As we enter the new school year, many students are entering school band or joining community music programs. Several students will begin private music lessons for the first time, and others will resume where they left off before the holidays. Here is some advice and helpful hints for any parent of a student enrolled in private lessons:
- “Interview” potential teachers. Finding a good teacher/student match is crucial. Take an introductory lesson with any candidates and sit in during your child’s lesson. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Finding the right teacher for your child can make all the difference.
- Private lessons are not a quick fix. Do not enroll your child in lessons a month before All State auditions and expect them to be first chair. Realize that improvement may take time. On a related note (pun slightly intended), realize that teachers may have to correct fundamental issues (incorrect embouchure, finger/hand positions, articulation, breathing) before moving to more advanced concepts. Demanding that your child work on band music if they have a fundamental issue will just reinforce bad habits and may even cause injury.
- Please make sure your child practices outside of their lesson. Teachers know when students have not practiced. Besides hindering improvement, paying for private lessons if a child does not practice is wasting hard-earned money. Also, running through band music for twenty minutes does not count as practicing. Students should work on assignments given during lessons and practice concepts and ideas discussed during their lesson.
- Encourage your child to listen to classical music. It can be famous performers on their instrument or jazz bands or symphony orchestras – listening to good musicians reinforces good musicianship. You would be surprised how many students I see who have never even heard of Beethoven!
- Please, please, please do not be late for your lesson. If your lesson is at 5, your child should have their instrument out and warmed up by 4:55. If you show up at 5 (or later), you are wasting time getting set up and warming up, and most teachers have very full teaching schedules and may not be able to make up lost time.
- Pay on time. Discuss payment options with the teacher and follow through. Music isn’t just a hobby for us – most teachers are freelance musicians and live paycheck to paycheck (or gig to gig).
- If you have to miss a lesson, let your teacher know as soon as possible (ideally 24 hours advance notice). Nothing is more frustrating than a no-show with no explanation. Keep in mind that many teachers will also bill you for their time if you do not show up. Check your teacher’s absence and makeup policy.
- Be open to your teacher’s suggestions on equipment. If the teacher suggests getting a new mouthpiece, bow, instrument, etc. have them explain the benefits. Playing on the best equipment you can afford will help your child make it easier to sound better.
- Come to every lesson with any assigned material, pencil, paper, and anything else the teacher tells you to bring. If they recommend buying music, please follow through. As catchy as your child’s band music may be (here’s looking at you, Frozen renditions), it will not teach them much in terms of fundamentals or other concepts we may be covering.
- Listen to your child. If they do not want to continue private lessons, ask why. If they have valid reasons, consider the options. Students who no longer enjoy what they are doing should find something they are passionate about.
I hope these tips help anyone interested in taking private lessons. It is a valuable investment and will be beneficial for anyone looking to have an edge over their peers or to just learn more about music for music’s sake.