Choosing the right music school

Written by Jana Lok.

There are a number of factors to consider when looking for the right music school and program for your child.

Many parents consider cost of lessons and geographical location to be very important, it is even more important to consider the quality of the instruction, resources available and the facility.

The Cost of Lessons

The cost of lessons can vary from $20 to $50 per half hour with the average being about $25. There are many factors that schools consider when setting their lesson prices. You can expect to pay more for lessons with a highly experienced teacher in a quality school. Some schools offer different rates for different teachers and other schools maintain consistent pricing throughout. You should aim to find the most experienced teacher that will work well with your child and family. Professional student-teacher relationships last many years. A child's success in music will be influenced by the bond that is developed between her/him and the teacher.

If you find lessons advertised for well below the market price, make sure that you do your research. Schools can sometimes offer promotions but if you are paying about $20 per half hour or even less, it could be indicative of an unqualified or inexperienced teacher. While it may seem like a bargain, you often get what you pay for. Music teachers, like all other professions, require years of training and experience to develop mastery. A quality teacher deserves to be compensated fairly for his or her work.

Another important factor is the facility and equipment. A quality music school will be equipped with spacious studios and professional quality instruments. Studios should have ample space to accommodate the student, parents and teacher. Although piano lessons are mostly situated at the keyboard, other instrumental lessons (i.e. violin, cello, trombone, etc) require much more movement. Students should also be learning on professional pianos. While quality keyboards and studio pianos are usually adequate for beginner and intermediate students, students should always have the opportuntiy to play on high quality instruments during lessons. This becomes even more important at the advanced levels. A quality upright piano (ex. Yamaha U3) costs over $8000, with quality grand pianos ranging from $20,000 - $50,000. The studios should also have good lighting and air quality. The learning environment is very important for optimal learning. Teachers also need to work in a good environments. Providing a quality learning environment can also add to the cost of lessons, but this is a factor that can greatly affect learning.

Music Schools Vs Private Teachers

Here are few things to consider when deciding between a music school and private teacher:

Music School Private Teacher

- opportunities for collaborative learning (between various students as well as teaching faculty)

- various program options (group classes, ensembles, specialized programs)

- flexible scheduling (students can often take lessons at the same time)

- access to resources and equipment (schools can have access to professional instruments, resources and equipment)

- performance opportunities (school recitals, concerts, festivals)

- part of larger musical community (schools are often affiliated with other organizations and educational institutions)

- professional accountability (music schools are long-running businesses that rely on their professional reputations for success

- possibility for reduced lesson costs (less overhead expenses)

- lessons in students' homes or home studio (could offer convenience)

- limited performance opportunities (unless the teacher has a large studio and plans on frequent student recitals or concerts)

- less opportunity for collaborative learning (private teachers often work independently)

- less flexibility in scheduling

- possibility of turn-over (teacher might move or not be able to teach beyond a certain level)


Some music schools offer a variety of program options (i.e. classes for young children, group music classes, specialized programs) whereas other schools focus on individual instruction. Firstly, it is important to consider the type of program that you are looking for. Group music classes are very effective for young children (ages 3 - 6). Group music classes offer children the opportunitiy to learn from their peers as well as the teacher. It is very difficult for a young child to sit and work effectively during a 30 min private lessson. Group classes are fun and engaging and provide an optimal learning environment for young musicians. There are also many benefits to combined individual and private lesson programs (i.e. integrated Suzuki programs). Children receive individuals lessons and then have the opportunity to work their peers during groups. These groups classes are also fun and motivating. Students may later choose to continue in private lesson programs. Quality music schools can then offer numerous performance opportunities (i.e. recitals, concerts, competitions) and also collaborative learning through ensembles, workshops and masterclasses. 

Who Is Running/Operating the School?

While every music school needs to remain financially sustainable, it takes more than a business person to run a great music school. It requires a highly experienced musician, educator and leader (or a team) to organize, implement and oversee a quality music school. Take the time to get to know who runs your school, and learn about his or her values, and vision. 

Awards and Recognition

Does it matter if a school is voted the best music school in Markham? Music schools are made up of the teachers and students. Really, it is the individual merits of the teaching staff and students which determine success. Are you looking for your child to be the next Royal Conservatory of Music gold medal winner or would you simply like to enrich your child's life with music? Find a highly experienced and passionate teacher. But also take the time to get to know your teacher. The best learning happens when teachers and students develop a professional bond and they are able to work well together. 

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