Boosting Your Performance in Band Class

There is a hugely popular and very fun culture of school band programs here in Seattle. From as early as 4th grade until graduation, students can play in a variety of different ensembles. From Choirs, to Jazz Bands, to orchestras, there are many options. But to really make the most of a musical education, the private lesson is an indispensable element. It allows a student’s understanding and command of creativity, work ethic and self-expression flourish. Consider the following:

  • The musical education of most band programs are structured to achieve a very specific result-oriented goal: to have a very good sounding ensemble. That is, players who learn the craft of being one part of a many part group. A fabulous skill no doubt! However, very singular in scope.
  • Is not the purpose of an education in music to be musical? Of course in a band program many of the fundamentals of music are taught effectively. However, as is the case in almost every other form of education that we think about, a large group limits the ability of the educator to adapt and cater to individual students. A creative and artistic expression, music and the fulfillment of a musical education is extremely personal. How to unlock the potential of a child can vary greatly from student to student. 
  • To mentor a student to their full potential is something that I strive for and as a private teacher I am uniquely positioned to do so. To nurture a child’s specific strengths, to improve on their weaknesses, to discover their passions, these are inarguably essential to holistic and deep musical growth, yet nearly impossible to achieve fully in the classroom music ensemble setting.

Again, this is not to say that a band class is a detriment to the budding musician. On the contrary, band classes offer a perfect opportunity for a music student to exist as a musician at a very early stage - experience! However, consider these last two points about large band classes.  

1. Not every child is created equal in terms of sociability, confidence and innate ability. I've worked with many students who find it difficult to feel excited about learning because of the many pressures that exist there. It can even in extreme cases become a negative factor on a student and inhibit a natural ability or joy. I've come across students nearly paralyzed by the pressures of their band program. However, through the opportunities in lessons for uninhibited exploration, they moved on to carve out their own unique voice!

2. There is a very limited scope of musical styles that a kids encounter in a band class and again, while all the skills and experiences are wonderful, it’s not hard to imagine that some students might not get as excited by their band music as other rock bands, electronic beats, pop-music, or experimental noise! The truth is that kids, like all people, have extremely varied tastes in sounds, songs, and genres. The private-teacher here has a great advantage in discovering what ’s most exciting, and generate natural, sustainable motivation for the real work of learning, and long-term skill development. 

This here is possibly the most important piece of the whole puzzle. A good private-teacher and student relationship builds the experience of investing time and work into a craft. Your child learns how to reap the infinitely more gratifying rewards of this kind of commitment. It’s a development that transfers over to nearly every facet of life at any age, irregardless of a career in music.

Ivan Arteaga teaches saxophone, clarinet, flute and beginning piano at Creative Music Adventures in Wallingford.