by Amanda Proctor
So, why should we offer our children private lessons if they are already in a band class at school? Learning to play a musical instrument can be more of a daunting task than a child (or parent) may expect. Fingers, tongue, breathing, posture, note reading, and counting all come into play with this foreign object put into a child’s hands! I discuss five reasons why it’s a benefit to take private lessons.
1. Working with a private teacher can help a student keep up with peers in the group setting. Every child learns at a different pace. Because of the many aspects of performing an instrument, children will progress differently. For instance, a child may have no trouble at all properly placing his/her hands on the instrument and quickly becoming dexterous, but may find it impossible to form the proper embouchure (position of the mouth on the instrument’s mouthpiece). There are many subtleties to embouchure formation, and if a student doesn’t get help from a private instructor, the wrong embouchure could become a road block to other facets of playing (such as note range) in the near future. Because everyone learns at a different pace, the pressure of learning in a group setting can be very frustrating, which brings me to the second reason why private lessons are beneficial:
2. Private lessons help to minimize frustration. I believe the less frustration the better when it comes to learning; who doesn’t? Though frustration can create determination in some people, it can discourage others. It’s sad to see a child give up learning an instrument in the early stages when all was needed was a little personal attention. Every child deserves the opportunity to enjoy and not be frustrated with making music.
3. Private lessons set up the child for success. With a private instructor, a child learns more quickly the fundamentals of playing. A solid foundation is built, and the child can keep learning, playing and succeeding. Succeeding is fun! The young musician builds confidence, and doesn’t give up. Furthermore, once the student is strong in instrumental skills, he/she can perhaps focus more on learning ensemble skills and gleaning knowledge from the band director.
4. The child learns how to practice. A young musician needs to learn HOW to practice. I often spend more time with a student on practice skills than anything else in a lesson; and not only with beginners, but advanced students as well. A student spends more time weekly alone in a practice room (or at home) with the instrument than he/she does with a private instructor each week, so that time needs to be well spent. By sending the student home weekly with the proper practice skills, the private instructor can help the student get the most out of practice time alone. Also, the student will not dread practice time, because he/she will have control over it and confidently expect results.
5. It is easier to stay motivated with the help of a private instructor. I find this benefit most applicable to students who have been performing more than a few years. Once out of the beginner stage of playing, a music student may not know what to do next. A private instructor is knowledgeable about different music literature and styles and can help the student discover what new music to learn, what goal to pursue next. The instructor can direct a student to certain recordings, because listening is so vital to becoming a good and motivated performer. Sometimes all a student needs in order to remain stimulated is someone to report to on a regular basis. It is always easier to work for something when you know someone is counting on you and that you’re accountable to someone – your teacher.
Private lessons are for anyone, not just music-career bound musicians. A private instructor can maximize a young musician’s opportunity for musical success and fun. I look forward to working with some of your young musicians!
Ms. Dell earned her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She has performed with various chamber and symphonic groups in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Ohio and taught privately and in schools as a coach and music clinician. Ms. Dell honorably served for seven years as a clarinetist in the United States Air Force Band of Liberty and toured extensively throughout New England, New York and New Jersey. Ms. Dell is currently staying home to raise her child and teaches privately from her home in Virginia.