Who Are the Best Candidates for Private Music Lessons?

Summer’s a great time to book a few trial lessons, to be sure we’re a good fit for each other before the fall! Contact me today!

My business model may be a bit unique when compared to those of other music teachers, so let me try to explain it in just a sentence or two: I have not come at teaching music lessons primarily as a way to make money, but as a way to do something really meaningful that also makes money.

Limited Slots

Given my outside work with Sing Montana! and the humanities courses I teach for homeschoolers, I only have time for about 15-20 private lessons in a week. While students will naturally come and go, I do prioritize lesson slots for those students I think will get the most out of the lessonsnot only having the most fun, but achieving the most learning.

Age and the Three Crucial Skills

While I work with students of all ages, age is not the limiting factor for who will do well in private music lessons as much as it is the student’s ability to communicate freely with the teacher as well as being in touch with his or her own body. Students can start very young in various music classes and beginning-level ensembles, where they can gain some of the basic skills, while they are growing in the following skills, which make them good candidates for private instruction:

  • Self-awareness
  • Communication
  • Abstract thinking

The students most suited to private musical instruction are those who are capable of having a comfortable conversation with the teacher, are in touch with their bodies, and are good at grasping

The learning of intermediate and advanced singing skills, even more than the other musical arts, requires a surprising amount of skill in self-awareness, communication, and abstract thinking. And humans range widely on the grasp of these things. Some kids of elementary school age are good enough at these things to excel in private voice lessons, while some adults are still not ready.

“I Just Love to Sing!”

In short, those most ready to be private music students go beyond the common “I just love to sing!” or “I just love to play!” and are the sort who learn to love the study of singing or playing. They are the sort to be somewhat analytical about it, and who can discuss it well, while still loving the art form and the performing experience. And as music teachers are constantly making use of metaphors and ideas to get at non-obvious things, such as the diaphragm or the larynx or the resonant quality of a musical tone, the abstract thinker is apt to do much better than the non-abstract thinker.

Is there some sort of test?

There may well be some tests one could take to determine where they are in these three crucial skills, but the easiest way is simply to give the lessons a try and see how it goes. I suggest a trial period of up to three lessons, after which the student and teacher (and parent?) can compare notes to see if we’re a good match for going forward.


I think it’s important that student and teacher should be able to enjoy each other’s company reasonably well. And I totally recognize that people will naturally vary in their view of any teacher’s personality, just as any teacher will vary in his or her view from student to student. While many have a natural disposition of wanting to get along well with others, we don’t always have as easy a time getting along with one another as we might like. And it can be for the simplest reasons! For example, two people can have different speech patterns that make long-term conversation too awkward to be enjoyed. Or alternately, their personality conflicts can be as complicated as having different worldviews that create an underlying tension that robs the enjoyment of the lesson time.

If it should turn out where we’re not an enjoyable personality match, I think we should be able to acknowledge that matter-of-factly, just as if our schedules couldn’t match, or as if you wanted to learn an instrument I don’t teach. Being able to enjoy the lesson time is very important to me, and I hope it’s important to the student, too. So let’s be very diligent about seeing that we’re a good match for each other. Life’s too short to spend in music lessons we’re not really enjoying!