Frequently Asked Questions

Where do I begin?

Each student is unique, and our flexible programs are designed to meet individual needs and schedules. For help in planning the best musical education for you or your child, please call our North location at 301-365-5888 or our South location at 301.657.0763. We offer outstanding facilities and wide variety of learning opportunities from age 3 to adulthood.

What is the teaching schedule?

The International School of Music operates on a year-round schedule, so a student can enroll any time he/she wishes. Lessons are offered Mondays through Fridays during afternoon and evening hours, Saturdays 9am to 4pm, and Sundays (South location only) 10am to 6pm.

What teaching method do you use?

Guided by a broad, flexible curriculum, and using a diverse set of approaches, each instructor adapts to the individual needs of the students. Our international faculty has demonstrated outstanding achievements in both teaching and performance.

How do I know what instrument my child should learn?

Selecting an instrument to study is an exciting decision and an important one. Discuss the various instruments with your child before enrolling him/her in private lessons appropriate for their age. Factors to consider are: age, size (height and physical development of the student), cost of renting or buying an instrument, school requirements (bands, orchestra, etc), personal preferences, and more. The size of the instrument matters, since taller or larger people will have an easier time playing instruments such as string bass, saxophone or tuba. Also, if your child is excited and attracted to a particular instrument, he/she will be more motivated to practice. If your child is not sure what to study, you may want to arrange a few trial lessons in different instruments to give him/her a hands-on experience to see what he/she finds most drawn to. Another factor to consider is the child's preferred style of music—if a child loves jazz music, perhaps a better choice may be saxophone or piano versus cello; or if he/she loves rock music it may be best to pick up a guitar, or bass. Regardless, it is often recommended to start with classical training since that will provide the student with a great foundation from which he/she can develop any particular style down the road.

What if my child is interested in lessons but is not gifted or aspiring to become a concert artist?

Most of our students are of average ability. Private instruction at ISM is based on the individual goals and capabilities of each student. While daily practice at home is essential, expectations will not be unreasonable. Keep in mind that music instruction has been shown to improve math and language skills, so regardless of an individual student's aspirations, study at the ISM will positively impact your child's development.

What is expected of a student?

The student is expected to regularly attend lessons. A good attitude is essential. The amount of proper practice will determine the student's progress; the teacher will present to each student appropriate practice goals. The student will develop discipline, coordination, concentration, stage presence, expressive abilities, creativity and self-control.

How will my child and/or I be matched with an instructor?

Following the initial conversation with ISM staff, we will match you or your child to an ISM instructor. Age, skill level, expectations and schedule availability are also taken into account in determining the proper match of student and teacher. Once you meet with your assigned instructor you can discuss practice expectations, level placement, the course of study and goals for the year ahead. Please note that although every effort is made to accommodate new students, spaces are sometimes limited and instructors may not have immediate openings. In that case we would be happy to put your name on our waiting list if you wish.

How do you choose your teachers?

We have very high standards for our teachers. We have a lengthy and extensive interview process consisting of several face-to-face meetings and reference checks. All of ISM teachers have a degree in Music a vast teaching and/or performance background. We only hire caring, nurturing and imaginative educators who are passionate about their teaching.

Is it possible to take lessons in the summer?

Yes. Many of our instructors offer weekly summer lessons. Summer study can be a wonderful way to prepare for the school year and is recommended for students at every level. Also one does not have to be a student at ISM during the school year to enroll in the summer program.

Do I need a piano at home to take piano lessons?

It is ideal if you do have a piano at home, but you can start lessons by using an electric keyboard to practice on. We recommend a keyboard that has 88 regular sized keys and a touch sensitive response. A touch sensitive keyboard means if you press a key harder it will play louder and if you press a key softer it will play quieter. The keyboard should also have a damper pedal attachment. Keyboards must be on a stand or desktop that is the appropriate height for proper technique. The differences between keyboards and pianos make it undesirable to use a keyboard past the beginner level. Special care should also be taken when selecting a piano bench that is the appropriate height. Young piano students should also have a foot stool if their feet do not touch the floor. You can also rent an acoustic piano with the option to buy.

Do I need to own an instrument?

For students who do not own an instrument, ISM staff can provide information on rental or purchase of alternative instruments. Please call our office for details.

I don't have any musical background or ability; can I still help my child practice?

Yes. Even if you don't have a musical background you can ask the teacher for advice on how to help your child practice. By simply monitoring that they are doing exercises a certain number of times per day the student will progress. Many parents occasionally sit in on their child's music lesson to get an idea of the proper way a song should sound or how the student should be positioning their hands.

How long and how frequent are the lessons?

Depending on age, experience, developmental readiness, and teacher's recommendation students are advised for a particular lesson duration. The general guideline is: Beginners -30 minute lesson once a week, intermediate students 45 min. lesson once a week, and advanced students 60 min once or twice a week. It is also recommended that students practice and prepare for their lesson in order to get the most of their lessons.

I am an adult and wish to take lessons for the first time. Is your school just for children?

NO! ISM has an Adult program designed to help adults start any instrument. We have many adult students who never played any instrument before or that resume lessons learned when they were younger. The Adult Institute was set up to help each adult enjoy the joy of music education. Emphasis is placed on music for recreation not performance. Studies show that music slows aging and has many health benefits. In addition to individualized private instruction in most instruments and voice, we offer a variety of classes incorporating Ensembles, Theory and Composition. To accommodate the busy schedules of working adults, we offer programs at convenient daytime hours (i.e. during lunch hour), as well as on evenings and weekends.

Will my child only learn classical music? What about jazz, rock or pop music?

Whatever your child is interested in learning, we have teachers that can accommodate their interest. New students will be placed with an instructor based on his/her interest, level and availability. We encourage parents, students and instructors to frequently discuss what pieces the student is learning and what styles of music can be introduced.

How much should one practice?

Students should be well prepared for their lessons and should incorporate practice in their daily schedule. All students should practice a minimum of time five days out of each week. Beginners should practice 10-20 minutes; elementary-30 minutes; intermediate-45 minutes; advanced-60 minutes. However, the length of practice time is not the only important factor - the quality of the practice is also important. Your child's instructor will provide how-to' s and motivational techniques if your child is struggling. A Handout for Practicing Music, which is wonderful resource, is available in the lobby area of the school. Parents are expected to be aware of what has been assigned each week and encourage practice time.

Is it a good idea for me to sit in on the lessons with my child?

This depends on the child and the preference of the instructor. Some parents sit in on the lessons with young children while older children usually prefer to be by themselves. Some children may have trouble with both the teacher and parent as an authority figure in the room. Discuss with the instructor your preference and see what works best for your child.

Does my child have to be in a recital?

No, although it is encouraged. The focus needed to prepare for a performance is an invaluable experience and recitals give a sense of accomplishment and boosts your child's self-esteem and ability to tackle challenges. If your child is nervous about recitals, we strongly recommend he/she attends in the audience.

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