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CMP Frequently Asked Questions


Meredith Kahl
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How do I determine if this is the right time for my child to start music lessons?

Traditional lessons (meaning note reading taught along with instrumental techniques) generally start at the age of seven. Students more easily learn the concepts of music notation after they've established a solid basis for word reading. This is certainly the case for beginning pianists. 
Suzuki violin instruction, of course, can begin as early as age three, as it does not involve reading at first. 
Students might wait a few years longer to begin instruments that are larger and have more physical demands (such as brass and woodwinds). 
Voice instruction must wait until at least age 13, as the voice should have a more developed physical maturity to avoid any potential damage from intensive use.

I am an adult with absolutely no previous music background. Can I begin at this "late date"?

Yes! While learning something new can be a bit more “challenging” at an older age, the old adage “where there is a will, there is a way” absolutely holds true. Often the biggest impediment is finding adequate and regular time in your schedule. If you can bring consistent attention to your studies, coupled with the guidance of a sensitive and patient instructor, there is no reason you should not be able to gain a good deal of satisfying accomplishment. Carefully approached with the right materials, learning the new language of music notation can be as logical a process as so much else that we learn throughout our lives. After all, how many of us have successfully learned to master the foreign demands of computer skills later in life?!

How does one determine how much at-home practicing is necessary?

A useful rule-of-thumb: Each day’s practice should be as long as the lesson is. If you take a 45-minute lesson each week, try to plan on 45 minutes of well-focused time each day with your instrument. That time can be effectively split into two sessions at different times of day. It's good to have a minimum of five good practice sessions each week, and a maximum of six. Yes, six. Everyone is entitled to at least one day off!

My child really wants to play an instrument, but becomes very nervous at the thought of performing. Are recitals required, and what is the value?

Most teachers encourage each student to perform at least once each year. Nazareth CMP is very fortunate to have the use of the comfortable Wilmot Recital Hall several times during the school year. It is large enough to create a real "performance atmosphere," but not so large to intimidate a young player. Having to prepare pieces for a recital is the best way to learn how to really concentrate and focus. There is little that beats the wonderful feelings of accomplishment and pride after a successful performance. Self-confidence is immeasurably enhanced through this experience. And this goes for all ages — even adult students (who often admit to greater fear than younger students do).

Just what is “theory” and why have I heard I should study theory?

Music theory has to do with the language of music — how it is written, how its sounds make sense, how being able to recognize one thing can lead to other fascinating observations and understanding. Music is indeed a language, much like the verbal expression we take for granted. Being able to recognize and identify what amounts to the "grammar" of this language makes the experience of playing an instrument — and listening to music — so much more logical, reliable, and best of all, easy. Starting at an earlier age, like we learn the rudiments of language throughout our school-age years, is the best way to incorporate these basic concepts. Nazareth CMP offers two such classes for younger students on Saturday mornings.

I cannot start lessons right away in September. Can I register later on, or even during the summer?

Registration for lessons at Nazareth CMP continues throughout the school year. Tuition is prorated, so it would be applied only from the starting date, not the entire semester (which is 17 weeks). As many as seven lessons are available during the summer.

What happens if I have to miss a lesson? Is there a make-up policy? If my child cannot make it one week, can I "substitute" for him or her in the lessons, so I can brush up on my old skills?

Teachers almost always have a tight schedule of lessons throughout the week. If you know ahead of time that you will be unable to get to the lesson, please let the teacher know as soon as possible. That way the teacher has the best chance to try to rearrange things. In the event of a last-minute cancellation, the teacher may be unable to reschedule. 
Your teacher can let you know about the idea of a parent "substituting" in the lesson — many may find it a very useful idea. Being a "temporary student" can provide a parent with a good picture of what is regularly expected of the child in the lessons. Please refer to the "Registration" page of this site for a statement of CMP policy.
If a teacher has to cancel a lesson, the teacher is responsible for re-scheduling that lesson. 

My child (or I myself) seems to have to spend a lot of time alone with the instrument. If it is not something that can be played in a band or orchestra, what other opportunities are there?

This is so often an issue with pianists. While the instrument is perhaps the most versatile, it can be a solitary undertaking. Playing in small ensembles, usually referred to as "chamber music," can be enjoyable for players of almost any age. This can encompass duets at the same keyboard, two pianos being played by as many as four players (!), and especially playing with a mix of other instruments (both with and without piano). Much music is written for the widest range of abilities and combinations, and it can be readily arranged for specific situations. The hardest part is finding a time that works for everyone. The rest can be pure fun! Refer to the link for "Ensemble Program" for more information.

Does my child receive any sort of evaluation of progress for the lessons at Nazareth CMP?

At the end of each semester, the teacher fills out a progress report and gives it to the student and parents. This form provides an overview of the semester's work in terms of application, accomplishment, and initiative. Parents are always encouraged to be in contact with the teachers when necessary, by phone or in person (or via email), to share any concerns. Teachers will also provide feedback as the need arises throughout the year.

I have some other questions not dealt with here. Who do I contact?

Call the Nazareth College Music Department, (585) 389-2700
Or email the program coordinator:

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