AGES TAUGHT        FAQs - Young Piano Student - NWSM                                                              

What ages do you teach?

We have experience teaching piano to 2-year-olds through adults.  We currently accept students as young as 3, and as old as. . . .  Well, it’s never too late to start piano lessons, and we enjoy working with adult students too!

We believe it is very important to use age-appropriate materials at each level, matching the interests and strengths of each age group.  At NWSM studio, beginning 5-year-olds use different books than beginning 8-year-olds or beginning middle-school students or adults.

How do I know if my child is ready to start lessons?

For a child to start standard piano lessons, he should be able to count to ten, recognize & write the numerals 1-5 & letters A-G, wiggle his fingers independently, differentiate between left & right, and focus on an activity for 10-minutes at a time.

We also offer piano lessons for preschoolers, focused around “music readiness.” No child is too young to begin discovering the joys of music! Check out our kindermusic program to learn how you can help jump-start your child’s musical development at an early age.

A child’s interest in music is the most important indicator of readiness:  Does he express himself musically (singing, humming, dancing, tapping rhythms)?  If you have a piano or keyboard, does he spend time exploring the sounds and making up songs?

How can I help my preschooler prepare for music lessons?

Musical activities can be extremely beneficial to young children, not just to prepare them for music lessons, but to prepare them for life.  Music can help children develop their motor skills and sense of timing, develop language and spatial reasoning skills, and remember facts (for example, “ABC Song”!).

Play quality music in your home and car, especially classical music and folk songs, genres that have stood the test of time.

Sing with your child.  Teach him simple children’s songs you know, get a CD of children’s songs to sing to together, make up your own songs to describe what you do throughout your day.  There are many wonderful educational songs posted by Super Simple Songs on YouTube.

Let your child explore musical instruments, especially makeshift ones like cooking pot drums with wooden spoon drumsticks or a tupperware shaker containing a small amount of rice (carefully sealed, of course.)  Grab a drum yourself and together with your child play to the beat of a recording.  Definitely let him explore your piano or keyboard regularly, making up his own songs.

Involve your child in activities that develop fine-motor skills:  coloring & drawing, playing with play dough, using lacing cards. . . .

Attend a concert for young children.


Do you accept adult students?

Yes! We welcome adult beginners with no musical background, players who have been away the piano for many years, as well as lifelong pianists who wish to sharpen their skills.

During monthly Studio Sessions (last week of most months), adult students have the option meet in their own small groups of 2-6 students instead of private lessons.  (You will not be grouped with young children during group lessons!)  At these group lessons, you will have an opportunity to share a piece you’ve been working on and will hone your skills through ensemble playing, group improvisations, and/or theory instruction.

We understand that there are many demands on your time as an adult, so we take a relaxed approach to lessons.  Regular practice (5-6 days each week) is certainly recommended but not required.  There are many activities we can do in the weekly lesson to further develop your skills regardless of the amount of time you practiced during the week.  Please understand, however, that you will progress much more quickly if you practice consistently.  You do need an instrument for your home practice.  Please see the instrument requirements below under the “Home Practice” section.

Our adult students are encouraged, but not required, to participate in the studio recitals and festival.  These events give you a tangible goal that will keep you focused and on track in your music studies.


  LESSON FORMAT                                                                           

Where do you teach lessons?

We teach lessons both at our downtown studio – located one block south of the Salem Public Library – as well as in the homes of our students throughout the Willamette Valley. In-home lessons are an additional $35/month.

How long are the lessons?

Lessons are offered in 30, 45, and 60 minute sessions. Longer lessons are also available as needed for advanced students. Most young beginners start with half hour lessons for the first 6-9 months of study. After that, the needed lesson time is individually evaluated. Adult students often start with 45-minute lessons.

When are lessons scheduled?

Lessons are scheduled between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Mondays – Fridays, and 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

Siblings’ private lessons are scheduled back-to-back, if at all possible, unless the parent requests otherwise.

What weeks are scheduled for lessons?

You can look at the calendar of events here. The calendar shows what weeks have lessons, as well as when group lessons, recitals, and other studios events are scheduled.

What is different about your piano studio?

  • Lesson Format:  All students receive a balanced musical education that includes training in sight reading, technique, musical creativity, theory, music  history, performance, and, of course, the joy of playing! In addition, students have the opportunity to participate in monthly group “Studio Sessions” where even more learning goes on, and they are able to share their music and make new friends. We also hold two recitals each year, giving students both motivation, as well as a sense of achievement.
  • Qualified, Experienced Instructors

Will my child have the opportunity to perform at recitals?

Yes, the studio prepares two recitals each year:  the annual Christmas Recital featuring holiday music and classics and the annual Spring Recital.  All students 12th grade and below are encouraged to participate in the annual studio recitals.  (Adult students are strongly encouraged, but not required, to participate in recitals.)



What if we have to miss a lesson?  Do you offer make-ups?

Your tuition reserves a specific time in our teaching schedule– teaching time that is dedicated to your child.  Understandably, we cannot dedicate double lesson time to your child when you have a schedule conflict:  Lesson time cannot be extended if a student is late, and missed lessons cannot be refunded.  However, when possible, we do make every effort to accommodate a reschedule.  Lessons may be made up in the form of group lessons.

If you alert us of your absence prior to the start of the month, we’ll reduce your bill accordingly. Once the month has begun, so long as you give at least 24 hours’ notice, we’ll be happy to provide makeup lesson time options (although, due to our busy schedule, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to offer times that are ideal for your personal schedule). If you must miss a lesson and give less than 24 hours’ notice, unfortunately that lesson will be considered forfeited. We’ll look forward to seeing you at your next scheduled lesson!

How much is tuition?

The fee schedule for the coming school year and summer is published each July.  You can view the current fee schedule here.

When is tuition due?

Tuition is due by the 10th of the month.  Payments not received or postmarked by the 10th will incur a $20 late penalty.

Will we have to pay any fees during the year?

An annual registration fee is due with the student’s yearly registration form.  The non-refundable registration fee reserves the student’s place in the studio. It covers all student-owned books and materials (including metronome, flashcards, and binders), as well as use of the studio lending library. The registration fee is $65 the first year, for the first child, and $50 for each additional child and/or subsequent year.

You will NOT be billed for any miscellaneous activities or materials throughout the year, unless your child chooses to participate in an extra, optional event.


  HOME PRACTICE                                                                          

How much are students required to practice during the week between lessons?

The student needs to practice daily in order to master music.  He will progress in direct proportion to the amount of time he spends practicing!  A regular time should be set aside for home practice on at least 5 different days during the week.  Of course, each student should practice for results as well as minutes, but this chart can serve as a guide:

  • Young students & Beginning students (Primer Level):  10-15 minutes daily
  • Elementary/Late Elementary Piano (Levels 1-2):  at least 20-30 minutes daily
  • Intermediate Piano (Levels 3-5):  at least 30-45 minutes daily
  • Late Intermediate/Early Advanced Piano:45- 60+ minutes daily


What constitutes good practicing?

Students LOVE to play straight through pieces, beginning to end, often at a fast speed.  However, usually this is NOT practicing.  Good practice includes many, many repetitions of small sections, usually at a slow tempo to insure accuracy, in order to conquer trouble spots.  At the weekly lesson, a practice plan including piece titles, page numbers, and specific goals is written out.  The student should follow this plan in his home practice.  Please note that home practice will often include written work (to be completed in the “theory” book).

Do I need to have a piano at home?

Students need to have access to an instrument for their home practice.  Although a well-maintained acoustic piano is definitely preferable, students may use electronic instruments for their home practice as specified below.  (Please note that a keyboard and a digital piano are not the same.)

  • First-year (beginning) students and ages 3-6 ONLY may use an electric keyboard with at least 61 full- or standard-sized, touch-sensitive keys.
  • By the second year of study or by level 1 (after the student has completed the Primer level), students must have regular access to an acoustic piano or a digital piano (e.g. Yamaha Clavinova) meeting ALL of the following specifications:  full- or standard-sized keys, a full length (88-key) keyboard, weighted or graded action, and pedal.


How do I get my child to practice?

Students are expected to treat their piano assignments as seriously as their homework assignments and other responsibilities.  This will most likely happen if the student has a specific piano practice time built into his daily schedule.

However, even the most dedicated piano student will have days when he simply does not want to practice.  But as he is faithful to his responsibility, he will reap the rewards inherent in performing a piece of music.  He will also develop the self-discipline to finish a job even when he does not feel like doing it.  Just as you tell him, “This is just what we do” when he says he doesn’t feel like doing his school homework, making his bed, or brushing his teeth, you should tell him “This is just what you do now” when it’s time for his piano practice.

I don’t have any background in music.  How can I help my student succeed in his piano studies?

Even if you have no musical experience yourself, you can help your child with his piano in these very practical ways:

  • Provide a well-maintained instrument for the student’s daily practice.
  • Provide a practice area and time that is free from distractions.
  • Help your child be faithful to his practice schedule.
  • Show interest in your student’s progress by asking about his lesson or requesting to hear him play a piece.
  • Feel free to occasionally sit in on a lesson.
  • Make sure your child is at his lesson with his books at the appropriate time.
  • Be ready with praise and encouragement for your child.  These will be vital as he faces challenges along the way and realizes the commitment necessary to excel.
  • Young children (ages 3-5) will need you to sit with them while they practice. You can encourage them to keep going, read their lesson notes to them, and even point to the notes as they play.



What is your background as the teacher?

Mrs. Mallory Huerta is the director of NWSM and has studied the musical arts for over 12 years, taking private lessons as well as completing her bachelor’s of music at Eastern Oregon University. To learn more about Mrs. Huerta, click here to read her full bio.

Northwest School of Music employs a selection of talented, qualified, and carefully trained instructors. Check out our teacher bios for more information about each of them.