How Environment Affects Music Lessons

When it comes to music lessons, I think the environment is extremely important. Most of my music teacher friends and colleagues teach in a school or music studio setting. As a teacher with Lessons In Your Home, I teach in students’ homes. Although private in-home music lessons are far more convenient for the student than they are for the teacher, the positive effect of the environment and the weekly interaction with the student families make it worth it for me.
As a musical performer and private music instructor, I perform and teach in a variety of locations and environments. Each place has its own energy and presence. The way the hall feels, the way a room sounds — these and other factors have an effect on the psyche of the people playing. In this article, I explore the effects of environment on learning.

How the Environment Can Hurt

Temperature and Comfort

If a student lives in Houston or Dallas (or some other hot climate), summer lessons at a facility like a school or music studio can pose some serious challenges. What if the air conditioner isn’t working properly? If it’s too hot, the discomfort felt by both student and teacher can ruin things. If its’ too cold, chilly fingers and vocal cords can’t do their best work. In facilities like these, the music teacher generally has little control to make the environment more comfortable.

Performing in a Fishbowl

What if the student is in a practice room next to the band hall where all her friends can listen? What if she’s taking lessons at a studio or music store where every customer, employee, parent, & student can hear what she’s doing in the practice room?
The confident, advanced student who doesn’t mind showing off might like this. But the fact is that music lessons are about growth and progress. And you can’t achieve growth or progress without making and learning from mistakes. I think it’s fair to say that most music students don’t want to be in a fishbowl during their lessons. The self-consciousness of knowing others can hear you negatively affects how most students would perform in lessons. After all, they didn’t sign up for weekly performances in front of strangers!

How the Environment Can Help

Dogs scare me, but they are my students’ best friends.

A great environment for learning is a familiar, private place with comfortable temperature and minimal disruption. Most students can’t wait to get home after school. For most students, everything about home is comfortable and reassuring. While the giant dog that greets me at the door might scare me to death and put me on edge, to the student it’s a welcoming furry friend. The point is that my comfort doesn’t matter as much as the student’s does. (Although I do wish they would lock that dog in a room!)

Even musicians get cranky when they’re hungry.

A hungry student is a cranky student, and a fed student is a happy student. When I’m hungry, I’m no use to anyone. The same goes for younger people! I don’t expect them to give me their full attention and try their hardest when all they can think about is food because they haven’t eaten since 11 am. I think the absolute perfect time for lessons with a public school student is at home right after school and after snack.

The home environment fosters rapport.

Something I have come to realize as a Lessons In Your Home teacher is that I feel more like a friend of the family than I think I would if I taught them at school or another location.
I feel as if I’m invested more in them and vice versa. I don’t just think about making sure they accomplish small musical tasks each week. I’m able to build a deeper rapport with the students and their families, which makes the lessons even more successful. I look forward to teaching them instead of dreading the work. I think the home environment is primarily responsible for the rapport I’ve built with each of my families.

You are home!

For me, the best environment is one that complements both the music and my own comfort. The student’s comfort is most important for a good lesson. A teacher can overcome a bad environment and still provide a good lesson, but it’s not that simple for kids. Kids will have a harder time ignoring whatever is affecting them. In the privacy of their own home, my students can be their best.
At the very least, they’re not thinking, “I can wait to get home!”

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