I would like to hear some suggestions for questions I can ask potential voice teachers in order to hopefully choose a good one and avoid wasting my time and money by working with someone who might not be very helpful. Any suggestions?
Choosing a music teacher can be very much a matter of "personal fit," not just competence. In my undergrad music school, one teacher regularly browbeat his students until they left in tears—and some thrived under such a strict regimen. My teacher was low-key, upbeat, and encouraged creative initiative, and was definitely the right match for me. Some tips, though, for starting with a pool of "good" teachers:
- Start by knowing what you want. You can find a teacher to train you in operatic "bel canto" style, or help you scream in an Aerosmith cover band without losing your voice. Try to get recommendations from people who have succeeded in the fields you want to.
- Filter for results. Anyone can hang out a shingle offering music lessons. Successful teachers will have happy students (maybe even students who win competitions, roles, etc.), and, typically, a certain amount of "infrastructure." You want someone who is committing their energy to maintaining their studio, so that they're motivated respond to your needs, schedule your lessons, etc. You don't want someone for whom teaching you would just be a hobby that they might get around to when they get around to it. Often these successful teachers can be found associated with an institution like a university music department; if they're too busy, they can probably recommend others.
- Before committing, get a "trial lesson." This will let you assess your "personality match" as well as their content. Many teachers offer free trial lessons, but even if they charge it's worth it. Anyone who demands full commitment up front would be a red flag.