Friday 28 July, 2011

viviennewintherVivienne Winther is Artistic Director of Music For Everyone, the ACTʼs community music organisation . In November 2005, Vivienne was named 'The Canberra Times Artist of the Year', for her uncompromising vision and achievement in gaining national and international recognition for opera in the ACT. Vivienne will be blogging for us in the run up to our Music in Communities day in Canberra.

Learning an instrument: Group tuition or individual lessons? Or maybe a bit of both?

A new term has started this week at Music For Everyone and we welcome back all our regular weekly participants to a flurry of activity. A couple of new beginner tuition groups have started up, as by mid-year the waiting list for beginners has grown enough to support extra groups.

Offering group tuition on all the instruments we teach, as an addition and alternative to the traditional individual one on one music lesson, has been a priority at Music For Everyone for several years now. Group tuition has its advantages and disadvantages. We feel the increased financial affordability of group tuition plus the enjoyable social aspect of learning music with others are two big factors in its favour.

smfe-kids-recordersIt certainly presents some challenges to our tutors to keep a group of students who may progress at different rates all working together successfully in the one lesson, and some instruments lend themselves to the group format better than others. Finding really good teaching material for the group tuition context is one issue, and a lot of our tutors have managed that by writing their own!

smfe-saxophonesBut group tuition has been a worthwhile priority for Music For Everyone to pursue, and it has paid off in the increased numbers of people, kids and adults, that we have been able to accommodate and encourage to have a go at learning an instrument for the first time. Many of the adults in our various performing ensemble groups started off as beginners in a group class, so their success in reaching a good enough level to play in an ensemble demonstrates that you can learn an instrument effectively in the group context. And some children seem keener to continue learning their instrument if they are in a group and make friends. The social aspect of music-making kicks in!

smfe-guitarsSo I’d encourage music teachers of all instruments to think about varying the format of their teaching from the standard one on one lesson. From personal experience as a piano teacher, my ideal set-up is a weekly individual lesson plus a weekly group lesson.  For a solo instrument like piano where you don’t usually get to play with others much at all, the group lesson can deliver a bit of the social side of music-making, and we use it to learn duets and trios, to work on the “boring’ bits like scales and sight-reading together, plus perform to each other- a great way to get over first-time nerves is to play to the super-critics of your peers and friends, if you can survive that, strangers are easy!