FAQ for Parents/Students
- What is your experience in private teaching?
- I began teaching in 1991. I helped finance my own college education by teaching music privately, and when I graduated with a master’s degree in music in 2000, I began teaching privately full-time. While living in Boston from 1998-2001, I taught group lessons to four year olds. Since moving to NYC in 2001, I have also taught private lessons at several schools, including Garden School in Jackson Heights, and have run a full-time teaching studio in Manhattan and in Jackson Heights, teaching students ages 4 through 88. My students have included other professional musicians, children looking to get started on an instrument, high schoolers looking to score well at solo ensemble competitions and at college auditions. In addition to teaching as a freelancer, I have also held formal teaching positions at Lawrence University of Wisconsin and have taught at New England Conservatory of Music. Feel free to read through my resume or contact me for more information on my teaching background.
- Is my 4 or 5 year old ready for private lessons?
- Four years old may be a little young to start private lessons, depending on the child. Some 4 year olds are ready for the experience, and some are better off waiting a year or so. I suggest signing up for one or two lessons, and I will be able to make an assessment pretty quickly as to whether your child is ready for private lessons. Your child might take to private music lessons a bit better at age 5 or 6, as ongoing experience with learning language systems in school, including language arts and mathematics, helps to reinforce learning a musical language. A younger student always benefits from a primer course in music before any notational language is even introduced. For this reason, my lessons with 4 and 5 year olds often are less focused on note-reading, instead centering on developing a strong foundation of hearing and understanding melody and internalizing rhythm.
- Why private lessons instead of group lessons?
- Some group lessons work very well. I like the concept of group lessons for beginning violin and for general music. My own children are enrolled in group music classes through a wonderful and very well-researched music program called “Music Together.” Both children under 4 years old and are building a very solid foundation for private study when they get old enough. For any child who is ready, private lessons offer an opportunity to develop strengths and weaknesses unique to that child. Undivided attention is so rare in modern society, and private lessons provide a rare opportunity for student and teacher to examine and develop artistry together. An ideal situation for every music student is a daily ensemble experience at school (band, orchestra, choir, etc.) reinforced by a weekly private lesson.
- How long are lessons?
- I recommend 30 minute lessons for young beginners. I recommend 60 minute lessons for most older beginners and for all intermediate and advanced students.
- What are your rates?
- I offer extremely competitive rates for private and group lessons. Rates vary depending on length, location, and other factors.
Call me, at (718) 426-0633, for an initial phone consultation and for specific rate information.
You may also email me at email@example.com.
- Where do you teach?
- I teach at my studio in Jackson Heights, NY, on 77th St., between 35th and 37th Aves. I also make occasional house calls in Manhattan (contact me regarding availability and rates).
- What is your teaching schedule?
- I try to accommodate your schedule as best I can.
Teaching hours in Jackson Heights:
* Monday: Morning/mid-afternoon
* Tuesday: Late afternoon/evening
* Wednesday: Late afternoon/evening
* Friday: All day
* Saturday: All day
* Sunday: All day
- Can parents sit in on the lessons?
- Yes. Sometimes I encourage parents to observe, although parents are not required to attend lessons. Because the teacher-student relationship must develop without distraction, parents often find that their children maintain better focus when they do not sit in.
- What is expected from the parent?
- I usually see a student only once a week for a short lesson. The parent can play a valuable role in instilling proper practice habits in the student throughout the week. I expect parents to ensure that their child maintains a consistent practice schedule throughout the week. This is often easier said than done, and I have developed a number of methods to help any parent achieve practice goals. “Be prepared” might be the Boy Scout motto, but it can also apply to nearly every aspect of a positive life experience, music lessons included!
Parents should know that playing music successfully often requires solid effort and a work ethic. I treat music as a fun and artistic activity and also as a serious academic discipline. Music works all aspects of the brain, and a successful music student tends to embrace all that music offers. Some parents seem to misunderstand music study, and I have heard parents speak of music as something that should relax and inspire their children. This is true–music can certainly relax and inspire, but to get to that point, a student typically must work out some challenging bits along the way. If your child tends to shy away from hard work in general, know that music practice offers a way to overcome that tendency in other areas.
I also expect parents to inform me of any learning conditions that might be relevant to their children’s development in music, including dyslexia, slow reading development, ADHD, and medication that may alter a child’s behavior.
- What is expected from the student?
- I expect the student to regularly attend lessons. During the lesson, a successful student is respectful, caring, interested, inquisitive, humble, and driven. Away from the lesson, the student practices regularly in a sincere effort to prepare well for the next week’s lesson. When faced with a challenge, a student should try to overcome by examining any weaknesses and implementing practice tips and techniques I have passed along. Again, much of this is easier said than done, and developing a successful practice routine often takes time, patience, and perseverance.
- I want my child to have structure as a music student, but I don’t want her to have the suffocating lessons that petrified me as a child. What do you think?
- I hear this all the time from parents, and I completely agree with the concern. I offer a learning environmental that is nurturing, personal, creative, and positive. I am deeply interested in unlocking the artistic potential of every student. I am also devoted to helping instill a work ethic in every student, and I offer a caring and firm approach.
- Do we need to have a piano at home?
- If you are taking piano lessons, I highly recommend it. A piano student really should prepare for each lesson by practicing during the week. Even an old beat-up piano is superior to an electric keyboard, but if all you can find is a keyboard, go for it. You can pick up a basic keyboard for as little as $100. You might try checking online classified ads, such as Craigslist.org, for used pianos. You can also rent a piano for a monthly fee from local stores.
- Do you plan recitals?
- Yes. Performance, whether formal or informal, can really motivate, inspire, and teach us in a way that lessons and practice do not. I try to organize at least one recital per year.
- Do you encourage reading music or improvising?
- Both. Most of the music in the history of mankind has been improvised music, and improvisation is increasingly relevant in today’s global society. It is also tons of fun! On the other hand, music notation is one the richest and most developed written language systems in all of history, and it enriches music study in a way that improvisation cannot. Learning to read music well empowers a musician to learn music very quickly and efficiently, and it also enables a musician to compose music for others to read.
- Do you use method books?
- Usually. For piano students, I tend to prefer the Piano Adventures series by Faber and Faber and Music Tree by Frances Clark. For saxophone students, I tend to use the Rubank method, Jim Snidero’s Jazz Conception, Jerry Bergonzi’s Inside Improvisation, the Ferling Etudes, and my own jazz saxophone method book. For flutists, I prefer books by Trevor Wye, and for clarinetists, I tend to use books by Gustav Langenus. I supplement all method books with a comprehensive program designed specifically for each student.
- Tell me more about your curriculum.
- My curriculum for young musicians is always designed to help a child’s development. Because I tailor my lessons to each student’s needs, the materials that we use often change. I heavily supplement all method series with other pedagogical material, including warmup routines, improvisation and music theory studies, notation supplements and studies, repertoire, transcribing exercises, and more. I like students to “cross-train” on other instruments, so an occasional guitar, voice, recorder, or woodwind lesson is common.
For older students, I similarly emphasize a well-rounded approach to music education, but the lessons embrace more of a teacher-student partnership. I encourage older students to seek out what music inspires them and try to incorporate it into the curriculum.
- What do you think of Suzuki?
- I love the concept of Suzuki. The parental involvement is a great idea. Learning music with an emphasis on listening is great, too. While I do not teach Suzuki lessons, I have adapted many of Suzuki’s concepts in my own teaching.
- How many lessons does it take to get good at an instrument?
- Improvement and development in music depends on a number of factors, only one of which is the number of lessons spent on that instrument. A strong work and practice ethic, enthusiasm, an ability to remain objective and humble, and an aptitude for music and artistry also contribute to developing on an instrument. Someone who practices hard with a strong raw talent might only need a year of lessons to become an intermediate level player. Most disciplined and interested students need five or six years to become intermediate players, ten or so years to become advanced players, and a total of perhaps twenty years or more to become professional level artists.
- Do you work with special needs children?
- I have worked with children with Autism, severe ADHD, and other special situations. I have a keen sense of most students’ needs and have had success with the many special needs students I have taught. That being said, I generally recommend someone who is credentialed in teaching special needs students (I am not), as I think training in this area really helps teaching.
- Should my child start on piano or guitar?
- This comes up for so many parents. And it is not just a question of guitar or piano. Other possibilities for young musicians (age 6 and below) are violin, cello, recorder, and voice. A few plusses for guitar: A guitar is easily portable, is very inexpensive, and it can be kept in tune quite easily. An acoustic guitar is generally very quiet, which can be a plus for apartment living. A few minuses for guitar: It is harder than it looks. Playing a chord or melody on the guitar requires fairly advanced coordination between right and left hands. Lastly, guitar playing can really hurt! Fingertip calluses eventually build up, and the discomfort tends to dissipate after a while, but the initial process is an often insurmountable challenge for a young student. I have very fond memories learning how to play guitar, but I am glad I did not give it a try until I was a teenager, when my hands were bigger and when my work ethic had already begun to blossom. It really requires some serious stick-to-it-iveness!
Now for piano. A few plusses: Immediate success. A student can come out of a first lesson knowing how to play a simple melody and can immediately begin to explore with little concern for lack of coordination or physical pain. Perhaps the most important reason that piano is considered the great starter instrument of instruments is that it forms the basis of all music and music theory. All harmony and melody relates more immediately to piano than to every other instrument. Anyone who wants to learn pop, jazz, classical, r&b, Afro-Cuban, Celtic music, and on and on, will greatly benefit from a foundation and understanding of the piano keyboard.
Sometimes parents call me and wonder if their child should take piano when all they really express interest in is guitar. To this, I say, if your child is constantly begging you to take lessons on an instrument, whether it be guitar or penny whistle, let him take lessons on that instrument. I don’t teach advanced guitar lessons (or penny whistle!), but I can give a student a good foundation on beginning guitar.