My career in music education spanned over the last 30+ years until my retirement in 2019. Since then it has been my upmost pleasure to be able to work here at Valotta Studios, teaching electric bass and percussion. I find that my situation is unique as compared to most of the other educators at the studio. Most of the teachers are closer to the beginning of their careers, where I have already experienced a long career. It is because of this that I was asked to share my perspective on how the private (and small group) experience is so beneficial for any aspiring young musician.
During my tenure as a public and private school music educator, I was blessed with the opportunity to teach music in several different areas as well as the full range of ages K-12. This included instrumental, vocal, small and large ensembles, general classroom, small group lessons, and individual private instruction. Through these teaching experiences in conjunction with my background teaching privately, I am able to share my thoughts on the benefits of individual music instruction.
While large group participation is a wonderful and economical musical experience, it cannot meet every students’ needs. On the other hand, making music together with friends opens up the experience to far more than just the educational and aesthetic benefits. At Valotta Studios, students are offered both small group and individual music instruction. However, the
individual instructional experience (i.e. private lessons) is the primary foundation of where we can meet the needs of our music students. So what are the benefits to supplementing a student’s school based musical experiences? Here is a short list:
1. Individual lessons are designed to the student’s specific goals and needs. This is extremely beneficial if the student has any developmental or learning challenges, aspects that may be difficult to address in a school setting.
2. Students develop a singularly special relationship with their instructor. Any student can accomplish greater levels of success when they “click” with their teacher! This can be
difficult to obtain in a large school group due to the number of students that one teacher is
3. Individual pacing is a very big advantage that private lessons has over large group instruction alone. In a school music program, it is often very hard or even impossible to compensate for individual learning abilities depending on the amount of students participating at the same time. Where levels of competencies (sometimes referred to as talent) can be debated, every individual is capable of participating and enjoying the making of music (in my opinion). The rate of learning is completely individualized in private lessons, so the pacing is determined by the student and not by other external factors (ex. Up coming school concerts, the pacing of other students in the class).
4. As a supplement to the school music opportunities. Many students see music as their “thing that they love above all other endeavors!” They want to go the extra mile, but find this
challenging in the school musical experience. As a parent who raised two musicians and an
athlete, I can tell you that there is no better experience than excellent individual training
provided by an expert. To obtain their goals, often students need to go beyond what a school
music or athletic program can offer. This is especially true if the school has excellent programs
where students have to compete to be able to participate at high levels of achievement (some examples of this might be an audition for a select music ensemble, or in the case of athletics
making the varsity team).