Music, dance lessons for all ages

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - No matter what your age, instructors say lessons are a great way to challenge yourself, have fun, meet new people, get healthier and develop a new, useful hobby.

"I recently took up piano lessons. We've had a piano in my house for years and it's been really fun. It's always fun to learn something new. My husband plays and my kids play and it's created a little family competition with my kids and I," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Angie's List asked highly rated dance and music instructors on how to get started.

Music Lessons:

Learning how to play musical instruments can be a gift that keeps on giving for everyone, from small children to the elderly. No matter who you are, playing an instrument can enrich your life in many ways.

  • Picking an instrument: In general, a good time to introduce a child to an instrument is age 5 or 6, which is when many begin the piano or the violin. These instruments give them a solid foundation in music on which to build, so that they can choose other instruments later on, if they so desire. At age 7 or 8, children's hands are bigger and they have more respiratory power. This can be a good age to start a wind or brass instrument.
  • Rent or buy? Renting an instrument can be a good starting point, as it's cheaper than buying and involves less commitment to one particular instrument. Also, many music rental services allow you to upgrade your instrument to accommodate proficiency and physical growth. Rentals can run from $20 to $40 per month, but many music stores offer a rent-to-own option, where monthly payments are applied toward a final purchase price.

Angie's List Tips: Picking a music instructor

  • Ask for the instructor's credentials. Many music instructors have a professional accreditation or hold a degree in music education, but not all do.
  • Ask for, and check, references from current students.
  • Consider bringing the child to the initial interview with the prospective teacher so you both understand the teacher's philosophy and policies and to get a feel for how their personalities harmonize.
  • Ask if the teacher offers discounts to families with multiple children enrolled.
  • Be clear on the teacher's expectations about practicing. Often, children need motivation to practice. Be willing to supervise, enforce and even participate.

Dance Lessons:

Whether you're looking for a beginner's class for your children or a recreational group for adults, there are various styles of dance lessons that will serve every need.

  • Dance has many benefits: Some people take dance lessons as a way to get in shape, lose some weight, gain confidence, make friends or do something social. Bridal parties will take dance lessons before a wedding to prepare for that first big dance at the reception. Still others take lessons when considering dance as a profession or career.
  • Many options: Watch a few classes before deciding and get an idea for the pace at which the class progresses. Do the dances make you excited and inspired to learn? If not, keep looking. If you find the lessons boring to watch, they'll probably be boring to do.
  • Pick a partner:  Pick a close friend or partner who will allow you to feel comfortable and learn together. This will also help when you're trying to figure out if you are doing the moves correctly. And everything is always more fun with a friend.

Angie's List Tips: Picking a dance instructor

  • Be clear about what you want. Why are you looking for lessons? Do you need to prepare for a wedding or special event? Do you want to give dance lessons as a gift for someone? Are you looking for a dance school for your child?
  • If you are preparing for a special event, you may want to hire a private instructor who can choreograph a personalized routine just for the event with you and your partner. Private instruction is especially appropriate when you don't have the luxury of time.
  • If you're looking for a serious school, focus on the training, qualifications and certifications of the instructors. How long has the school been open? Are the school and teachers members of an artistic organization? Talk to current and past students. Find out whether the teachers focus on developing all their students, not just a select few.
  • Be clear about costs. The costs of dancing can add up quickly. When you look into a school, ask what other costs will be involved besides lesson fees. Will there be costs for the facility, costumes, recitals or dues?

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