School band teachers often recruit young Suzuki flutists do to their ability to play so well at a young age. This is often very exciting to students and parents because of not only the early invitation which feels like an honor, but also the social experience that is offered to their child. The goal of learning how to play an instrument is ultimately so that we can play and connect with others. Suzuki teachers also want their students to have as many musical experiences as possible, however at the same time, we want to ensure that the experience is supporting the student in their development rather than hindering or detouring them from their learning process.
School band teachers have a very difficult job in that they need to know enough about each instrument to teach all of them in a short period of time. This is a very challenging task! They are also under much pressure for their students to attain results as quickly as possible in order to have several successful concerts throughout the school year. This often leads to having no choice but to teach short cuts and to skip steps in the learning process in order to be sure flute students can play the chosen concert music.
The reading level of flute music in band is often too difficult for even a traditionally taught older student. The skills that are required of flute students to be successful at this often takes many more years of experience then most students have under their belt. This often leads to frustration and many band students will then seek private lessons outside of school because of the holes in their learning.
Flute & Friends teachers recommend that Suzuki flute students hold off on joining band until they are in late Book 2 or Book 3. By this time, students have a very solid foundation and can handle the challenges and reading level required of them. From our experience, students that join earlier than this can often become frustrated and acquire habits that are counterproductive to their private lesson process. Sadly, this can lead to wanting to quit private lessons altogether.
1) Confusion of having 2 teachers with different approaches
2) Posture and position suffer and can lead to injury due to sitting and not having enough space while playing
3) Learning alternate fingerings or shortcuts before foundational technique is in place
4) Requirement of playing ONLY in certain keys (flats) before it’s introduced in private lessons
5) Reading level difficulty that demands intermediate-advanced reading skills
Not all young students will experience what is listed above and of course it is up to each family to make their own decision. However, maybe consider waiting one more year so that there are no upsets or detours in your private lesson process, especially if you are happy with it and your child is developing into a solid young flutist!