My child is ready to start lessons…or is she? (Topic 1, Part 6. What is involved?)

In this post we continue looking through some factors which are involved in the initial decision to start music lessons. This post is about obvious and hidden costs of music lessons. 

The obvious costs are the teacher’s fees, books and other materials, travel costs, and the cost of obtaining and maintaining an instrument. Teachers’ fees fluctuate and can be checked on line or by calling teachers and music schools around for the most up-to-date information. Books and other printed materials can be estimated at around $100-$250 per year depending on the age of student.

Keep in mind that initial purchase cost of a piano is higher than a violin, or cello, or flute. A decent upright piano will cost you between about $3,000 for used one in good condition to $12,000 for a higher end brand new one.

As a general rule a good quality piano made by reputable company like Boston, Yamaha, Steinway, Kowai, and some others will last for years on basic maintenance routine like being tunes 2-3 times per year (about $120-$200 for each tuning, the fluctuation depends on whether or not the piano needs minor repair or cleaning). If your house doesn’t have reliable humidity control system, than you may need to install one for your piano. Beginner small violin of decent quality made by German or other European companies can be purchased for under $1,000. However, the maintenance costs of taking care of orchestral instruments is significantly higher. For example, a violin will need strings to be changed regularly (each set is around $50); the bow will need its hair replaced every 2 or so months ($35-$70 each); you will need to get rosin, shoulder rests, chin rests which will also need to be replaced regularly as they wear out and as your child grows; you will have to get the instrument cleaned professionally (up to $100); you will also need to have it adjusted and have a professional perform minor repairs every 3-4 months ($100-$400 depending on how much damage occurs). Also, your child will need a number of other items of equipment like free standing music stands ($15-$50, and those get lost all the time in orchestra rehearsals), instrument case (his cello will come with a case which will not last much longer than a year, you will need to get a new one of better quality for $150-$400), and many other small things.

Other hidden costs.

As your child progresses, she will need to start performing; as the years go by and she learns the skills, her performances will have to be more often, you will also want her to have a variety of stage experience. This is essential part of learning music, please see our post on the topic for more. There are different kinds of performances; recitals, judged events, competitions, festivals. Majority of them charge a fee for participation ($15-$150 depending on the prestige of event). It is very common for kids to be given opportunity to perform outside the immediate area, which of course involves travel costs, hotels, etc. , similar to sports teams or individual sports.

As your child’s ability grows, he will have a chance to expand his repertory to larger and more complicated pieces. One of such forms is a concerto. Concerto must be performed with a professional accompanist who will charge their fee similar to your teacher’s fee. Keep in mind that for pianists the accompanist’s costs pretty much only involve playing concertos, but for all other instruments you will have to get an accompanist to work with your child almost from a get go and budget at least 2-3 hours per month for accompanist on a regular basis. For some middle and HS age students during busy competition season you may find yourself paying for up to 6-10 hours per month in accompanist’s fees.

For more advanced players competitions become an important routine, kids will compete on average about 3-10 times per school year. Many competitions require recordings in order to apply. You will have to go to a professional recording studio to get those done. Your iPhone recording is technically enough to submit the application, but keep in mind that your child will be competing on the recording level even before he has a chance to face live judges. The quality of recording is very important to deliver the true quality of your child’s skills. For instrumentalists the choice of recording studio is not very difficult, but pianists face an additional challenge to find a studio which will provide good quality piano. The cost of such service can be around $120-$250 per hour. You can also hire a sound engineer to come to your house, or church, or another location, but again, the location must have good piano, decent acoustics and looks, and you may encounter rental fees for the space.

Concert attire

Additional classes. Your teacher will suggest taking music theory and music history classes and chamber music coaching sessions when your child is ready for those. It’s still more money! But you truly want your child to get that level sooner rather than later. Because music cannot be confined to just practicing required pieces, your child needs to have broader cultural education and exposure. Please see our posts on the benefit of those additional classes.

Summer programs. Again, as the time goes by and your child becomes more capable and confident, eventually you will be looking at participation in summer music programs. Those range from 1-week local camps for kids ages 5-15, to whole summer 8-9 weeks long big festivals. Music camps and summer festivals tend to be more costly than academic and even some sports programs. Check those out to see up-to-date prices.