One of the most important decisions in a young musician’s career is whether or not to take private lessons, and it really depends on the level of commitment of both the student and their parents. But the rewards of quality private lessons could be a top chair in the school band and equally good placement in honors bands like all-county, all-district, and all-state. This post will go over different points and considerations for taking lessons throughout one’s musical career.
Students start beginning band around 4th to 6th grade and can continue in school through college and graduate degrees. It isn’t until college that you are required to take lessons if you want to be a music major, but before then, unless your band director plays your specific instrument, you don’t receive any specialized instruction by someone who knows all the ins and outs of that instrument. Yes, your band director most likely has a degree or two in music education and has taken classes on all the different instruments, but truly learning an instrument and how to play it takes longer than part of a semester.
Possibly an even bigger point for private lessons is that private instructors give you one-on-one teaching for specific aspects of YOUR playing, as opposed to classroom band learning along with 60 other students. Your band director just doesn’t have the time to give every person in their band that kind of direct teaching, and definitely not the kind of instrument specific instruction you would get from a private teacher.
In my experience, you can do fine in middle and high school band without private lessons, but you will notice that almost all of the students who take private lessons are sitting in the top chairs in the band and are the ones making the honors bands. I came in as a high school freshman not having taken any private lessons, and I didn’t make any honors bands. After that first year, I began taking lessons and made both all-county and all-district band every year after that and was sitting in first chair in my high school band ahead of upperclassmen.
If you as a student want private lessons, then the next step is to talk with your parents about the logistical aspects of taking lessons, like location, transportation, and how much they cost. Private lessons can be given at a number of locations, and you could find a teacher that comes to your school, your house, you go to their house, or at a third party location. You also need to consider whether you have the necessary transportation to get both you and your instrument to where the lesson will take place on time. And the most important aspect to your parents is the cost. Cost can vary a bit depending on your location and what quality of teacher you are looking for. Sure, you can find the cheapest lessons possible, but most likely you are getting what you pay for. Feel free to shop around and find the teacher that you like the most and that won’t break the bank.
So if you are at all interested in being one of the best players in the band, unless your band director plays your instrument AND has the time to give you private instruction, then you should definitely consider taking private lessons. And for my shameless plug, if you are a low brass player (Tuba, Euphonium, Trombone) looking for private lessons in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, please feel free to contact me, Max Wang, if interested. I just completed my master’s degree in music performance from UNC Greensboro and have a music education degree from UNC Chapel Hill, and am the principal tubist of the Durham Symphony and a frequent sub with the NC Symphony. You can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit my website for more information at maxwangtuba.com.