Why Group Lessons?

Part 1 of the Group Teaching series written by guest contributor Marissa Erekson

I moved to Virginia where most parents had never heard of group piano lessons before. In the beginning I spent a lot of time speaking with parents about all of the benefits of group piano lessons, but soon the benefits were apparent and were spread by word of mouth by happy parents. Initially I gave several reasons of why kids would benefit from a group setting including:

• Ensemble opportunities each week
• Performance opportunities each week
• A comfortable setting where they could practice rhythm games and counting (most parents who had studied piano as a kid remembered that they did not enjoy counting)
• A setting where they could play theory games that weren’t possible in a private setting (continuing to emphasize a child’s love of games and how so many more games are possible in the group setting)
• Longer lesson time each week
• Opportunities to learn to critique music in a comfortable setting
• All other activities are linked with a child’s innate love of making friends and being social (sports, etc) in which most kids would create memories and continue longer term.
• A cooperative learning environment.

In the end, one of the greatest reasons for group lessons related to the parents’ competitiveness. In a private lesson setting where parents see their child compared to other students only at the recitals, they would make excuses if their child wasn’t as good as others. But every single week parents would see their child compared to others who began lessons at the same time and would realize that every child could succeed in music. Parents began to see that all children could be successful in music if they put in the practice time (same as with academics). This promoted great parental assistance with the practicing and student adherence to practice schedules. Students were also very excited about lessons because they created “musical friendships,” many of which I learned expanded outside of lessons.

Most parents had never heard of group piano lessons, and if they had it was always cast in light of being second best and for students who weren’t as talented. (I only ever had one student who was “too talented” to be in group lessons. But that was because she began practicing 1 hour a day or more her first year of lessons. Most 6 year olds don’t practice 1-2 hours a day.) In the beginning I had to explain a lot about how great it was for students to be able to work in a cooperative atmosphere where they could work together to develop their skills. Once lessons began, parents did all of the advertising and I seldom had to explain to a new
parent the benefits of a group setting.

Jennifer Boster

3 Responses to “Why Group Lessons?

  • Thanks for the great article on group-teaching. This is my 10th year of teaching beginner piano in groups. (I teach the Music for Young Children curriculum). Children begin up to the age of about 10 in age-appropriate groups. They adore their "music friends" & we emphasize team-work all the time. About 5 years ago one of my group students won an international composition festival & every other parent in the class cried tears of joy when they found out that their classmate had won (even though they had all entered the contest). Such a supportive "team" of parents for every child!

  • I've been incorporating a few group lessons a year into my teaching program. I've always insisted they were for students only. I find the idea of the parents' competitiveness intriguing – and I think well worth exploring. Do you have parents sit in on every group lesson?
    In response to the above comment about MYC, I don't teach it but I've had some "graduates" of the program and can't say enough about it! These students have such a good grasp of so many things. They are a pleasure to work with.

  • I've had parents sit in on the lessons, but they typically just come for the "Parent time" at the end when the students show off what they learned during the lesson (and I give the parents a "heads up" for the upcoming week).

    Their "competitiveness" was more in regards to how the parents realize that all kids can succeed with support from parents at home each day. They wanted their children to succeed, and they saw each week how the other children were successful (piano isn't just for the few who are "naturally gifted"), so it motivated a great deal of parental practice support at home.