Parent Teacher Corner

We understand that there can be many questions that may arise when it comes to getting your children involved in music. Where can I find a qualified private teacher? Should I rent or buy an instrument? etc. Music teachers from across the Pittsburgh area are here to answer all your questions and make the process of getting your child involved in music as easy as possible. We will respond to a new question each month, so check back soon! Have a question you would like us to answer? Fill out our question submission form or send it to! 

December 2022 Question: What are your staple materials that students should expect to use in each lesson?


-Beth Schiemer, Director of Education at Brighton Music Center and private teacher of clarinet and saxophone, says:

Students really only need their instrument, extra reeds (because you never when reeds will quit), methods books/sheet music, and a pencil. We have good music stands in the studios but I would hope the student would have a music stand at home for their practicing.

-Rachel Stegeman private teacher and owner of Fiddlers Too Inc. says:

In each lesson, the student can expect to use the instrument itself, rosin, shoulder rest, pencil, metronome, all music assigned, recording device, music stand, practice journal, and my mirror. Recordings also may be played, or youtube examples if useful. Other things sometimes: highlighter, colored pencils, Post-its, and stickers as a reward!

Jennifer Madge, private teacher and owner of Pittsburgh Music Academy says:

All lessons are beautiful connections between the teacher, student, and possibly the parent, depending on the age of the student, of course.  All that is really needed are the people and the instruments.  Lessons can occur outside, online, or in any number of buildings from churches to stores to homes.  But, having a few more supplies might make the experience even better:

  • Chairs for parents, teachers, and students when resting (unless required for playing the instrument)
  • Ideally, a music stand for both teacher and student
  • a table for cases to rest on
  • notebooks for note taking and pencils for this and music marking.  Staff paper might come in handy, too!
  • required musical textbooks
  • a tuner and metronome (or smartphone app!)
  • a recording device for making teacher examples, video, and/or audio
  • the internet for quick info searches
  • instrument quick fixes:  extra strings, rosin, valve oil, cleaning cloth, etc.
  • Minds and bodies ready to learn, grow and make music!

Andrew Symington, who teaches french horn private lessons, says:

My go-to is book 1 of the Maxime-Alphonse Two Hundred New Melodic and Gradual Studies for Horn. Each melody is interesting and fun, which provides a great context for technical and musical growth as a horn player. I also love “Recipe for Success: A Balanced Curriculum for Young Horn Players” by Karen Houghton and Janet B. Nye. I use this resource with my youngest players because it provides comprehensive guidance in one place.

November 2022 Question: What does a typical private lesson with you look like?


Jennifer Madge, Owner and private violin teacher at Pittsburgh Music Academy says: 

The student and parent are welcomed into the lesson room with a smile and we catch up on the life events since our last meeting.  The student unpacks the instrument and tunes the violin to the best of their ability (with the teacher or parent offering assistance as needed). The lesson begins with a bow, a sign of respect for each other, and a signal to note the start of the lesson.
We begin with some kind of warm-up:  the current study scale and exercises, an etude targeting a specific technique, or some other kind of work on tone.  This directs our mental focus to improve our music and demonstrates the work accomplished since the last lesson.
Next, we move on to the current repertoire:  orchestral excerpts, solos, or review pieces.  We may start with a “performance” to check overall progress or immediately target trouble zones.  Throughout this time of the lesson, we are creating the goals for the home practice and techniques to meet those goals.
Finally, we move on to theory:  reading music or introducing new pieces and concepts.  A specific plan is designed to guide the home practice in order to move the student ahead in skills and repertoire.
The lesson finishes with another bow and a time for any questions, either from students or parents.  Everyone takes notes throughout the lesson so Big Ideas can be remembered.

Aaron Gray, Owner and private teacher of Practice Makes Perfect Music Studio says:

Typical lessons get split into two sections, techniques and repertoire. Usually, the first half hour is spent working on scales, arpeggios, or other technical exercises. The second half of the lesson is where we work on assigned repertoire. This way our students get a good grasp of their instrument as well as the theory and technique needed to execute it.

-Victoria McGinnis, Owner of Craft Your Music says: 

Focused, fun, and student-centered – week after week it is easy to observe progress in our classrooms.

Andrew Symington, who teaches french horn private lessons, says:

I cover fundamentals and repertoire in my lessons: Ear training, embouchure development, technique, scales, etc., and solos, etudes, or ensemble music that the student brings. My goal is to help the student learn to identify good sound, rhythm, and musicality for themselves as they mature. I organize my comments to that end. I also demonstrate on my horn frequently in order to help them learn through their musical ears and not merely by technical concepts.

Beth Schiemer, Director of Education at Brighton Music Center and private teacher of clarinet and saxophone, says:

Private lessons with me are tailor-made for each individual student because each individual student is unique.  I ask them how their day is, what’s happening in school, and what exciting things are happening in their life.  This gives me an idea of where the student’s mind is at the time as well as things that may have complicated their preparation for the lesson.  From there, the student performs the items they were assigned the week before in lessons.  We review where needed, and move on as we can, and I always strive to move the student forward musically at their own individual pace.

Nathan Meyers, who teaches lower brass private lessons, says

A normal lesson looks different for every student!  Each one is going to start with a friendly greeting and a fun warm-up to get the student ready to play their best.  The teacher will play along with the student in order to serve as a model of a good sound.  Next, the student and teacher (briefly) discuss goals for the lesson in order for the most important and pressing material to be given time to be worked on.  For example, a student struggling with music for an upcoming performance or audition is likely to want to work on that material in their lesson.  If not, then there will be work on solos, etudes, or other exercises.  The student will always have input in what they play so as to pick material that is enjoyable; it is the job of the teacher to make sure that the music is appropriately challenging as well.  In a relaxed but serious environment, a lesson is a place where the teacher gives the students constructive feedback on all aspects of being a musician, including technical ability, how to practice, time management, and the mental game.
Rather than being one-size-fits-all, lessons are a collaboration between student and teacher.  They are fun, full of playing and packed with feedback tailored to the specific goals of the specific student.

Have a question you would like us to answer? Send it to! 

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