Thanks for visiting The Harbor School’s program page! 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 – All ages 3 and up are welcome!
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. When school’s on holiday break we don’t have classes scheduled either.
Frequency – Classes are 30 minutes and held once per week, excluding any holidays or school closures. If there’s an unexpected school closure or 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!
Daytime Scheduling – Our classes are conveniently integrated during the school day, once per week. The student groups and class times are arranged by Music Kids in collaboration with the school office to ensure there’s no significant disruption to their other academic work. We’ve found over the years that daytime classes have some major benefits! When students are at their mental and physical peak, their experience learning an instrument is greatly improved. Since classes are only 30 minutes once per week — not every single day — we’ve seen that there’s no negative impact on their other studies. If fact, playing the violin together is a mentally and physically refreshing exercise that sends students back to their normal classes with a smile and newfound energy!
Format – The classes are individualized and very hands on, which is the only way to learn an instrument. In the case of violin and piano at The Harbor School, classes are one-on-one with the teacher each week.
Summer Time – An 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 hold an optional summer session for those who really want to keep their fingers in shape.
Violin is Included – The violin program includes the use of a violin year round, so you don’t have to run around and rent one. Students will bring their violin to school on class days and will have them at home the rest of the week. Each child gets an instrument sized perfectly for them. 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 over the summer is free for students continuing 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 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).
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 – Marathon practicing at home is NOT needed! Young beginners require only 10-15 minutes of daily practice (this can be done ANY time that is convenient for you!). Understanding your newness to the role of a practicing parent, weekly point-by-point video summaries will guide you. The teacher structures these assignment videos to be brief and easy to understand, tailored to fit the age of your child and your busy schedule. The core of the weekly learning happens in class, and the home practices allow weekly goals to be met and made easy. Longer 20-30 minute home practices won’t become necessary until the second and third years when students are more independent with the instrument. Remember, we will always be there to help! Your teacher will be available to address your questions or concerns at any time and will show you some fun, easy ways to support your student’s learning, including at-home and in-the-car listening to the songs we’re learning.
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’ll use a variety of different books and curricula 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. Installments are automatically and conveniently processed on the 3rd of every month, October 3rd – June 3rd inclusive. Monthly installments for the violin are $195 each, which includes rental.
Semestral and Annual Options – You 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. Semestral installments are processed on October 3rd and February 3rd.
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 Teacher!
Leslie Smile Hoyle – violin – Leslie Smile received her B.M. in Violin Performance with Michael Davis and Charles Wetherbee at the Ohio State University in 2005. She received her M.M. in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy with Ronda Cole at the University of Maryland in 2007, also serving as the University of Maryland Suzuki Violin Program Administrator in 2007 and 2008. She is the longest serving Music Kids Faculty Member, teaching many dozens of Music Kids students over the past seven years. Ms. Smile served as Suzuki Instructor and Co-Administrator of the Animato Suzuki Violin Program from 2008-2012. Ms. Smile has served as a professional sectionals coach for Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Orchestra and as a volunteer sectionals coach for the College Park Youth Symphony. In addition to Suzuki training, Ms. Smile currently serves as Music Mind Games Instructor and Suzuki Violin Instructor / Program Administrator for the Adacemy of Fine Arts Suzuki Violin Program in Gaithersburg, MD.
Next Step: Registration
Securing a spot in the program is done on a first come first serve basis. 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. If you have any questions and would like to set up a time to talk to us about whether the program is a good fit for your child, please Contact Us. If you’re all ready to reserve a spot in the program, please click the button below to register!