Six year old B has never had formal music lessons. We would ask her periodically whether she was interested in picking up piano playing, but she’d always say no. Although the hubs and I play the piano (and he the guitar too), we didn’t think it was necessary to enrol them in music classes if they did not ask for them.
We wouldn’t mind starting lessons if the kids expressed interest, but I had heard too many stories of how painful home practice sessions can become, to want to start lessons without them being keen.
However, my dad felt pretty strongly that the girls should start music lessons, and would alternate between persuading them and badgering me. But they were immovable. Being a very persistent man, he unilaterally signed B up for a trial class at Aureus Academy one day. Through further cajoling, he got B to go one weekday afternoon.
And what do you know? The girl enjoyed the trial lesson so much that she agreed to continue going!
So grandpa threw the ball into my court.
First, I went to read up more about Aureus Academy, and ended up being very impressed by its founder’s ethos. Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi (ethnically Norwegian-Iranian and hailing from California) first came to Singapore to study at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music on a full scholarship.
After being approached repeatedly by Singaporean parents who were willing to pay top-dollar for him to teach their kids, he realised that there was a gap in the market. Together with his younger brother, a successful entrepreneur who brought important business know-how into the venture, they plugged the gap.
Although Lawrence is a world class concert pianist, I found it fascinating that he only started learning the piano at age 11, and hardly took music exams. Instead, he simply learnt concert pieces from some of the best pianists in the world.
I especially appreciated what he said here:
In Singapore, schools focus quite a bit on exams. Although exams are a great tool to help children achieve goals and push themselves, as well as compare with other students, many students do not enjoy their lessons and practicing because they are forced to try and ‘cram’ everything in before the exams. This is not possible for music. This preparation is based mainly on engaged regular practice that can only come when the student enjoys the process of learning.
At Aureus Academy, we focus on the student’s interests and music that each student enjoys while still teaching the fundamental skills, knowledge, and technique that can be applied to the exams. This makes playing an instrument and practicing much more fun!
As mentioned, I held back on formal music lessons mainly because I think many kids do not enjoy their music lessons. Learning to play an instrument becomes a chore and source of stress, which is not the point of music at all!
So how did B find her lessons? Let the pictures tell the story.
First, she was happy to enter the cheery room – each teacher has a dedicated room that they can personalise.
I found the lessons very lively and engaging. As the child plays a few simple notes, the teacher effortlessly adds a more complex accompaniment alongside. It lends a lot more music into the session overall, and I love the fact that the child hears how beautiful and harmonic the piece could be, even as she contributes a very simple melody line.
The session is only half an hour each time for beginners such as B, and as she goes through basics such as her sitting posture, the positioning of her wrist and fingers, simple solfège as well as singing.B has no time to get bored!
The one-on-one session means that the teacher is very attuned to the child’s pace of learning, and can tailor the session to the child’s needs.
Whilst lessons are not cheap at about $220 for 4 half-hour lesson a month, it is once again a matter of quality. Aureus Academy’s teachers boast more tertiary qualifications (42 Bachelor’s and Master’s and Doctoral Degrees) across their schools than any other music school in Singapore. Whilst one might think that it is not necessary for teachers to be so ‘over-qualified’ when coaching complete beginners, I think it is important to have serious teachers who can teach the correct basics, right from the start. Surely it is harder to unlearn wrong techniques.
Also, the fees reflect the fact that Aureus’ teachers are paid well. And from video interviews that I’ve seen, it seems that they are given access to quality instruments and teaching materials, and so are a very happy bunch of teachers!
At present, I don’t think B needs to do down the exam route. If anything, I would be the most pleased if she builds up enough expertise to play for worship service in church.
If B ends up mastering the piano to any degree, she has her persistent grandfather to thank! Here he is, looking very pleased with himself.
If you’d like to try a session for yourself, schedule a free trial by filling out the contact form here.
p.s. Stay tuned for our next post, when we discover more about how Aureus Academy started, what contributing factors helped them expand so quickly, and the unique aspects of their centres.
For enquiries, call: +65 6235 6488
Note: Thanks Aureus Academy for sponsoring a term of lessons for B for the purpose of this review!