For people seeking good information, an online search often seems a reasonable place to start. When you’re looking for movie times or a piece of trivia this works fairly well. When searching for more important information, like how and where to get help on the trumpet, this system doesn’t work nearly as well. I just did a search for “great trumpet teachers” and the first two results were an online forum discussion and an a list of the “Top Colleges for Trumpet Performance” which I find dubious at best.
To find good information takes trust. There are plenty of people online offering all kinds of solutions to problems you might not have even known that you had. If you just give them your time and money, all of your problems will be solved. This seems to attract enough people that these offers keep coming. As these kind of schemes have become more prevalent, the people running them have gotten better. Now you’ll hear a lot of the “right words” that might lead you to believe that “well…there might be something to that….maybe I should give it a try…” Instead of offering you a Double C if you just buy this magic mouthpiece, you now need to invest a lot of time and money so that you can unlock “The Secret.”
Here are a few ideas on what to do with the unknown people and ideas:
- Look for facts. Very often, people that are untrustworthy speak in very general terms. It makes them hard to pin down, as they’re not lying because they haven’t really said anything at all. Look for phrases like, “…too many to list…” “…all over the world…” and “…thousands of students…” These kinds of generalities have no real meaning, and could be hiding an absence of real experience. Look for: professional gigs, professional teaching experience, and professional affiliations. These are by no means a guarantee of greatness, just a good starting point to know whether the person you’re dealing with exists in the real world, or just online.
- Look for evidence. If someone is proclaiming themselves to be a great player or teacher, there should be ample evidence to back it up. Search for recordings and successful students to see what this person has been doing.
- Learn what’s going on in your world. The trumpet world, like a lot of others, is relatively small. It’s not difficult to find out who the successful players and teachers are in any area of the world. Do some homework: most orchestras have websites listing their personnel. See if the trumpet players have personal websites. The same goes for professional big bands. Go see live music in your area and find out the names of the people in the sections. After a while, you’ll start seeing the same names over and over again. The same goes for colleges, which all have websites listing their faculty. Find the best young players in your area and ask them if they are taking lessons. If so, find out the name of their teachers.
So how do we know whom to trust? Start with your personal relationships. If you have a current private teacher or band director that you trust, they can be a great first step into a bigger world. They have likely met, worked with, or know other teachers and players that they know are trustworthy. This is the way you build your network.
I’m not here to call any people out by name, but am concerned by the number of “online experts” that don’t seem to have any standing in the real world. The ease of taking a video and posting it online has created a population that posts so often that their online presence is hard to ignore. This population can be the first seen by people searching for good information. And that’s a big problem. There are so many great players and teachers in the world that no one should have to settle for bad information, just because it’s so readily available.
And we’ve been over this before, but it’s worth repeating. There are many people that are both great players and great teachers, but being a great player does not, by definition, make one a great teacher. There are many people that choose to focus on one aspect. There are many amazing teachers that are not world class players. Being able to demonstrate isn’t the be-all and end-all of teaching. Helping you grow is.
So please- Do some homework. Let’s make the online community one full of good information, support, and trust.