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In several cultures, kids weren't considered educated till they could play a musical instrument. This was surely true of most European cultures, and emigrants to America from Europe, with one notable exclusion, brought strong musical customs to the new country. The Puritans, who regarded the pleasure of music to be the work of the Devil, were the exception. Missing musical training, these early settlers were perhaps safe from sin. The sounds the Puritans developed were reported by one listener as "mournful monotony," and no doubt were a source of pain instead of pleasure. In 1720, the first singing classes in America were coordinated. By 1837, music was included in public-school education. Today the aesthetic-education movement is in full bloom. Parents of babies, conscious of the so-called (and somewhat controversial) Mozart effect, are putting babies to sleep with cautiously selected CDs rather than home-sung lullabies. Three-year-old kids are learning to play the violin in Suzuki classes.  Some children study music theory through computer software. Others are still taking the traditional and rigid route and asking their parents to get them a piano, a guitar or a saxophone and have a personal music tutor.

Word -of-mouth is a good process to use to grow a list of possible music teachers for your child or yourself. As experts remark, laymen in the community might not be able to judge the musical value of the instruction, but they definitely know which teachers are producing students who love music. The local music teachers association can also give names of certified instructors.  You may ask for a calendar of recitals being given by students of these suggested teachers. Attending a recital given by a teacher's students can tell you quite a bit. Were the students melodious—or mechanical? Were they well-prepared? Did they appear pleased with what they were able to do? University or college music departments normally have information about local music teachers. And musicians who teach in the public schools know teachers who can append your child's instruction in the school orchestra or band with private lessons. Additionally, well-informed staff in music stores can direct you to good teachers.

The method of teaching and learning, particularly when done one-on-one, is subtle and complex. A comfortable personality match is vital when searching for a music teacher. Look for a teacher who's positive, who is more expected to say "Why don't you try this" than she's to say "Your technique is wrong." The best way to see how a teacher works is, naturally, to watch the teacher work. A lot of music teachers will allow you to sit in on a lesson or two.