New York City parents don’t need a piano dropped on their heads to know that music lessons are good for their kiddos and experts will tell you that piano is the best first instrument for kids to learn. But where oh where do you send them to music school? Sure, you’ve got Julliard and the LaGuardia School of the Arts for teens and up, but what about the very tiniest virtuosos? Where can they tickle the ivories for the first time? Keep reading to discover some of the piano lessons that hit our top notes for toddlers and elementary school-aged kids across Manhattan and beyond.
The Piano School of NYC
Locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and beyond
Sharp: From Mommy, Piano & Me for newborns through the age of 18 months to private lessons for boys and girls 3 and above, The Piano School of NYC will come to your home at your convenience, or you can hightail it to your teacher’s studio. All instructors have a minimum of a Bachelor Degree in Piano or Music Education.
Flat: Group lessons are primarily available as part of after-school programs or nursery schools (see if yours would be interested), though it might be possible to make arrangements for a small group lesson in a private home (you’d have to be the one to recruit the other kids).
Riverside Piano Studios
Upper West Side and Chelsea locations
Sharp: All ages are welcome and, in addition to private lessons in your home, Riverside Piano Studios offers a special Piano Games program for children ages 3 to 7 years old, utilizing movement, drama, and imaginary play.
Flat: Regular recitals are a required part of the curriculum, so those with stage fright might prefer a more low key (in more ways than one) approach.
Bloomingdale School of Music
23 West 108th Street
Upper West Side
Sharp: A non-profit, Upper West Side community music school, Bloomingdale is open to all, not merely budding prodigies and their Tiger Moms. Their Early Childhood Classes start with 3 month olds in an effort to lay the groundwork for a lifetime of musical enjoyment, then move into toddler rhythm, tempo and pitch lessons. The next step is usually Group Keyboard for the school-age set, with an option for private sessions down the line.
Flat: While many children enjoy the group program, others may find the overall pace of the class too slow or too fast for their own abilities.
Turtle Bay Music School
244 East 52nd Street
Sharp: Four to 6 year olds can start with Children’s Group Piano Level 1 (though general music classes are available for toddlers, too). At this age, each student works at their own upright electric piano to learn the basics, including note reading. Those who opt to take private lessons in conjunction with group ones, receive a 10% discount on the latter.
Flat: Many 4 year olds may not be ready to commit to one instrument. A less structured class for Kindergartners and 1st graders involves making music in small ensembles, and improvising melodies on solo instruments such as the piano and recorder, along with some general music theory games, note recognition, rhythmic training, musical form and solfege.
Diller-Quaile School of Music
24 East 95th Street
Upper East Side
Sharp: The Diller-Quaile curriculum in influenced by the work of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, Zoltán Kodály, Carl Orff, Shinichi Suzuki, Maria Montessori and Edwin Gordon. A typical course for children ages 4 and up includes an individual lesson and a musicianship class. Students taught by the Suzuki method also participate in a weekly group playing class meant to motivate through socialization.
Flat: The registration process requires the parents to attend an Open House and Information session, followed by an interview where newcomers will be able to try out an instrument while more proficient students are asked to play a piece. Registration is first-come/first-served, but the classes fill up very quickly, with preferences going to current students.
118 Baxter Street
Sharp: My Little Body and Fingers is Music Beans’ Piano Preparation group class for ages 2 to 4. The idea is to develop both the fine and gross motor skills applicable for diving into an instrument. Later, children under the age of 5 take private, half-hour lessons, while those over kindergarten age study for 45 minutes up to an hour. A 15-minute trial lesson is available prior to making a commitment.
Flat: There are no group classes for older kids who might prefer the more social environment they started with here.
Third Street Music School Settlement
235 East 11th Street #1
Sharp: New York’s oldest community music school offers 5 to 8 year olds the chance to become music makers at the keyboard with an aural approach to learning based on songs most children already know. Students will develop solid keyboard technique while learning to read notes, improvise and compose. The next step is private lessons, though Partner Lessons, where two students share a single teacher, are also available as a more economical option.
Flat: Beginner group piano classes span ages 5 to 14, which means children may find themselves studying alongside much older peers – and vice-versa.
Special Music School
129 W 67th Street
Upper West Side
Sharp: The Special Music School is a kindergarten through 8th grade public school with stellar standardized test scores and a rigorous musical curriculum where children receive two private lessons per week, as well as classes in music theory, chorus and movement. It’s basically a free, top of the line musical education available to any student living in the five boroughs of New York City (if you don’t mind the commute).
Flat: A stringent audition process where children take a 25-minute music “class” in which they are asked to sing, clap and move to music is required. In addition, each child is given a short, one-on-one individual assessment. Children who score above a certain level on both tests are called back for a lengthier individual assessment. Out of close to 500 applicants, only 15 are accepted into Kindergarten each year. You can also apply for later grades, but spots are even more limited (1 or 2 at most) and children are expected to already have had some musical instruction. A High School will be opening in September of 2013.
“Like” this story if you’ve got an aspiring musician in your family.
Photos from Diller-Quaile, Bloomingdale School of Music & Alina Adams