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@veronikaperova / via Instagram

There’s no need to give up on your childhood dream of becoming a world-famous musician, because if you’re a Barnumbia undergrad who plays an instrument, you’re eligible to take private lessons through the Music Performance Program, or MPP, at Columbia.

I know, I know—while taking private music lessons might not automatically make you a world-star violinist, they definitely help you become a better musician. So why not sign up to take music lessons next semester?

What do I need in order to take private lessons?

For most instruments (in fact, all instruments except the piano), you’ll need some kind of prior experience, as you’ll have to audition in order to get placed (more on that later). Additionally, private lessons cost $500 per semester, unless you’re planning on majoring or concentrating in music—then you can either get the course completely free or heavily subsidized.


The music department at Columbia offers private lessons for both jazz and classical instruments. However, not all instruments have faculties who can give private lessons. Here are the list of instruments for which private lessons are provided:

Classical instruments:

  • Piano
  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Bass
  • Clarinet
  • Flute
  • French horn
  • Oboe
  • Bassoon
  • Harpsichord
  • Guitar
  • Harp
  • Organ
  • Percussion
  • Saxophone
  • Trumpet
  • Trombone
  • Tuba

Jazz instruments:

  • Piano
  • Percussion
  • Drums
  • Acoustic bass
  • Electric bass
  • Saxophone
  • Trumpet
  • Trombone
  • Voice
  • Guitar
  • Vibraphone
  • Jazz Orchestration
  • Jazz Composition

Do I have to audition?

Yes, unfortunately, you do have to go through an audition process. This means that lessons are not offered for beginners, with the exception of piano (beginner piano players are welcome).

Auditions are generally held in the first week of fall semester. The sign-up sheets for audition are available on the MPP Columbia website about two weeks before the first day of classes in the fall semester (auditions are annual, so there aren’t any auditions prior to spring semester). You can check the location and the audition requirements here (depending on what instrument you play, you might have to prepare for different things [complete songs, sight reading, etc.]). Make sure you start practicing over the summer!

Lesson Policies

  • Even though it says that lessons cost $500 per semester on the website, they’ll actually cost $250 starting in the fall semester. Additionally, via an email sent out by Professor Susan Boynton in February, lesson fees will not be waived for anyone, even for those majoring or concentrating.
  • Lessons are worth one credit that will be graded on the P/F basis. Participation is the only factor for grading, meaning you’ll pass it as long as you make sure to go your lessons.
  • Registered students are required to take six hours of lessons per semester. Since each lesson usually is one hour, this means roughly one lesson every two weeks.
  • All piano players must have an interview during the week of the audition. This is to ensure each student ends up with the most appropriate faculty for him/her.

Should I take lessons?

Yes! Whether you think you’re the most talented person you know or you’ve never picked up an instrument, you should consider taking lessons (especially if you want to take piano lessons, since they’re beginner-friendly).

Taking lessons at Columbia will not only maintain and develop your music skills, it can also become a favorite hobby or a good way to unwind from your more bookish academics. Of course, you’ll have to practice (not a lot), but know that it is always a rewarding experience.

Whether you’re already a pretty-much-professional or are just picking the practice back up after a few months or years of hiatus, definitely consider taking music lessons next semester—it’s a good way to take a step back from your other classes and find a healthy way to de-stress, and you’re definitely spoiled for choice at CU—with over 30 instrument lessons between the classical and jazz departments, there’s probably something there that will peak your interests.

Have any questions about how to sign up for music lessons? Ask us on our Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Sein An is a Spectrum trainee and a Columbia-Juilliard Exchange first-year. She plays the violin. Reach her at

music lessons music lessons instruments Piano Violin Viola Cello Bass Clarinet Flute French horn Oboe Bassoon Harpsichord Guitar Harp Organ Percussion Saxophone Trumpet Trombone Tuba Drums Acoustic bass Electric bass Voice Guitar Vibraphone Jazz Orchestration Jazz Composition
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