More than 15 years later, I still vividly remember the reveal of the seventh grade band placement results. The large Texas school I attended had three levels of band classes, and I excitedly trailed my finger to the right of my name, confident I’d see a level two assignment. Instead, I read the following: “Band three, chair 13 of 14.” In other words, I was one seat away from being the lowest-scored flute player in my school. I arrived home in tears, devastated, and ready to close my flute case for good.
The solution was private lessons. My once-a-week instruction with Ms. Benke honed my skills and boosted my confidence, and when the eighth grade band results were posted a year later, I walked away with a first-level band placement. The decision to take private lessons had an immense impact on my flute career, and I’m not the only one trumpeting the advantages of one-on-one teaching. “Private lessons are such a valuable investment, and the benefits go beyond the musical instruction your child receives,” says Gary Ingle, executive director of Music Teachers National Association.
What’s a parent to do? Read on to learn why private lessons may be the right fit for your child.
Skill Sharpener Even the best players will benefit from the one-on-one attention that lessons provide. A private instructor will have the opportunity to go into more detail than a band conductor with a class of 30 students can offer; and he may have the chance to focus on areas that need improvement, which may otherwise be overlooked. Additionally, being exposed to a different teaching style and a more expansive repertoire will broaden his musical knowledge, helping to make him a well-rounded musician.
Solo Success In band class, it’s easy for kids to hide behind the sounds of their peers when they haven’t prepared a piece. However, the focus on individual performance in private lessons means your child can’t get away without practicing. The result? She’ll learn a valuable lesson about the importance of persistence and discipline that will extend into other areas of her studies.
Under Pressure Your kid’s confidence will also get a boost with private lessons. “Mastering a solo and standing on stage alone to perform in front of an audience is amazing for a child’s self-esteem,” says Ingle. The feel-good rush will last long past her performance and benefit her in college and beyond, when the ability to make public presentations and stay calm under pressure may give her an edge.
Budget Conscious Don’t let wallet worries prevent you from considering private music studies. With a little research, private lessons don’t need to break the bank. Check online or with your local high school to see if older students are available to teach for a fraction of the cost. Small group lessons are another option. The amount of individual attention will be slightly less, but this is an especially attractive option for children who may be too shy or intimidated to play solo. Finally, consider bartering your skills for private lessons, a route that Ingle says more and more families are utilizing.
Choices, Choices Once your child decides he wants to sign up for private lessons, you’ll need to find an instructor. Ingle urges parents to get referrals, whether it’s from a friend or your kid’s band teacher. You should sit in on a lesson to ensure that the interaction seems like it will lead to success. Don’t be afraid to shop around to find the perfect match, as a sour relationship between your child and his teacher may dampen his enthusiasm for the instrument.
Whether your child goes into her private lessons determined to become the next Yo-Yo Ma or just wants to score a better seat in her band class, most kids won’t regret the decision. In fact, Ingle says that kids who take private lessons generally continue to pursue their instrument after they graduate from school. So, don’t be surprised if you’re hearing the sounds of the scales and sonatas echoing throughout your home years down the road!