Of the many lessons we were forced to learn during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, one lesson clearly stands out in the context of education: Augmenting the school curriculum can substantially increase learning capacity and student enjoyment. The interest in home schooling has also multiplied as many parents found out that learning at home is something worth looking into. This does not mean that we should expect to see high numbers of students dropping out of school for the purpose of continuing their education at home; however, we will likely see a major uptick in supplementary learning, and this will include private music lessons.
In an ideal world, there would not be a need for private music lessons. Public education agendas change according to socioeconomic trends; in the United States, this means placing an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses along with athletics because that is where the money is at these days. The U.S. is not alone in this academic transformation; in Mumbai and other regions of India, music education has been relegated to stress relief therapy because of the great intensity at which English and STEM subjects are taught.
The reality of today’s education landscape is that many American school districts have slashed their music budgets. Directors of marching band programs, which often go hand in hand with varsity athletics, hope to find students who have already received music education and can play instruments. Marching band programs are excellent for budding musicians, but we should no longer expect public schools to steer students towards instruments and teach them theory along with performance; the only exception to this unfortunate rule would be schools that operate around an arts curriculum, and not many districts have such institutions.
With the above in mind, here are five arguments in favor of signing your children up for private school lessons:
Finding an Oasis in a Music Education Desert
Imagine a school that does not participate in varsity athletics, lacks a marching band, and the only music education course is centered on appreciation and history. Even worse: Imagine that the sole music education course the school teaches is limited to middle school grades. These schools are more numerous than you think; they can be found in places such as:
- Military bases.
- Disadvantaged inner city neighborhoods.
- Rural communities.
- Very remote areas.
Thanks to early education programs such as Prodigies Music, children can get an ideal introduction not only to musical appreciation and understanding but also to music theory and performance. Once children complete the more advanced levels of the Prodigies Music curriculum, they will significantly benefit from private lessons and tutoring, especially if they live in a music education desert.
Improving Instrumental Performance
Let’s say your child has learned enough about music theory and shown preference towards an instrument. This is an ideal situation for music band directors in school, but there is a good chance that he or she will only be able to reach a certain level of performance in the program; this happens because school bands, unless they are operated by an educational institution dedicated to the arts, focus on a limited repertoire.
You may find that your child is not improving in terms of instrumental performance as part of the school band, and this is when private music lessons are highly recommended. Some students are inclined to learn better in smaller groups; the problem with school band programs is that directors are often not able to provide personalized teaching because they are focused on how the group plays as a whole. With private lessons, especially one-on-one situations, students benefit from the instructor being a better performer and a more seasoned musician. School bands focus on performing passages and sections, but they rarely get into technique; this is why some students get stuck and are not able to improve.
Continuous Intellectual Development and Challenges
Music tutors who really love music know that their passion has made them smarter, and this is a small treasure that they love to pass onto their students. The great trumpet virtuoso Victor Paz, a Panamanian player who worked with Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and many other famous musicians, was known to take his students on intellectual journeys that did not involve taking their trumpets out of the case for the first few lessons. Mr. Paz was a worldly man, and he made it a point to share with students some of the things that he learned and made him a great musician; we are talking about mathematics, acoustics, and the various methodologies he had picked up around the world through decades of musical exploration. Students who learned with Mr. Paz described their experiences as mind-opening because he insisted that trumpet performance starts in the brain and follows through voice; he taught students to sing through their trumpets instead of blowing through them.
In the case of piano tutors, most of them are sticklers for music theory, and this is always great for all musicians. Even if your child is already versed in music theory, the next step logical step towards developing adequate musicianship is to learn how theory can be applied to performance and composition. You can rest assured that learning about how to apply music theory to performance will be intellectually stimulating to your child.
Music teachers who focus on performance prefer personalized tutoring or small groups because they can provide feedback on the spot. The goal is to allow students to get a rich perspective of what they are doing while performing; they need to know if they are playing correctly, sloppily, or sublimely. Incorrect techniques and overcompensation are too easy to pick up by music beginners. One of the best ways to avoid falling into this performance trap is through timely feedback.
Skilled music teachers will constantly correct students and guide them towards techniques that will help them to avoid making mistakes; moreover, they will do this with tact and charisma for the purpose of preventing frustration. It is not easy to explain effectiveness to younger students; this is why it is better to do so through personalized private music lessons.
Shaving Away Frustration
Excellence in music comes easy to a few students, mostly those who are born gifted for reasons we cannot and may never understand. Yoyoka Soma, a Japanese girl who celebrated her 10th birthday in 2020, is one of the most virtuous drummers in the world, and her Buddhist parents believe that she could be the reincarnation of the late John Bonham from Led Zeppelin; there is simply no other way to explain her prowess. Chances are that Yoyoka will never experience performance frustration in her life, but we know that she is a rare exception rather than a rule.
With private music lessons imparted by teachers who know about the many frustrations musicians are expected to live with, students can find the reassurance they need to improve their performance. If there is something that music teachers can recognize is the feeling of correcting mistakes and hitting the right notes, carrying the rhythm, harmonizing, and timing intervals. Frustration is often a matter of not applying the right technique; music teachers know this from personal experience, and they will do everything they can to ensure that their students do not become frustrated.
Fun Music Lessons
Arts schools and private music academies are great because they strive to make learning fun. The setting and goals may be consistent, but the teaching methods insist on delivering lessons in ways that are amenable and easy to enjoy. Some of the techniques that seasoned music teachers use to make their classes more enjoyable include:
- Staying up-to-date on popular music trends so that current melodies can be introduced in class.
- Constantly motivating students when they prove that they are making progress.
- Mentioning interesting tidbits of history and culture during their lessons.
- Designing playful exercises for students to complete in class.
Just like the Prodigies Music program emphasizes on letting children play and have fun as they learn, experienced music teachers know that students are better learners when they feel comfortable and have fun. Music is a subject that naturally lends itself to be thought in a fun environment.