Guidelines for Private Instruction

For the last few years I’ve been teaching a number of high school and middle school students. On the whole it is very rewarding, and I really enjoy getting to work with younger students. Not surprisingly, my number of private students is at its largest in the few weeks preceding honor band or All-State  auditions. I understand the reasons for this, though I think private lessons are far more effective when taken regularly over an extended period of time. This time gives the instructor and student a chance to put together an individualized method of study consisting of appropriate etudes, scale/arpeggio studies, solos, and other materials.  A few lessons just before an audition to “spot-check” some things is fine, but it  can’t really compare to months and years of consistent study.  The bottom line is that serious students take lessons whether they’ve got an audition coming up or not.

Beginning this semester, I plan to distribute the following document to my new and returning private students. My goal was to provide a one page summary of the private lesson experience (as I view it) for parents and students. Often parents don’t really understand what it is they are paying for each week, and are simply told by their children that the teacher said to “go home and practice.”  The document is worded in a general way on purpose, so that it can be adapted to fit the needs of individual students.  For instance, the “20 to 30 minutes” of daily practice can of course be expanded as a student progresses. I have been using most of these policies for a while now, but I thought it a good idea to put them in writing.

Now a question to my readers: Do you use any kind of syllabus or guidelines for your private (non-university) students?  If so, what do you include in it?  Do you think such a document is even necessary?


Dear Parent or Guardian:

I am delighted to be teaching your child private horn lessons.  One-on-one instruction is an extremely effective way to learn a musical instrument, and is part of a tradition that is hundreds of years old. Learning to play an instrument develops critical thinking and problem solving skills, which can be applied to virtually any career or academic pursuit. My philosophy of teaching places the student’s well being and musical development above all else, and I care deeply about what I do. In an effort to offer the highest quality instruction possible, and to ensure that my students both enjoy and learn from their lesson experiences, I have put together the following list of guidelines.  Please read over this list with your child, and sign the brief memorandum of understanding at the bottom. Two copies are provided so that you may retain a copy for your records. If you have any questions about this document or private lessons in general please do not hesitate to contact me.


James Boldin, D.M.A.

  • For private lessons to be effective, students must be dedicated to daily practice. Without at least 20 to 30 minutes of individual practice each day, students will not be able to successfully implement the concepts presented in a weekly private lesson. Lessons alone may result in little to no improvement without additional work on the student’s part.
  • Required lesson materials include a functional horn and mouthpiece, as well as study materials such as etude and method books, solo literature, and ensemble music. I will make individual recommendations for these materials based on the student’s current ability level and musical goals.  A metronome and tuner are also highly recommended. Both devices can be purchased at reasonable prices from online retailers or local music stores. There are also numerous smartphone apps which work quite well.
  • In the event that a lesson needs to be postponed or rescheduled, I will notify the student and/or parent as soon as possible.  Please extend me the same courtesy. I can be reached by email (, office phone (318-342-1591), or cell phone (###-###-####).
  • Fees for private instruction are as follows:  $##/hour; $##/half-hour. Payment is due at the end of each lesson.
  • I will occasionally loan materials to students, including audio recordings, mouthpieces, music, and other related items. Please treat these items with care, and return them promptly so that future students can learn from them as well.
  • If you or your child have any questions or concerns about private lessons please feel free to contact me. Parents are encouraged to observe lessons occasionally so that they remain informed and updated on their child’s progress.

I have read and understand the above guidelines for private horn instruction.


Signature of Parent/Guardian


Signature of Student

About the Author

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I wouldn’t make an absolute promise to notify of cancellation or rescheduling 24 hours before the event, I’d change to ‘notify . . . as soon as I become aware of the need to cancel or reschedule, and will endeavour to do so at least 24 hours before’. Emergencies sometimes arise. Otherwise–it’s great! But it’s almost sad it has to be put into writing. When I was taking private lessons as a child and undergraduate, everything except the tuner (and for quite a while the metronome) was just assumed as part of responsibility and good manners.


Well done James!
If I may add my two cents worth to your fine effort my experience with teaching the horn for many years led me to insist on students arriving on time. More often than not issues arose due to parental scheduling problems (before university/college level). Of course university/college students had their own issues. I made it very clear that I would not wait more than 15 minutes for any student (unless previously notified), and if it became somewhat habitual, efforts at behaviour modifciation would soon follow.

I also never taught in a room where there was not a window in the door and others nearby – for the safety of both me and the student. Being alone with students of the opposite sex (or even the same sex) can present potentially serious problems today. As well as considering safety first, we must be mindful that we live in an increasingly litugious culture, it is better to be very cautious about such things. Letting parents and students alike know about this policy makes things transparent from the beginning, and in my experience was reassuring to both. It was sometimes annoying to see people “peeping in” but it always prooved the point.

I very much enjoy your posts…


I like this very much, and follow almost the same set of suggestions for mutual cooperation. I like the comment that another person had about cancelations, because actual emergencies will come up occassionally. The only thing I do differently is that I collect the money for the entire month at the begining of the month. Over the years I have found that I have less problems with cancelations and being on time with this policy.


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