Opinions

Music lessons should be more accessible: students should have the option to learn an instrument for free

by Michael Greenblatt

You’ve probably been serenaded by a flute or a violin as you walked by the Music Building and thought to yourself how fun it would be to learn how to play an instrument. Or you may already play an instrument and want to be able to utilize the practice rooms in the Music Building because there are no other places on campus to play.

Unfortunately, if you’re not a part of the School of Music, whether this means taking a music class or being involved in one of the concert bands, then you don’t have access to any of the rehearsal rooms or instruments in the building.

Many people who already do play an instrument, including myself, may not be skilled enough to join a concert band, or simply may not want to. Yet this doesn’t mean that they should not be able to have access to instruments, music lessons, or practice spaces to use for fun. As tuition-paying members of the campus community, all students should have access to instrument rentals, music lessons, and rehearsal spaces, whether they are involved in the School of Music or not.

There are many reasons why expanding access to the musical resources on campus would be beneficial for students. Playing musical instruments helps to relieve stress, exposes students to a whole new world of learning and talent beyond their academic studies and, put simply, is fun. Who knows, maybe if someone was given the chance to play a new instrument, they might even join a band or take a music class.

To be fair, any student can already take music lessons from the School of Music through its Community Music Program, which operates year-round. But hardly anyone is aware of this. I, for instance, am a second-semester senior and I only just found out about these music lessons because I was specifically looking for them.

This program should be publicized for the entire campus community, and not be treated as if it were a secret. I’m sure that many more students would take music lessons if they knew this was a possibility.

But it’s not enough just to offer music lessons—they should be made available for free or at a reduced price for every student. Other services that our school provides, such as use of the gym, the racquetball courts, and even tutoring appointments at the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching, are all free for students because the costs are built into our tuition, so why couldn’t music lessons be the same? If tuition can’t cover all of the costs, surely it can cover some of them so that these lessons can be discounted.

Instrument and rehearsal room rentals, whether for an hour or two, or for a week, could also be made available to more experienced musicians for the same reasons. Liability forms and key card access to equipment and rooms can alleviate concerns about damaged or stolen property.

Many music students may have a problem with these proposals, arguing that there will not be enough rooms or space available for them to rehearse in, which is a valid concern. However, I believe this could easily be resolved by designating specific times that the general student body could utilize rehearsal rooms so that they don’t interfere with the music students’ schedules.

Whether it intends to or not, the School of Music is limiting students’ opportunities on campus by not allowing everyone the chance to take music lessons, rent a rehearsal room, or even rent an instrument to play for fun. All of these resources should be made available for free, or at a discounted price, to all students, and these opportunities should not be a secret in the first place. I say that the University should give every student the chance to play music.

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5 Comments

  1. Freya Scherlie says:

    I understand your point, however, as a music student myself who needs to practice hours a day in order to improve and get good grades, I for one would not like to to have my practice rooms taken over by students are not music majors or taking a music class. If you wish to use the practice rooms, take a music class, which IS built into your tuition! Also, as a general rule, music lessons are never free, especially for community music because often the teachers are students themselves or not faculty at UPS, and music is a profession like anything else that you charge money for. There are other rooms that aren’t open to all students on campus, such as the science resource rooms. It’s easy to get involved! Take a music class such as theory, it’s really fun!

  2. This entire argument is based on the grossly perpetuated idea that music only serves as “stress relief” or “fun,” and couldn’t possibly be a serious academic study. It ALSO completely disrespects our affiliate faculty, who make their living on lesson fees. If you think your tuition should allow you access to all this equipment you’re not actually entitled to, talk to the administration at large. The school of music is underfunded as it is, and is working with what they have.

  3. Hi. I am a double major in biology and music, and I have quite a number of problems with this article. Let me take this step by step.
    1. “Many people who already do play an instrument, including myself, may not be skilled enough to join a concert band”- If you can clap out a beat, you can join Concert Band. If you can carry a tune singing, you can join Chorale. These groups are non-audition and all-accepting. It’s not about skill so much as work ethic; if you are willing to work for it, you can be a part of it.
    2. “But it’s not enough just to offer music lessons—they should be made available for free or at a reduced price for every student”- Okay. You are saying that we should demand free training from award-winning artists who already teach music classes that we do pay for. You are comparing weekly-scheduled lessons with trained professional performers to time in a gym and one-time appointments at CWLT. Where to I even begin to say how disrespectful and wrong this is?
    3. “Liability forms and key card access to equipment and rooms can alleviate concerns about damaged or stolen property”- First of all, we already have key card access to our equipment. Second of all, we have this because stolen property is not just a concern, it has happened before. We are talking thousands of dollars down the drain. Installing the key card access to restrict the downstairs to just the School of Music was voted on by the students, and it was the only thing that would make us feel safe about our instruments.
    4. “the School of Music is limiting students’ opportunities on campus by not allowing everyone the chance to take music lessons, rent a rehearsal room, or even rent an instrument to play for fun”- let me tell you about limiting opportunities. I came to this campus thinking that I wouldn’t be a music major and that double-majoring would not be possible, because at other schools that I auditioned at I was told I would have to be soley a piano major to be fully accepted, which I was not interested in. I am now a senior who is weeks away from graduating with a double major, complete with lessons, classes, practice room access, and performances both solo and ensemble. I would not have been able to do this anywhere else. So when you talk about limiting opportunities, please first consider that this School of Music could have gone the route of a conservatory and been incredibly non-inclusive, then consider the number of non-majors who are involved in our school. This is the most inclusive program I have ever been a part of, and when you tell me that it is “limiting opportunities,” it offends me and everyone like me. I cannot even comprehend how privileged you must be to feel this way.

  4. Charlotte says:

    So, at this point in time, music lessons taken through the school are $175 for 15 half-hour weekly sessions, coming to under $12/lesson or $24/hour. At home, I paid $60/hour for worse lessons. That’s a pretty standard going rate. Do not even pretend that music lessons aren’t subsidized by the school.

    As for publicity, it’s right there in the Bulletin and online on PeopleSoft. It’s a quarter-credit, just like any other activity. I’ve done sports, theatre, and music activity credits and music is the only one where you get one-on-one attention and don’t provide a service to the school. You don’t have to pay to use the gym, but if you wanted a personal trainer, the school wouldn’t just provide one for free. Do you think that the arts don’t take work? Do you think that the music department wouldn’t love to be able to provide lessons at no additional cost to students? People in the arts are always caught between creating beauty and joy and needing to find funding. Please talk to at least one (1) administrator from the music department before writing misinformed articles that tell the campus community the work of artists should be free. It is work. It has value. The cost is more than reasonable. That doesn’t make it affordable to every student, but the School of Music does its best with the resources it has.

  5. I agree. I went to a good academic school thinking I could join a band or wind ensemble other than a marching band to continue my fun hobby of casual clarinet playing. I was disappointed to find that there was no such opportunity. That killed my desire to play my instrument, and now 30 years later, when my daughter is getting advice for colleges, and I am finally taking up my instrument again, I see how much that lack of availability hurt me. I wish I had gotten the advice she did to check to see if your hobby is available at a college before you apply.

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