Q: What ages do you teach?

A: We have experience teaching piano to 2-year-olds through adults. We currently accept private students as young as 3, and as old as. . . .  Well, it’s never too late to start piano lessons, and we enjoy working with adult students too! Remember: You’re never too grey to play!

We believe it is very important to use age-appropriate materials at each level, matching the interests and strengths of each age group.  At NWSM studio, beginning 5-year-olds use different books than beginning 8-year-olds or beginning middle-school students or adults.

Q: How do I know if my child is ready to start lessons?

A: For a child to start standard private music lessons, they should be able to count to ten, recognize & write the numerals 1-5, the letters A-G, wiggle their fingers independently, differentiate between left & right, and focus on an activity for 10 minutes. (If your child is very young and still learning some of these, always feel free to call the office and see if private lessons are the best fit for you!)

We also offer music lessons for preschoolers, focused around “music readiness.” No child is too young to begin discovering the joys of music! Check out our kindermusic program to learn how you can help jump-start your child’s musical development at an early age if private lessons are too advanced.

A child’s interest in music is the most important indicator of readiness:  Do they express themselves musically (singing, humming, dancing, tapping rhythms)?  If you have an instrument at home, do they spend time exploring the sounds and making up songs? These are some of the indicators that music lessons could benefit them personally, and developmentally.

Q: How can I help my preschooler prepare for music lessons?

A: Musical activities can be extremely beneficial to young children, not just to prepare them for music lessons, but to prepare them for life.  Music can help children develop their motor skills and sense of timing, develop language and spatial reasoning skills, and remember facts (for example, “ABC Song”!).

Play quality music in your home and car, especially classical music and folk songs, genres that have stood the test of time.

Sing with your child.  Teach him simple children’s songs you know, get a CD of children’s songs to sing to together, make up your own songs to describe what you do throughout your day.  There are many wonderful educational songs posted by Super Simple Songs on YouTube.

Let your child explore musical instruments, especially makeshift ones like cooking pot drums with wooden spoon drumsticks or a tupperware shaker containing a small amount of rice (carefully sealed, of course.)  Grab a drum yourself and together with your child play to the beat of a recording.  Definitely let him explore your piano or keyboard regularly, making up his own songs.

Involve your child in activities that develop fine-motor skills:  coloring & drawing, playing with play dough, using lacing cards. . . .

Attend a concert for young children.

Q: Do you accept adult students?

A: Yes! We welcome adult beginners with no musical background, players who have been away the piano for many years, as well as lifelong pianists who wish to sharpen their skills.

We understand that there are many demands on your time as an adult, so we take a relaxed approach to lessons.  Regular practice (5-6 days each week) is certainly recommended but not required.  There are many activities we can do in the weekly lesson to further develop your skills regardless of the amount of time you practiced during the week.  Please understand, however, that you will progress much more quickly if you practice consistently.  You do need an instrument for your home practice.  Please see the instrument requirements below under the “Home Practice” section.

Our adult students are encouraged, but not required, to participate in the studio recitals and festival.  These events give you a tangible goal that will keep you focused and on track in your music studies. There is also a yearly adult recital for students 18+ in a low key environment for all musical levels. Keep your eyes out for Recital 151. 



Q: Where do you teach lessons?

A: We teach lessons both at our downtown studio – located one block south of the Salem Public Library – as well as in the homes of our students throughout the Willamette Valley. In-home lessons are an additional $35/month.

Q: How long are the lessons?

Lessons are offered in 30, 45, and 60 minute sessions. Longer lessons are also available as needed for advanced students. Most young beginners start with half hour lessons. After that, the needed lesson time is individually evaluated. 

Q: When are lessons scheduled?

A: Lessons are scheduled between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Mondays – Fridays, and 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

Siblings’ private lessons are scheduled back-to-back, if at all possible, unless the parent requests otherwise.

Q: What weeks are scheduled for lessons?

A: Lessons are scheduled year round, except for 5 weeks of the year. The studio closes an entire week for Spring break, Summer Break (last week before school starts), Thanksgiving break, and two weeks surrounding the Winter Holidays (following the school districts). 

Q: What is different about your music studio?


  • Qualified, Experienced, and Talented Instructors all available to the public, under one roof.
  • Options: At Northwest School of Music there are multiple options for instructors, instruments, and scheduling for both in studio and in-home lessons! Not to mention ample performance opportunities throughout the year.
  • Welcoming Lobby: For students who do best solo for their lessons, there is a waiting area for their family! With a small library, some toys, a coffee station, free WiFi, and comfortable seats the lesson duration can be more fun for everyone else who comes along for the ride. 
  • Easy Communication: With calling, texting, emailing, and walk-in’s during office hours, communicating with NWSM Staff is convenient. 

Q: Will my child have the opportunity to perform at recitals?

A: Yes, the studio prepares multiple recital and performance opportunities each year! With Recital Readiness for beginners to learn about performing, Music Nights for anyone wanting to share their music in a low key and fun environment, Formal Recitals for a fancy night out (sometimes themed), Concerts with select honor students featured, and Recital 151 for students age 18 and up – there is a chance to shine for everyone!



Q: What if we have to miss a lesson?  Do you offer make-ups?

A: Your tuition reserves a specific time in our teaching schedule– teaching time that is dedicated to you.  Understandably, we cannot dedicate double lesson time to you when you have a schedule conflict:  Lesson time cannot be extended if a student is late, and missed lessons cannot be refunded.  However, when possible, we do make every effort to accommodate a reschedule.  Lessons may be made up in the form of group lessons.

If you alert us of your absence prior to the start of the month, we’ll reduce your bill accordingly. Once the month has begun, so long as you give at least 24 hours’ notice, we’ll be happy to provide makeup lesson time options (although, due to our busy schedule, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to offer times that are ideal for your personal schedule). If you must miss a lesson and give less than 24 hours’ notice, unfortunately that lesson will be considered forfeited. We’ll look forward to seeing you at your next scheduled lesson!

Q: How much is tuition?

A: The pricing for the coming year at NWSM are released in April, along with the annual registration fee. Please see this years pricing for current details. 

Q: When is tuition due?

A: Tuition is due by the 10th of the month.  Payments not received or postmarked by the 10th will incur an automatic $20 late penalty. If your family needs to adjust the tuition date, that needs to be communicated through the office. 

Q: Will we have to pay any fees during the year?

A: An annual registration fee is due every April.  The non-refundable registration fee reserves the student’s place in the studio. It covers all materials (ie. flashcards, binders/folders, assignment sheets, etc.), as well as use of the studio lending library so that you never have to buy a book!. The registration fee is $75 the first year, for the first child, and $60 for each additional child and/or subsequent year.

You will NOT be billed for any miscellaneous activities or materials throughout the year, unless you choose to participate in an extra, optional events (such as recitals). 



Q: How much are students required to practice during the week between lessons?

A: The student needs to practice daily in order to master music.  They will progress in direct proportion to the amount of time they spends practicing!  A regular time should be set aside for home practice on at least 5 different days during the week.  Before your lesson you will want to discuss with your instructor what is going to be the best option for practicing tailored to you.

Each student should practice for results, but this chart can serve as a general guide:

  • Young students & Beginning students (Primer Level):  10-15 minutes daily
  • Elementary/Late Elementary Piano (Levels 1-2):  at least 20-30 minutes daily
  • Intermediate Piano (Levels 3-5):  at least 30-45 minutes daily
  • Late Intermediate/Early Advanced Piano:45- 60+ minutes daily

Q: What constitutes good practicing?

A: Students LOVE to play straight through pieces, beginning to end, often at a fast speed.  However, usually this is NOT practicing.  Good practice includes many, many repetitions of small sections, usually at a slow tempo to insure accuracy, in order to conquer trouble spots.  At the weekly lesson, a practice plan including piece titles, page numbers, and specific goals is written out.  The student should follow this plan in his home practice.  Please note that home practice will often include written work (to be completed in the “theory” book).

Q: Do I need to have the instrument at home?

A: Students need to have access to an instrument for their home practice.  Although a well-maintained acoustic piano is definitely preferable, students may use electronic instruments for their home practice as specified below.  (Please note that a keyboard and a digital piano are not the same.)

  • First-year (beginning) students and ages 3-6 ONLY may use an electric keyboard with at least 61 full- or standard-sized, touch-sensitive keys.
  • By the second year of study or by level 1 (after the student has completed the Primer level), students must have regular access to an acoustic piano or a digital piano (e.g. Yamaha Clavinova) meeting ALL of the following specifications:  full- or standard-sized keys, a full length (88-key) keyboard, weighted or graded action, and pedal.

Q: How do I get my child to practice?

A: Students are expected to treat their piano assignments as seriously as their homework assignments and other responsibilities.  This will most likely happen if the student has a specific piano practice time built into his daily schedule.

However, even the most dedicated student will have days when they simply does not want to practice. Have no fear – this is totally normal! But as they press forward through the struggle, the rewards inherent in performing a piece of music will stick with them.  

Remember: Lessons are for Learning. Practice is for Progress. 

Q: I don’t have any background in music.  How can I help my student succeed in their musical studies?

A: Even if you have no musical experience yourself, you can help your child with their piano in these very practical ways:

  • Provide a well-maintained instrument for the student’s daily practice.
  • Provide a practice area and time that is free from distractions.
  • Help your child be faithful to their practice schedule.
  • Show interest in your student’s progress by asking about their lesson or requesting to hear him play a piece.
  • Feel free to occasionally sit in on a lesson.
  • Make sure your child is at their lesson with their books at the appropriate time.
  • Be ready with praise and encouragement for your child.  These will be vital as they face challenges along the way and realize the commitment necessary to excel.
  • Young children (ages 3-5) will need you to sit with them while they practice. You can encourage them to keep going, read their lesson notes to them, and even point to the notes as they play if they need the help.



Q: What is your background as the teacher?

A: Mrs. Mallory Huerta is the director of NWSM and has studied the musical arts for over 12 years, taking private lessons as well as completing her bachelor’s of music at Eastern Oregon University. To learn more about Mrs. Huerta, read her bio on the About page under Information. 

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