Triangle of Musicianship

Written By Jennene Estes

Let’s face it, we music teachers all love to teach, perform and practice our chosen instruments, but how do we instill that in our students?

The other day while walking through one of our faculty’s studios I noticed a triangle on the wall. It had at its 3 points – Lessons, Performance & Practice.

Lessons…that’s the easy part. We teachers have all kinds of ways to motivate the student during lessons – playing for them, listening, ear training, singing, rhythm practice, music theory, accompanying them…the list goes on and on. But let’s face it. That’s only one tiny fraction of their week, so we have to partner with some other things in order to keep the student successfully rolling through their practice week. That’s where playing in a group or a recital or a coffee house or something to work towards has to link with a student’s individual practice time. We believe at CSM that music is to be shared. Its social and it needs encouragement throughout the week, not just on lesson day.

To do this we see that working hand in hand with parents is one of the most interesting (although sometimes the most stressful) missions we have as music teachers. Thankfully it’s also one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of what we do with music instruction.  When we have the parent “on our side”; working with us at home with our students, we see a huge love and enjoyment of music coming from the student and family.  So we work hard on our relationships with the parents. We help them find ways to be part of our triangle of success by teaching them the best ways to motivate, encourage and inspire their budding musicians every week in consistent, well-designed practice!

The next piece of the triangle is performance opportunities! That can be school band, orchestra, choir, musical theatre…youth orchestras, concerto and master class competitions, auditioned groups like All District, Regionals, All state…Merit based ensembles here at CSM…assisted living, church, community outreach events…we try and provide access to all of these here at CSM, helping our students seek out and prepare for these events or even hold an event of their own! I know this is tricky, and sometimes cuts into the regular lesson material you’d like to get to each week, but with a good curriculum plan for each student, we’ve found our faculty and students can successfully navigate and fully benefit from it.

Teaching music is a unique interplay between the teacher, the student, the family and the community which fosters growth in all sorts of areas of life.  We should leverage them all, because therein is where the life long love of music is nurtured and inspired!

One more little tidbit I ran across this week. Just really liked it a lot. Used with permission from Robert Trent, Guitar Professor, Radford University.


One of my friends asked “Why do you pay so much money for music lessons, and for so many years?” Well I have a confession to make, I don’t pay for my kids’ lessons per se. Personally, I couldn’t care for it. So, what am I paying for and why?

– I pay for those moments when my kids become so tired they want to quit but don’t.

– I pay for those days when my kids come home from school and are “too tired” to go practice and to lessons but practice daily and go to lessons regularly anyway.

– I pay for my kids to learn to be disciplined.

– I pay for my kids to learn to take care of their body.

– I pay for my kids to learn to work with others

– I pay for my kids to learn to deal with disappointment as well as success.

– I pay for my kids to learn to make and accomplish goals.

– I pay for my kids to learn that it takes hours and hours and hours and hours of hard work and practice to achieve their goals and that success is not a one-time event, but rather a lifetime of personal development.

– I pay for the opportunity my kids have and will have to make life-long friendships and to be inspired and to inspire others.

– I pay so that my kids can be creating something beautiful and positively transformative through a personal relationship with music making rather than in front of a screen…

…I could go on but, to be short, I don’t pay for music lessons, I’m paying for the opportunities that music provides my kids to develop attributes that will serve them well throughout their lives and give them the opportunity to bless the lives of others. From what I have seen so far I think it is a great investment!




Catoctin School of Music
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