Now that we are in the last two months of the calendar year and school has been in session for a while, some students are getting encouragement by their school orchestra teachers to take private lessons. Parents may wonder why invest in them? With the holiday season coming up followed by the new year, adults may also be thinking about trying something new. It is never too late for them, contrary to what some non-musicians might think.
There can be a number of reasons why a student needs private lessons. For the short term it may be to reach certain goals like move up to a better position in the orchestra or to take an audition in an honors orchestra or participate in other opportunities. Certainly one on one work with an instructor will help the student move to a higher level of playing. Of course, the student has to do his/her part in preparation through practicing.
An orchestra director has a whole room full of students. It is impossible for the director to pay close attention to what each individual is doing. True, the director hears quite a lot, but doesn’t always have time to speak to a student one on one. Sometimes the director might have to find a tactful way to point out a technical issue to the whole class. Singling out one student may not be a comfortable experience.
In private lessons, the student has individual focus from an instructor. Students can learn to accept criticism as the instructor assists the student in learning correct technique and playing music at a higher level than ever before. In many cases, the student-teacher relationship lasts multiple years and its mentorship has great positive impact on the student. Ultimately it is still up to the student to take the advice and direction of the lessons.
An important task of the private teacher is to teach correct technique. A number of years doing any specialized activity with incorrect technique can create a number of problems from inefficiency to physical injury as well as detract from the quality of that activity. After a playing job, two of my colleagues were in a conversation. One held out his wrist showing he had carpal tunnel surgery. Then the other colleague held out her wrists and showed her surgical scars, commenting that only now she knew how to play correctly. That underscores why I think the qualifications of an instructor are important.
Private lessons are tailored to one’s rate of learning. Ability and talent come into consideration but it’s also encouragement and motivation. Some of this comes from the music and the teacher but it also comes from family members and the student. As a student progresses motivation builds. This results in a desire to continue to work or to work even harder. The higher level of playing opens the door to participate in more opportunities and have a bigger selection of music that a person is capable of playing. In turn, enjoyment of music is enhanced. The discipline, focus, and hard work can be applied in life to other endeavors. Private music lessons certainly open the door to wider opportunities while our brains and bodies benefit from the physical activity of music making. If you asked me, I’d suggest to give cello lessons a try!