Ingredients to an Awesome Music Lesson Experience

Derek Berg

Derek Berg – Founder of Clarendon Hills Music Academy

I am often asked what elements make for an epic music lesson. In answering that question, I find myself reflecting on the music lessons I took when I was younger. I was fortunate enough to have studied with an amazing piano teacher whose lessons gave me the best of both worlds: he encouraged my creative interests while simultaneously making sure I mastered all of the technical elements you’d expect in a piano lesson.

To me, music lessons did NOT seem like a chore. Music was my escape; it shaped who I was and who I wanted to be. To say I was not an athletic child would be an understatement. I was the daydreamer lying down in the grass picking clovers while my teammates were desperately trying to score goals. Obviously, I did not take the sports world by storm. Thankfully, my love for music allowed me to develop my own identity; while I would never fit in on a soccer or football field, I knew I was the music guy! Having this sense of myself helped me navigate the social awkwardness of my middle school years and provided me with the confidence I needed to succeed in high school and beyond.

When I started Clarendon Hills Music Academy, I spent a long time thinking about my musical experiences growing up. I knew from the start that my music school would be a safe space for children and adults to explore all kinds of music. I also knew going in that I wanted to open a school that would encourage students to develop their musical passions without sacrificing their technical skills. Basically, I knew I wanted to create an academy that would duplicate my experience with music.

So, back to the original question…what makes a music lesson epic? After conducting interviews with various music teachers and coaches for a magazine I publish called Music Coach Magazine, I can boil it down to three basic elements.

1. A perfect balance between creativity & mastery: Since our focus at CHMA is one-on-one private lessons, we have new students fill out a questionnaire giving an overview of their previous musical experience and interests. This helps our team customize a lesson plan around their needs and musical passions. Our students come from all kinds of musical backgrounds. For example, one new student took lessons from a rock band program and touched on some of the creative elements, but never learned how to sight-read. We have also heard stories from new students who described their previous lesson experiences as boring and way too technical. By providing this survey and developing personalized lesson plans, we can make sure to deliver a lesson experience that teaches students what they need to know while letting them explore what they love to play.

2. Intense focus on what students love: I always thought this was a no brainer, but more often than not, our students tell us that before starting at CHMA, they were never given the chance to play music they loved. We at CHMA do our best to let students play the songs on their iPods while introducing them to new musical genres. It’s all about balance – the student who comes in wanting to master his/her favorite songs will get to do that and be introduced to artists from other musical genres.

3. A purpose-driven lesson experience: Each of our students has a different reason for taking lessons. Some of our students actively write their own songs. Some use their lessons to improve their improvisational skills. Some professionally record songs they love to sing. We even have a father and daughter creating an album together. The common thread that ties all of these stories together is that our clients have found a higher purpose to drive their love for music. It is not just about the 30-minute lesson. As teachers, we help students discover a creative passion that will get them excited about playing music.

I can honestly say that I am truly grateful to run a music academy that actively incorporates these elements into our lessons on a daily basis. If you would like to try a free lesson with Clarendon Hills Music Academy, simply visit or call us a 630-98-MUSIC. We would love to welcome you into our musical family.