Mar 14, 2019
When my oldest child was approaching kindergarten age, I looked into music classes for him and his younger sister. A search on the Internet inevitably bombarded me with advertisements for Yamaha. So I went to check out our local branch in Kawagoe. First impressions last: I knew this wasn't for us.
The classroom was stark and minimalist, not the type of place that would instil creativity in a child. The teacher was all too professional for a would-be instructor to my children and an advisory to me. I like a bit of personality with my engagements; to know that I can get along with my kid's teachers and feel comfortable with them. Maybe even have a bit of craic. It was all a bit too formal for a child's music programme. And when I heard the price it was a definite no-no.
Maybe each Yamaha is different, maybe there are cheaper branches than the one I went to. But at that time, seven years ago now, the price was 7,000 yen per half hour group class. For that price you don't even get one-on-one tutorage. My son and eldest daughter would have been two of at least four children learning music together. And after the initial introduction to music lessons, the only musical instrument you can learn with Yamaha (this branch anyway) is the piano. I looked for alternatives at that time, but never found one.
A few years later when my third child was two, I was fortunate to have a friend who introduced me to a municipally-run rhythmic class in her city. And it was only a thousand yen for three one hour classes a month. They didn't learn to play an instrument in fairness, but they learned how to read music and all about rhythm. It spurred me to once again try and find music lessons for all four of my children.
Serendipity lead me to our current teacher. A lady I can have the craic with, who I feel comfortable with, but more importantly my kids feel not only comfortable with her, but love her. Really love her. She is the woman I thank for being the main reason my third child came out of her very shy shell and became a confident outgoing socialite. She not only teaches my children music, she inspires them, encourages them and emboldens them.
What's more, their classes are one-on-one. Half an hour four times a week. And guess what - it's only 5,500 yen per child. Moreover, they don't have to just learn the piano, they can learn any instrument of their choice. The teacher has a couple of pianos, drums, a marimba, electronic keyboard, organ, hand sonic and several smaller instruments such as triangles, recorders, castanets and bells.
The kids can play and learn as many or as few as they like. And if there is another instrument they want to learn, she will teach it as best she can. We have a ukulele that the kids bring to music class sometimes and our teacher helps them play a song of their choice. She even teaches them how to sing. Unlike Yamaha that works to a fixed programme, they can also choose which songs they want to learn to play. They have written their own songs under her tutelage too and performed their original songs at concerts at her persuasion.
From what I can tell from friends accounts and research; you'd never get anything like this is in Yamaha. It took me a while to find our teacher, she doesn't advertise at all, as her schedule is always full from word-of-mouth business. And like that I heard of her through the high praise of another mother in our area. But I did find her. And I am confident there are more out there like her! My advise for any expats looking to put their kids in a music class - before you pay a big cheque for an impersonal service like Yamaha, see if you can find a local private teacher with a more personal and diversified music programme.
Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.