The lyrics of “Brave” by Sara Bareilles echo into the hallway. A private teacher quietly enters the classroom. As the door shuts and students register that someone is here, one suddenly realizes: it’s my private teacher.

 “Is it my turn? When do I get to go today?”

Since SWAN camp began on June 20th, this has been one of the questions I hear the most upon entering a classroom. After spending most of the day in various group classes, the students have daily private sessions dedicated to learning an instrument with their teacher. This year, our instruments include guitar, ukulele, piano, drums, cello, viola, and violin. Each day, we alternate when our kids have their lesson so they don’t miss too much class. The fun part about this is that it’s a surprise for them!

While some of our students are returnees continuing the instrument they were already taking, others are entirely new. As a piano teacher, I have all beginners. That presents challenges and rewards. Although taking lessons four days a week can be tiring—especially for beginners—these kids have been stepping up to the plate and making remarkable progress. String Instructor, Miss Kerry, shares that she has six returning students and four beginners. 

We agreed that one of the best advantages of the SWAN camp is the chance to grow at an accelerated pace. “It takes five or six weeks [at SWAN camp] to do what I do for other private students in ¾ of a year. That’s a huge advantage because they get that needed attention right at the beginning.” Learning any new instrument requires a fair amount of rote memorization and repetition from Day 1. By coming to SWAN camp daily, our students learn a concept in their private lessons that gets reinforced the next day. After four days of this rhythm, the students can look forward to a three-day weekend where they refresh and get excited for the coming week. 

Miss Kerry commented on other advantages of having daily private lessons. “It’s great to have them every day because it’s enriching” and “it helps them face the battle.” Every student brings their background, with all of its gifting and challenges, into a private lesson. As private teachers, we get to create a space to talk about how music teaches us about life. Miss Kerry shares, “If they’re not excited…then we can talk about doing stuff that doesn’t come naturally.” I have also seen this as an opportunity to discuss learning and growth with many students. For instance, I love watching my students be surprised when I share that I’m still improving at playing piano. It encourages them to realize there is no timeline for being “good” at an instrument. And as Miss Kerry adds, taking private lessons teaches each student about perseverance. We are teaching our kids not only how to play but how not to quit, even when life gets tough. In the same way, “you can’t quit life…[the student] can look back and say, ‘Oh yeah, I figured this out when I played the violin.’ Choosing a good attitude is a valuable lesson for our students.”

By: Julia Roper