B.M. Jazz Studies/Percussion Performance, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
30 years private instruction. Music direction for multiple off-broadway and community theater productions. Started the band program at Gill St. Bernard’s school. Directed the pit and jazz bands at Madision High School and Chatham High School for multiple years.
What do students need to bring to their first lesson?
Again, this depends on the instrument, but usually, whatever might be required to play the instrument along with a good idea of what goals they have and a willingness to answer questions about how we might achieve those goals together.
Depending on the level of the student, this might vary, but we’ll always focus on good technique and ergonomics on the instrument, a basic overview of how to get the most out of practice time, things to do while not playing the instrument that will improve musicality, and finding one’s strengths and weaknesses on the instrument.
My method books vary widely based on the instrument being taught and the particular style being studied, but for each discipline, I have a few go to books that are standard in the repertoire.
Weekly lessons are usually best. Practice time should be frequent vs. spaced out. Obviously the longer the better, but students will always do better if they practice 15 mins a day, every day, vs. 2 hours once a week. I tell students that 85% of playing the instrument is technique, endurance, muscle memory. The other 15% is musicianship. Even if you’re the most musical performer, if you are unable to execute your ideas on the instrument, you’ll never achieve your goals. While musicianship make make up as much of the total package, it’s extrememly important to make whatever technique you’ve developed truly shine.
Semester packages or yearlong lessons are always recommended. Depending on the instrument or study area, group classes can be good as well. There are also a wide variety of ensembles and playing opportunities offered through Wharton Arts.