Kathy Kucsan, Education Director

Instrumental music programs usually start in 5th grade in the nearby school districts. Students get to choose instruments and start their musical journeys in band or orchestra classes.

We’re often asked why — or if — students should consider taking individual lessons if they’re in the band or orchestra instrumental program at school. Isn’t it all the same?

Well, not exactly. Because kids are who they are — amazing individuals who progress at different rates — group instrumental classes can vary widely in terms of learning acquisition and progress. In a group band class for example, there may be six or seven different instruments: flute, clarinet, trumpet, horn, trombone, percussion. It takes an amazing teacher to provide excellent instruction while tracking who’s doing what, how they’re doing, if their instruments are working properly, if everyone has correct hand positions and embouchures, etc. Getting that first note out together is a major accomplishment.

With individual lessons, students have the advantage of dedicated one-to-one instruction and mentorship by an accomplished professional musician who specializes in their instrument. With a solid foundation through music lessons, progress can happen quickly, and students get instant feedback and support about technique so that things like bad habits or incorrect hand placement can be nipped in the bud.

School programs provide:
  • Group instruction on diverse instruments
  • Basic introduction to note-reading and theory
  • A chance to develop ensemble skills, learning together as a “team”
  • An opportunity to play basic band/orchestra repertoire, learning how instruments come together to play as a group
  • The opportunity for ensembles to perform for the school or larger community
  • Foundational instruction to pave the way for participation in middle and high school band or orchestra
Individual lessons provide:
  • One-on-one instruction and mentorship — students receive the undivided attention of a mentor for a set length of time per week
  • Introduction and more in-depth work in music literacy and theory
  • Reinforcement for developing proper technique on an instrument
  • Support in learning how to practice
  • Introduction to repertoire for a particular instrument
  • At the Center for Musical Arts, the opportunity to perform solo in recitals
What is better for the student?

Before founding the Center for Musical Arts, one of my jobs was teaching elementary band. It was a joy and sometimes a source of frustration. My students who took lessons stood out and progressed noticeably faster than their peers who only took their instruments out of their cases for band rehearsal. On many days we had broken reeds, missing instrument parts, forgotten instruments, and not much practicing before class.

Taking individual lessons in addition to band or orchestra supports learning and the discipline involved in music making, and gives students all of the above-mentioned advantages. Again, both types of learning opportunities provide different benefits to students, but a student who has a chance to learn in both settings will be more likely to deepen their relationship with their instrument, paving the way for lifelong involvement in musical endeavors.

Do you have questions about how music lessons can support students studying band in school?