-beginner (or own description)?

You are looking for the flute teacher with the most positive reputation, and a happy studio full of productive students. Asking other flute players will quickly point you in the direction of the "good teacher" who always puts out students who play musically, and well. To find these other flute players you have to either attend concerts (very fun) or use the internet or phone book.

Next stage in finding a teacher? Do your flutey research:

Check the information you've received out for yourself:
Seek out local concerts that feature flute (keep abreast of your local paper and poster spots) so that you can hear some of the local flute talent. You may even get to witness your future teacher's playing and/or that of their students. This goes a HUGE way toward getting you enthusiastic about studying with them!
Talk to students, parents, flute players and professional flutists. Ask: "Who is the best teacher in town, and what is he/she like?


When you've located a great flute teacher:

PHONE QUESTIONS when you call a new teacher:

a) Do you have any openings for a really dedicated beginner/highschool student/intermediate player? (whichever level best describes you is enhanced by the word "dedicated". So remember to keep up your end of the bargain if they say yes.)

b) What is your fee for private lessons? (1/2 hr. or 3/4 lessons to start are likely. 1 hr. lessons are for the very diligent and most rapidly improving students. But some teachers ONLY teach hours and 1 hrs. come highly recommended!!! :>)

c) Are there any enrollment fees or extra costs when I sign up for lessons?

d) Where are lessons held and when may I start?

e) Are there any flute-related books or CDs that you can recommend in the meantime that I could get out of the library? ( I'm on a budget, but I'm very keen.)

f) What should I bring to my first lesson?

g) Is there anything else I should know?

h) (If they are unable to begin lessons with you right away or have you on their waiting list etc.), Is there a student of yours you could recommend who could help to get me started?

Notes on budget contraints:


If you have so little money that for now, there's no way you could afford the top private teacher in your area, then call that top teacher anyway and ask them who they'd recommend from among their students. Alternately, you could pay for a set of lessons (four or more) and then gradually explain your finances to the teacher and ask if you could exchange a service of yours in barter for lessons. If you have great skills (gardening, babysitting, typing, office work etc) then this may well work.

Notes: Accept lessons with another flute student only if it's all you can currently afford. When you study with a student, do it with the understanding that you're merely "getting started", and when you've progressed through 10 or more lessons, you'll move on to a more highly skilled and experienced teacher.

It is always safer to go with an experienced teacher if you're dedicated to improving the most quickly. The fastest progress almost always is assured with an experienced teacher who's worked for years helping people just like you. They'll have met with all sorts of learning types before and can
more quickly understand what you're going through as a new player.

An experienced teacher also spots "bad habits" and posture problems earlier (or any other kind of physical problem that may be holding student back) and have more ideas about how you can solve the problem more quickly.

A newbie young teacher, who's still a flute student themselves, won't necessarily recognize simpler solutions to flute player's problems. They may well be flummoxed by areas of difficulty that you may have that they've never experienced in their own short time on the flute.

For the very budget-minded:

If you phone a top-notch University Flute Instructor for student-teacher recommendations you can certainly ask:

Do you have any graduate flute students that you'd recommend for an adult or teen beginner?

Chances are one of their dozen or so University flute students will want to teach under the main teacher's supervision. Often you can work out a "learn how to teach flute" deal with a student and their professional teacher.

That way mistakes will be caught by the more experienced teacher. Sort of like getting your dental work at a college for free, and having the true Dentist catch the student's mistakes before they make them.

But consider this:



If you are on a restricted budget, what about the option of taking only a few lessons (for example 10 only) with an experienced teacher? To make this work you'll really have to concentrate your efforts and work steadily to get the most out of the fewer lessons but at least you'll have a strong start, while you work and save for some more lessons. This could be a better option than taking lessons with one of their students as your progress will be so much more marked, that you'll reconsider budgetary ways of continuing with this higher level of instruction.

If others are involved in your budgets, or if relatives or family are paying your fees, the improvements that are possible with an experienced teacher can really become obvious quickly.
Devote yourself to the flute lessons and practicing, and you'll soon be closer to your dream of playing very well, very quickly!!!

For more on "How to progress quickly on flute" see my article by that name.

To read about the various flute playing skills and levels see the CHART on this site.

A few more ideas about the whole private flute lesson process:

1. When you call to arrange lessons, be flexible about fitting the teacher's schedule if they have very few openings. There's no point insisting on a certain day or time if they are not available then. The best teachers are usually full to capacity. If you have to make special travel arrangements or rearrange your own schedule to accommodate a topnotch teacher, it will be worth it. (Use travel time or waiting time to read
library books about music and flute playing or listen to flute recordings!)

2. Keep a notebook of what you actually do in your lessons, or to jot down questions for the next lesson. You can also ask a new flute teacher if it's a good idea to tape record your lessons together (some teachers don't mind if you do--others prefer the notebook method only). With tapes you can make the information last longer, and go over the points raised with a clear head several times during the intervening days between lessons. Later, if and when you're working without a teacher, a set of taped lessons will allow you to re-hear tone and phrasing etc. that was previously demonstrated.

3. Try and attend at least one concert in the next few months that presents a top flute student, teacher, or soloist. This will put you in the "headspace" to concentrate on the goal of improving your playing and will inspire you to practice. Getting involved and inquiring about free concerts or flute recitals for students will also help you meet other flutists (for duet playing etc.) and aid in networking to find a good teacher.

4. Commit to regular daily practice prior to beginning study and *especially* for the duration of your time taking lessons. There's no point in only "vaguely" following your new teacher's suggestions if you have only a limited number of lessons. Work steadily and thoroughly for the time you have with them. Endeavour to really work out what you've been asked to experiment with in your flute playing.

5. Calculate a minimum of $15 a month for sheet music as part of your budget.
The teacher *may* be able to lend you sheet music from time to time as you try out new books and pieces but it's more likely that you'll initially have to buy about $60 worth of basic flute books and about another $60 for every level you progress. Be ready for this by putting money aside initially toward new music that you'll need to have by your first or second flute lesson.

For the cheapest book list for all levels see: Jen's Flute Book List for the budget-minded.

6. If you need more sheet music or CDs of flute pieces, remember to ask relatives and family for such items (or a gift certificate from the most flute-music stocked sheet music store ) for your birthday, Christmas, or as special helping-gifts from aunts, uncles, etc. Take on a few extra chores for "music money" if possible.

Alternately find flute friends who will lend you flute books and pieces while you wait for yours to arrive.

Good luck to the original poster in her hunt for lessons with
$150. An additional article on "
How to Progress Really Quickly" is also on this site.

From Jennifer Cluff 1999

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© Jennifer Cluff