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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?

Generally, traditional lessons (meaning note reading is taught along with instrumental techniques) start at the age of seven. Having already established a solid basis for word reading in school, the concepts of music notation are much more easily assimilated by that age. This is certainly the case for beginning pianists. Suzuki instruction, of course, can begin as early as the age of three, as it does not involve reading at first. Depending upon the size of particular instruments and their physical demands upon the player, some (such as brass and woodwinds) might want to wait a few years. And voice instruction must wait until at least the age of thirteen, as the voice should really have a more developed physical maturity in order 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"?

The answer is unequivocally yes! While we all know that learning something like a new language or routine can often be a bit more “challenging” at an older age, the old adage “where there is a will, there is a way” absolutely holds true. The biggest impediment is simply finding adequate and regular time in the midst of one’s already hectic life schedule. So long as you can bring to your studies a consistent amount of attention, coupled with the guidance of a sensitive and patient instructor, there is no reason why anyone 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 continually learn throughout our lives. After all, how many of us have successfully learned to master the utterly foreign demands of computer skills later in life?!

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

A useful rule-of-thumb might be to figure that each day’s practice should be as long as the lesson is. If, for example, you take a three-quarter-hour lesson each week, try to plan on 45 minutes of well-focused time each day with your instrument. Those 45 minutes could even be effectively split into two sessions at different times of day. It would be 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 in a recital. Is this required, and just what is the value of recitals?

Most teachers will 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 as to intimidate a young player. Having to prepare one’s 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 is it something I have heard that I ought to study?

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, very much like the verbal expression we take so much for granted. Being able to recognize and identify what amounts to the "grammar" of this language makes the experience of playing an instrument—and also just listening to music—so much more logical, reliable, and best of all, easy. Starting at an earlier age, just as 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 that it would be applied only from the starting date, not the entire semester (which is seventeen weeks in length). As many as seven lessons are available during the summer.

What happens if I have to miss a scheduled lesson? Is there a make-up policy at Nazareth CMP? If my child cannot make it one week, might it be possible for me to "substitute" for him or her in the lessons, so I can brush up a bit 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 well be unable to reschedule. If a teacher has to cancel a lesson, the teacher is responsible for re-scheduling that lesson. Your teacher can let you know about the idea of a parent "substituting" in the lesson—many may find it to be 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.

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 their instrument is perhaps the most versatile, it can be a solitary undertaking. Playing in small ensembles, usually referred to as "chamber music", can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience 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. As it turns out, the hardest part of doing this is finding a time that works for everyone involved. 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 will fill out a Progress Report and give it to the student and parents. This form will provide 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 even 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?

You can call the Nazareth College Music Department at (585) 389-2700, or email the Program Coordinator at

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