Beyond Band: 5 reasons for private music lessons

As another school year begins, parents may hear a suggestion from the band director to consider having their kids take private music lessons in addition to band. “Isn’t band enough?” they may ask. “Why should we spend even more time and money on this?”

Here are five reasons for kids to study privately:

1.      Personalized instruction with a teacher who specializes in your child’s instrument.

Band directors have a working knowledge of all the instruments in the band, thanks to method classes they take in college. However, the director will have specialized knowledge in one instrument. That instrument may not be the same as what your child plays. By studying with a teacher who plays the same instrument, your child will have access to knowledge and experience beyond what the band director can provide.

2.      Improves skills, regardless of level

Many folks think of tutoring as something that is done only when a student is falling behind. That’s not the case here. Private lessons work no matter your child’s current skill level – whether they are first chair or last, or somewhere in between. Some kids do need a boost in order to catch up to their peers. Some have progressed beyond what the band as a whole is playing and need to be challenged so that boredom doesn’t kick in.

3.      Introduction to solo literature

For the most part, students in band play music specifically for a large ensemble. Occasionally they will break off into smaller groups, like a jazz trio or woodwind quintet, but the focus is on playing with a group. Some band directors encourage their students to participate in solo and ensemble competitions, where kids get to play alone (or accompanied on piano). This festival happens just once a year, though, which limits exposure to solo literature for a specific instrument. A private teacher can introduce students to a wider range of music and is a great source of information for finding appropriate pieces to play for competition.

4.      Deepen knowledge of music theory

Music theory provides the building blocks for the vast majority of the music your child is learning to play. Kids in band learn to read music; it is a necessary skill when participating in a large ensemble. However, going beyond the basics and learning how and why music works can lead students to a fuller understanding of the pieces they’re playing and allow them to more sensitively interpret the music.

5.      Learn practice techniques

Private teachers have a chance to teach kids how to practice. Band directors are wonderful for teaching large ensemble rehearsal techniques, but their time is limited and they can’t elaborate much more than “practice 30 minutes a day!” Your child can learn the how and why of practicing with private lessons.

 

As music and arts programs continue to get cut from school curricula, band directors continue to do more with less. They are responsible for a large group of kids during class time and after school (sometimes before school as well!) Given that responsibility, directors are not able to spend much one-on-one time with each student. By taking private lessons, the student gains knowledge and skills beyond what they will learn during band class. Furthermore, the band (and the director!) also benefits from the new contributions that student makes to the group.

 

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©2013 Lori Archer Sutherland

Lori is also the author of Tonal Diversions music blog: Explore your inner classical!