Is it okay to use lesson time for orchestra music?
The short answer is "yes," but I would add, "not very often." And some teachers might say, "No, never."
First I will explain why I tend to say "yes" to helping a student with orchestra music: I want to support my students' efforts to play in their school or local youth orchestra (or for an adult, it might be a community orchestra). If they need to figure out a fingering for a particularly difficult passage, I can help them work that out. It also gives me a chance to give them some context, "Ah, the 'William Tell Overture' -- did you know that this is from an opera by Rossini? They also used it as a theme for a T.V. show called the 'Lone Ranger,' and you can find Mickey Mouse conducting it on Youtube...." I can get pretty excited about orchestra music, and hopefully the student benefits from the occasional personal story or history lesson.
Certainly, if a student is preparing an audition, I will help them learn their excerpts and check that they're doing them accurately. Even professionals get coachings for auditions!
But as I said before, as a teacher, I don't want to use lesson time for orchestra music very often. A student should be playing in an orchestra at appropriate level, and that means that the student ought to be able to figure out the music on his or her own, most of the time. The occasional challenge is fine, but orchestra shouldn't be so challenging that it requires constant aid from a private teacher. Lessons should be building the student's overall foundation and level of skill, and too many weeks of skipping scales, études and solo repertoire can lead to a lack of progress, in terms of that foundation.
Not coincidentally, sometimes a student who has not practiced all week will request to spend the entire lesson working on orchestra music. Your teacher is on to you! Using orchestra music as an avoidance tactic is obviously bad news for progress, as well.
And there are teachers who do not wish students to ever bring orchestra music to the lesson. I understand this, too; again, it's about building the student's foundation in a methodical, uninterrupted way. With that foundation growing ever more solid, the student should be well equipped to manage orchestra music.
What are your thoughts (as either a teacher or student) about covering orchestra music during the lesson? Do you have any preferences about how much that should happen?
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