Learning to play an instrument from a young age is such an amazing experience for kids. It’s a journey of confidence and self-discovery. The developmental impact that it has—neurologically, emotionally, and socially—is really quite unique and powerful. It’s our goal to make that experience fun for students and something doable for you as parents. Here’s a summary of the important points that most parents want to know:
Violin, Guitar, or Piano – Our recommendation for most 3-6 year-old beginning students is violin. We’ve found over the years that it’s developmentally more appropriate for that age (details below). Moreover, there will be more available violin spots in the program, ensuring violin students a higher likelihood of being able to start right away. If there is still space available in the program schedule after accommodating all violin students, we’ll then offer these spots to any parents who have registered specifically for guitar or piano. Wait lists will be maintained for any registered students after the program reaches initial capacity this Fall. In the case program capacity is reached, second-year returning Music Kids students receive priority registration, followed by the brand-new beginners!
Brain Development – Unlike any other activity we know of, learning to play a musical instrument grows a child’s neural network exponentially. Because it unifies all three major sensory pathways, studies show a long-term increase in spacial-temporal IQ by 46%. Spacial-Temporal IQ is one reflection of the capacity a child has to compute and reason using the knowledge structures at the foundations of math and science.
Social & Emotional Maturity – Studies also show a profound impact on verbal communication skills and emotional development—speech, language learning, memory, attention, and the ability to convey emotions —all greatly improved in students that are learning to play an instrument.
More Impact in Early Years – The earlier you begin learning to play a musical instrument, the better. 95% of a person’s permanent life-time neural connections are made by age 12. The younger the age, the more rapidly these connections are being made.
Making Good Citizens – Music Kids lessons are about far more than teaching technique, growing brains, and making kids happy (though we do all of that too!). By teaching them how to create a beautiful tone and play beautiful melodies on their instrument, we teach them something that stays with them their entire life—the experience of beauty. Playing an instrument is more than an academic study; it’s an expression of the human spirit. This kind of comprehensive education is important for the flourishing of society itself.
To quote Dr. Shininchi Suzuki: “Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart… Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.”
Duration – The program is a school year long program consisting of 28 class weeks of instruction, typically from the first week of October up through the end of school.
**All registered families will receive a scheduling preference poll the week of 9/12** All classes are 30 minutes in length held once per week throughout the school year for 28 weekly classes. Violin and Guitar classes occur in groups of 3-4 students depending on enrollment, and piano classes have a maximum of 2 students learning together. Classes take place after school on several different weekdays between 3:30pm – 6:00pm. If your student is enrolled in aftercare at Peabody, we’ll make arrangements to go pick them up when it’s class time.
Flexibility Needed – Since we are expecting a high volume of registrations at Peabody, and since students will be paired with schoolmates in classes, we ask that all parents plan for any possible class time beginning as early as 3:30pm and ending as late as 6:00pm. While we are not able to reserve particular days and times for individual students prior to registration, rest assured we’ll work with parents to accommodate a workable class time for all registered students. Following registration, we’ll conduct a scheduling preference poll with each family. We’ll do our very best to work around any schedule conflicts with you, ensuring everyone has a workable weekly class time.
School Closures – If there’s an unexpected school closure or a rare teacher sick day, no worries — there’s enough buffer in the school calendar that nearly always allows us to get in all 28 planned classes. We’ll be keeping track! In the rare case of any shortage below the planned 28, we’ll pro-rate tuition for you as needed at the end of the school year.
Format – The classes are individualized and hands-on learning, which is the only way to learn an instrument at a young age. In the case of violin and guitar, classes are conducted in “pods” of a couple of kids together. After ten years of working with many hundreds of students, we’ve found that this format is most effective and socially engaging. It’s fun for students and allows us to use a whole tool box of peer-to-peer learning techniques. In the case of piano, classes are one-on-one with the teacher and the piano.
Summer Time – An entirely optional summer session is typically held with details forthcoming later this spring. While some students prefer to take a summer break and return to studies over the fall (this is entirely normal!), we’ll try to hold an optional summer session for those who really want to keep their fingers in shape.
Rental is Included – The violin and guitar program includes the use of a rental instrument year round, so you don’t have to run around and rent one. Each child gets an instrument sized perfectly for them within their first 2-3 classes. When they need the next size up (which usually is the case once per school year), we swap them out for a bigger one. We also cover any accidental damage like bows or strings breaking, which is surprisingly rare. Continued use of the violin/guitar over the summer is free for students planning to continue on in the program the following year.
Why the Violin? – The violin is an ideal instrument to start on, especially for young kids, because it’s proportionate in size to the child. It’s physically easier for them (as compared to a larger instrument like the guitar or piano) and less daunting. But even for older kids, it’s an ideal starting instrument to train their ear since they directly control which pitch the instrument makes (no frets or keys that automatically make the pitch for them).
Piano at Home – For students interested in the piano program, parents will ideally have a piano or keyboard at home for practicing, as rental is not included. While we don’t have a firm requirement on this, a piano or keyboard at home is highly recommended. For most students at home, a mid-range keyboard with pressure-sensitive keys, bench and pedal is perfectly appropriate for beginning students. It’s recommended that any families registering for piano await a final confirmation on classes beginning before investing in a piano or keyboard.
Fun, Easy, & Doable – Our program is designed with very busy students and parents in mind! We provide step-by-step demonstration videos, making things doable for students and parents with no prior musical experience. Parents can view these private class video summaries, typically each week, conveniently on their mobile device or home computer. In addition, we maintain robust teacher communication and parent update reports to keep parents in the know.
Practicing is Easy – For most beginning students during their first year, marathon practicing at home is not needed! The core of their weekly learning happens in class. Regular at-home practicing becomes more important in the second and third years once they’re more independent with the instrument. During the first year, simple video summaries from the teacher will show you some easy ways to support your student’s learning, including at-home and in-the-car listening to the songs we’re learning. If the instrument is played for just 10 minutes a couple days a week, you’re going great! We’ll be there to help.
Our Approach – For violin, we use the Suzuki Method of instruction as the core of our curriculum. It’s proven to be one of the most effective ways of getting young kids to learn an instrument because it focuses on the learning strengths of the child, using imitation, repetition, and imagination. For piano, we utilize several different books that are age-appropriate for each child.
Recitals – The program also includes performance opportunities for the kids to show off what they’ve learned in a non-pressure friends and family environment. We’ve seen it time and time again: kids just beam after they’ve shown off their new found skills on the instrument! It’s such a great thing for their development and self-identity as a young musician. We do a once-a-year recital in the spring, as well as other integrated events with the school as often as we can! (i.e. holiday concerts, show-and-tell, etc)
Monthly Budget Option – This option takes the annual tuition and divides it evenly into 9 monthly installments of $135. Installments are automatically processed on the 3rd of every month, October 3rd – June 3rd inclusive.
Consolidated Annual and Semesterly Options – Parents can also opt for either 1 annual or 2 semestral installments. We are glad to offer a 3% discount for these consolidated plans! Annual installments are processed on October 3rd. Semesterly installments are processed on October 3rd and February 3rd, respectively.
Sibling Discount – For families enrolling more than one child in the program, we offer a 10% sibling discount on the 2nd and 3rd children.
Materials – If your student occasionally needs a new music book, we’ll order that in for you and conveniently include it on your next installment. These are typically very inexpensive and infrequent.
Cost Comparison – Just as a frame of reference, compared to taking annual classes at a Suzuki studio outside of school, our tuition is typically several hundred dollars less expensive! And that’s even with the added convenience of our on-site classes at school. We really try to do everything we can to make it both as convenient and affordable as possible for parents.
Discontinuation – We like to work closely with parents and students to overcome any challenges. We’re all about teaching children how to stick with things and helping them experience the rewards when they do. We’ll make adjustments and remix things however we can to ensure each student is having a positive experience! We do ask that parents allow us to exercise due diligence to work through any challenges. After this due diligence and working together, we definitely leave room for parents to decide on discontinuation at no additional cost. In practice, though, this is exceptionally rare because our classes are fun and engaging!
Meet The Teachers!
Brandon Lewis – Brandon Lewis is thrilled to be teaching violin in the Watkins community this year! Brandon is a graduate of Catholic University of America with a Bachelor of Music degree. He has taught instrumental music at Ingenuity Prep Charter School, Garfield Elementary School, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and more. Brandon is highly organized and incredibly joyful music educator who is committed to helping your student thrive on the violin.
Brendan Lynch – Brendan is a guitar and piano instructor and a DC area native. He recently moved back to the area after graduating from the University of South Carolina with a masters degree in performance on the classical guitar. While at the University of South Carolina Brendan held an assistant professor position for a Guitar 101 class. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Guitar College while also performing internationally with the award winning Guilford Guitar ensemble. Since graduating Brendan has found his calling as a teacher and is very excited to be a part of the Music Kids faculty. In his spare time Brendan is a diehard DC sports fan and enjoys watching the Capitals and Nationals!
Marquita Ntim – Affectionately called “Ms. Marquita” by her students, Marquita is looking forward to sharing the gift of music with Music Kids’ students this year. She has taught voice, piano, violin, viola, cello, and songwriting to students of all ages for nearly half her lifetime in schools, private lessons, ensembles, choirs, and orchestras. She writes Gospel music, and she has a CD on iTunes as well as Spotify, featuring her playing viola An avid performer, Marquita has performed at The Kennedy Center, Strathmore, Lincoln Theatre, many churches, and embassies including the Austrian, Italian, and French. She has a Bachelor of Science from Shenandoah University Conservatory of Music in Arts Management. One of the most enjoyable parts of being able to create music to Marquita is the ability to share it with others. Music is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Next Step: Registration
For brand new beginning students, securing a spot in the program is first come first serve on the basis of student registrations. Violin registrations are prioritized, with guitar and piano offered only if remaining space is available. Rest assured, no billing occurs until a weekly class time has been confirmed by your teacher, who will be in touch with you shortly after registration! Registration will open the same morning that other FLEX enrichment activities are confirmed.