A homeschooled music student recently wrote to MajoringInMusic.com in response to the article “Want to Major in Music but off to a Late Start?”
by Tom Hynes, professional guitarist, assistant professor of music at Azusa Pacific University and instructor at Idyllwild Arts Academy.
While self-taught in piano, guitar and voice, and clearly determined to succeed, the student recognized that her ability to progress was limited by a lack of instruction. She also never played in an orchestra or ensemble or sung in a chorus outside of her church. She asked MajoringInMusic.com for advice in preparing to become a music major in college.
We’re sharing Hynes’ response here. We thought it would benefit other students (and parents) with the same question.
The old line goes, “It’s not just about working hard; it’s about working smart.” One of the greatest things a private teacher can offer is an overall plan, plus specific instruction, on how to reach a goal.
I often hear, especially from new students, “That is so much easier than the way I was trying to do it!” after I’ve offered them advice or insight that they couldn’t figure out themselves. Self-taught students often make the process unnecessarily slow or painful, because they lack the insight that a well-qualified teacher can offer about how to approach something easily and productively. It pains me to see a motivated, hard-working student progress slowly and painfully. But it’s not unusual for students without private teachers.
Homeschooled students often exclude themselves from school music programs that would provide experience, challenges, perspective and camaraderie. When parents who homeschool are musically-trained themselves, they are usually aware of this, and look for alternatives and substitutes. But when parents are not musically-trained, their musical children often miss out on this. As a result, the students don’t realize what they are missing, at least not until much later.
While it is admirable to work on a technique book, it is not likely to be very productive if you cannot connect it to actual playing. If you are playing incorrectly and inefficiently, your practice hours are merely reinforcing bad habits that need to be slowly and painfully corrected later. This is an extremely common scenario among freshman music majors starting a program with little or poor prior training.
For more tips, read Tom Hynes’ “Prepare to be a College Music Major.”