Over my teaching career I’ve had several students come to me and say, “I don’t need private lessons this year, because I’m taking vocals class at school.” I am certainly in no way against a vocals class in school! I wish our public schools had more of such opportunities. But, I am concerned about the fact that students think they don’t NEED private lessons, because they are getting music in school.
In my professional opinion a group class is no substitute for a private lessons. However, on the flip side, a private lesson is no substitute for a group class. Our mentality should not be one or the other, it should be both! The private lesson and the class are not in competition, they are complimentary. I think most of our students fail to realize that having MORE music in their life should be the goal.. not less!
The fact that private lessons are my career may make me a bit biased in that direction, but my musical experience is far from limited to private one-on-one instruction. I have sung in at least four choirs, accompanied at least 2 choirs, accompanied numerous soloists, duos, trios, and ensembles, played in bands for musicals, sang in small ensembles, duos, trios, and quartets. I love making music as a group! There’s something energizing about getting a group of people together and making beautiful music and harmonies.
However, without private instruction, my contribution to the group would have been far inferior. It’s the private lessons that taught me to read music so I could harmonize. My private lessons taught me to sight-read (a very NECESSARY skill in any musical group). My private lessons taught me the importance of counting and rhythm. Needless to say, it was my private lessons that allowed me to contribute to a group in a meaningful way!
I learned some things from being in groups too, that I never could have learned in private lessons. In groups I learned the importance of following, I learned to blend, I learned it’s not “all about me”, it’s about the whole package, I learned to harmonize, I learned to listen.
Students need to realize the value of learning music in a variety of settings. There are things you learn in a group that you will never learn in a private lesson and vice versa. I hope more students will take vocals and band classes offered at their schools, but not at the expense of a private lesson! You NEED both!