Section: Arts

Cost of private music lessons strikes a chord with students

Cost of private music lessons strikes a chord with students

Samantha Leder

By India Amos

For some Kenyon students, private music lessons are a way to explore a new hobby or a lifelong passion. For others, these lessons are prohibitively expensive. While Kenyon’s declared music majors can take music lessons for free, they make up a small percentage of  the roughly 300 students who take music lessons, despite the extra fee for non-majors.

The cost of thirteen 50-minute lessons, which equal .25 credits, is $515, while thirteen 25-minute lessons, equaling .13 credits, cost half that price. “There’s a fee because we’re bringing in expert teachers to do these lessons,” Professor of Music Dane Heuchemer said. “The students pay for the level of expertise.”

This substantial fee is generally not waivable and there are only two ways a student can avoid paying for private lessons. The first, according to the College’s Handbook for Music Students, is if a student declares a music major or minor. The handbook states that “fees for private instruction are waived for declared music majors and minors for their primary instrument to the extent that such study applies to their graduation requirements.” Importantly, music lessons are only deemed applicable to “graduation requirements” if the student is enrolled in a level-two instruction course or higher.

This policy has received mixed reviews from the students. “I understand the argument that students have to pay for music lessons,” Nathan Durham ’17 said. “It’s just that for many people who want to major in music, they have to start at level-one lessons. Those lessons aren’t paid for by the department. … So even declared majors who have to start at level one, their lessons aren’t paid for.”

The second option for students to take private lessons without paying a fee would be if a student obtained a scholarship to study his or her instrument. However, such scholarships are only available to first-year students.

One of the reasons behind the fee is that adjunct instructors, rather than Kenyon professors, teach most music lessons. Heuchemer said the Department of Music will try its best to find a teacher, no matter what type of instrument a student wants to learn. Music lessons are available for beginners to advanced students. “If you want to take private lessons and you can afford them, you can enroll,” Heuchemer said.

Some students, however, support and take advantage of these private lessons. Olivia Stonehouse ’15 began learning how to play the guitar through Kenyon’s music lessons. “It seemed like a great way for a non-musically talented person to learn something about music from stage one,” she said. In the end, Stonehouse believed that the benefits of the lessons outweighed the costs. “I think that I never would have had the opportunity to learn how to play had lessons not been offered,” Stonehouse said.  “For two semesters of starting a potentially lifelong hobby, it seemed worth it.”

If a student cannot afford private music lessons, there are still some options available. Kenyon College offers a wide variety of ensemble classes, ranging from Community Choir to String Chamber Ensemble. These classes, which typically run at .25 units of credit, do not require students to pay a fee. Ensembles bcan be a desirable class choice for students who are proficient in their instrument of choice. The majority of these ensembles require participants to already have a fair amount of skill on their instruments; therefore, there are currently limited ways to study a new instrument, aside from taking private lessons.

Megan Shaw ’15 has taken voice lessons since middle school and decided to continue them at Kenyon. “I love singing, I love my lessons and my voice teacher, [Adjunct Instructor of Voice Cynthia] Mahaney, has helped my technique improve dramatically,” Shaw said.  “The extra cost was pretty steep, but yes, it was worth it. My voice lessons have been consistently one of the best parts of my week at Kenyon.”

Amy Shirer contributed reporting.

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