Saturday, 24 January 2015

How To Choose A Music School

We got ourselves a piano last year just as The Little Girl turned 4 because we wanted her to develop both her right and left brains, in a nutshell. 

In the bigger scheme of things, we hope she develops listening, pitching, movement (dancing) and tempo accurately. The Other Half and I both were deprived of proper/formal/private  music lessons when we were growing up so we were really keen not to have our children lack this wonderful lifetime skill. We were only offered a recorder and Government issue text book for music. While I can still read notes, he has no inkling whatsoever! 

I confess that the piano is the biggest gift I have bought for us all. This was the easy part. Due to space and budget constraint, I chose a brand new Yamaha upright.

As I could only play a few songs on the G clef and needed lessons so that I could help The Little Girl work her magic fingers to bring out lovely tunes of her favourite nursery rhymes. Obviously, we needed lessons!

At first, we signed her up for Yamaha 1-1 piano lessons at Yamaha BVII, but she didn't share any chemistry with her assigned teacher and that very nearly killed The Little Girl's interest. Every Saturday afternoon became a painful chore for everyone. 

Being the helicopter mum that I am, I meddled. I terminated the Yamaha 1-1 lessons. It just had to stop because the joy and excitement stopped. The period that we were away for summer 2014 helped The Little Girl "forget".

Luckily, we had paid for an online piano course offered by a kind teacher living in Melbourne to correct whatever "damage" and started to heal her musical relationship with the piano in her room once we were back from our summer break. It was great, special and personal but we knew we wanted more for long term.

A permanent solution had to be found.

Coincidentally, the Yamaha Music School from Ampang moved into Great Eastern Mall so we put our names in for a Saturday afternoon class. We agreed to joining the JMC with 11 other children/parents per class on this 2 year journey after one trial class.

The twinkle in her eyes returned. So far so good, alhamdulillah

The Little Girl loves every single class. She listens, sings solfege and lyrics, reads and draws notes, excited to place magnetic notes on the board, completes her theory worksheets without fuss, dances happily at class, interacts well with teacher and classmates, watches the DVD at home, sings along to the CD in the car, tries to guess notes of whatever songs that comes on the radio and I am just thankful she is loving music as a whole.

Bean loves the CD and DVD too! He tries to tinker on the piano keys at every chance he gets since the day the piano arrived a year ago. His current favourite piece is The Chicks' Ballet. 

Here is my share of experience in selecting the right music school. In sharing this journey, I hope you will find a programme and school that suits you and your little one best. Most importantly, enjoy the bonding and let the music heal your soul. 

1. Programme
Yamaha or ABRSM?
My daughter was 4 when she started so ABRSM really was out of the question for us. Yamaha 1-1 was boring for her. Yamaha JMC is the best fit for her. We even tried music online homeschooling and that was fun! Yamaha JMC requires 1 parent to accompany the child (which is great because I learn whatever The Little Girl learns, and we can complete the theory worksheets together). 

2. Location
We live in the city centre so going to BVII then was not a problem but going to Great Eastern Mall which is much closer to home has saved us a lot of commute time and cost. 

3. Size of Class
Our Yamaha JMC class can host 12 sets of parent/child and comes with an electronic organ for every set of parent/child. The teacher has an electronic organ, piano, CD player, white board and space for children to dance. 

4. Programme
Our Yamaha JMC Primary 1 is almost completed. We hope to complete up to Primary 4 for JMC then move forward to the next key stage, in sha Allah

5. Fees
We paid a deposit, terms fees (each term is 3 months, that means we pay 4 times a year) and will have to buy materials for each level (music book, theory book, DVD, CD). The magnetic board is once off. We were also given a cute bag for weekly use. The good news is the syllabus is not likely to change soon, and Bean will inherit those materials (except the theory book). 

6. Duration
Every class is 1 hour. We find that time flies because obviously, we are having fun learning together.

7. Teacher's Passion
Makes or breaks the deal. We find that the best type of music teacher is one who can pique and engage the interest and attention span of her young learners. Gone are the days of strict teachers who scold and knock knuckles with wooden rulers *sigh of relief*!

8. Atmosphere 
Bright, well ventilated/air-conditioned, happy, clean and safe environment are some key consideration. Please do not sign up at depressing outlets/showrooms where they do not permit playing with the musical instruments on display or worse, locked away - it is a real put-off being able to see but not allowed to touch and refrained from producing music at a music centre!

Syukur alhamdulillah this arrangement works for us at the moment so in sha Allah, will continue to work in our favour. We always pray The Little Girl and Bean will learn to make merry music to sing beautiful praises of Allah, to Allah, our One and Only. Amin!


  1. Hi Hampshire Mummy.. its me again..hehehe.. Work was crazy lately and i didnt have the chance to type my reply to you. and by the time i got home, am tied up with home stuff and fell asleep just as soon as i plonked myself on the bed. Sorry!
    music class..u are right mummy..important to develop both right and left brains. my parents sent me to music school when i was 7. I learned organ. From my kampung to music school (in town) was quite far - almost half an hour drive, but i was really looking forward going to the class. as i get older, dad gave permission to both my younger sis and I to take town bus. It was exhilarating! hahaha.. The size of the class was smaller then your little girl's class. if i remember it correctly, about 5 people only per session. Parent not allowed. There were exams, annual concert, and few more events. Annual concerts were the best!
    I stayed on until i was 16 when i was offered a boarding school. We tried to find a music school there, unfortunately there was none. So i stopped music class. My new school back then only had a piano, which i thought, at least they have piano. its better than nothing! hehehe.. i can still play songs just that i need to adapt to it. in the evening during 'riadah' time, if i dont have netball practice, i would go to the hall and played piano. Until one day, a teacher approached me and handed me some notes, asked me to play. After that, i played piano during school assembly. When i was form 5, the juniors referred me as 'kakak piano'..hahhaha.. i had the best time in school considering it was a boarding school, far from home, different dialect, different food, etc.
    My weekends when i was young (before boarding school era) was very busy. Saturday morning arabic school, Saturday evening music class. Sunday morning art class, Sunday evening arabic school. thinking about it, how did it managed all that at such tender age?? not too bad eh..
    Now that i have my own child, music and art will be a must. for big school, we plan to find a good madrasah or islamic international school. Now left swimming, archery and one more foreign language. hmm..where do i slot him in..hehehehe *typical asian mom*
    how do i get him to learn all of the above but still want him to have rest/play time? Am i crazy?

    P/S: as if i havent type long enough! Sorry.. just a bit more, u asked the other day whether i have a blog. i did - few years ago. It was actually personal-cum-business blog. I baked and sell tartlets, cakes, brownies, etc before. Now no more so i closed it. i itch to write, maybe i should open a blog again..hmm..i might do that..hehehe..

    1. Salam Dash Darus,

      Do not be sorry for I enjoy reading your long post :) and in fact you MUST blog all your interesting little stories!

  2. hi..i just called yamaha school in GE..does it totally different from other normal music school..? my daugther in 7yrs old..