Parent's Guide to Music Lessons

Finding a music teacher

For students showing a keen interest in music, all music education professionals recommend ​starting private music instruction as early as possible. Studying with a private teacher is a part of every student musician's growth. Band and orchestra directors can teach them many things about playing with an ensemble, but eventually your child will need one-to-one instruction to really excel at their instrument. Private lessons can help students grow as disciplined individuals, and love music more.

Take advantage of time: start lessons right away

The younger the child, the more primed they are for learning. Learning anything is so much easier the earlier you start—foreign languages, sports, saying "please" and "thank you", how to enjoy eating vegetables, the habit of brushing your teeth every day, MUSIC—you name it! It comes much more naturally when you start young.

Skills and abilities acquired through one-to-one instruction will help the student feel more successful early on and the positive experiences will keep them focused, enthusiastic, and willing to stick with it even if there are some tough spots along the way. Likewise, having a professional who is equipped to help overcome tough spots and new skills will help keep your student's learning momentum going.

Giving the beginner student lessons right away allows them to establish good fundamental skills and techniques from the start so they do not have to be fixed later. ​With this in mind, beginners who are eager and show potential are particularly great candidates for private lessons because it will ensure they have solid technique throughout their playing stages. Without guidance, bad habits are formed and unhelpful techniques

become entrenched. When a student starts private lessons with a good teacher after a few years on their own, these issues have to be “un-learned” before the student can learn new repertoire and skills.

Classroom music teachers agree

To be clear, we heartily acknowledge that Great Falls Public School music teachers do an amazing job in elementary school beginning music classes as well as in middle and high school band and orchestra programs. The Great Falls Symphony is extremely proud and fortunate to have such talented music educators as part of our broader music community. But even school music teachers strongly encourage their students to take up private lessons if it is possible.

 

Here's why...

  • Private instruction is not tutoring. It benefits all students, and can be especially motivating to gifted students.

  • Private lessons allow one on one time with a professional who actually plays the instrument.

  • Advanced skills are taught [in private lessons] that can't be touched on in traditional music classes.

  • Greater variety of music literature keeps kids interested and practicing

  • Private lessons allow for more opportunities for performance and advancement (Youth Orchestra, All State Festivals, Invitational events).

  • Private study makes the school-based ensembles stronger as more kids will have advanced techniques.

Click here for the GFPS Music Department Webpage

What to consider when choosing a private teacher

What qualities should a private instructor have and how do you pick the right one for your family?

A qualified teacher will make the best use of lesson time. Your student's progress should indicate that your investment of time, money, and resources is worthwhile. A good music teacher is equipped with a combination of education, teaching experience, and performance experience. A music degree in the specific instrument will tell you  that a person has spent a considerable time studying the intricacies of the instrument and they may have also had very specific pedagogical training. (Pedagogy is the "art, science, or profession of teaching"). Teaching history should show that a private music instructor has a track record of successful students and their methods are informed by experience. A teacher's performance background indicates they are highly proficient on the specific instrument they teach.

This all sounds very serious for my 7-year-old who will be learning to play Twinkle on the violin!

Keep in mind, great teachers are not trying to create “professional musicians”. Rather they recognize that music is part of the students’ overall education and help them develop the skills, habits, and character that will help them be successful individuals. A qualified teacher who is well matched to your family's needs will provide your 7-year-old with a great experience that will keep him or her motivated to keep playing! And even though it's only a 7-year-old and it's only Twinkle, you still want your child to be learning to hold that violin and bow correctly and make as beautiful a sound as possible.

Questions to ask when looking for a private music instructor

  • What are your expectations of our child and of us?

  • In your studio, what is the parent’s role? How do you communicate with parents regarding progress, assignments, etc?

  • How much do you expect students to practice?

  • What is the make-up policy?

  • Are there performance opportunities?

  • What teaching experience do you have and what is your approach to teaching?

  • Are you also a performer on the instrument you teach?

  • What kind of goals would you set for my student, musically and otherwise?

Study with the Symphony's Core Musicians

The "Core Musicians" of the Great Falls Symphony serve as principals in the orchestra and make up the Cascade Quartet and Chinook Winds. Each of these musicians has moved to Great Falls to live, perform, and teach students of all ages. They each have extensive professional experience as performers and educators and they have been vetted through a competitive audition process which draws applicants from around the globe. Your child has the opportunity to take one-on-one lessons with a world class musician! Contact us today about studying with a Core Musician.

Meet our Core Musicians

Learn more about each musician's studio and teaching style.
 
Looking for another teacher in the Great Falls community? The Great Falls Public School system has a list of local music teachers for all instruments  and it is updated on an ongoing basis.
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