Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs

  • 1.

    My son doesn't know which instrument to learn. Can you help

    Making a smart choice is important if your son aims to join one of our amazing performance groups. Choosing a less common instrument is the key, as there is intense competition on some instruments, but easier pathways on others. For instance, alto saxophone is very popular but there are only 6 positions for alto between our Big Band and Premier Concert Band. Therefore, if you are not in the top 6 you cannot join a senior performance group.

    However, instruments such as the oboe, bassoon, French horn, euphonium, tuba and double bass are fantastic instruments but less common, mainly because they are more expensive. If you are good on one of these instruments, you will be welcomed with open arms.

    A comprehensive description of the different instrument options is detailed on our website for your information; please take the time to read through these.

    It may be possible to hire an instrument through the School (subject to availability). There is an annual instrument hire charge of $75, which will be charged via the Parent Portal.

    There are many opportunities to become involved in one of Grammar's performance groups. Our Music staff would be very keen to run through the options with your son at the beginning of Term 1 if they are still unsure of which instrument to learn.

  • 2.

    Are lessons available for beginners?

    Opportunities for beginner students are provided on all instruments except for piano, drum-kit and guitar (subject to availability).

  • 3.

    How much do music lessons cost?

    Our itinerant lessons have a non-refundable, annual administration fee of $100. This fee is charged via the Parent Portal. Professional private teachers often charge in access of $60 per hour.

  • 4.

    Can my son hire an instrument from the School?

    We have a limited stock of more unusual, expensive instruments (such as the oboe, bassoon, French horn, euphonium and tuba). This makes it easier for students to find a place in our performance groups as there is less competition.

    We also have stock of 'shortage' instruments such as the cello, viola, flute and trombone. More common instruments (like the clarinet, trumpet and saxophone) can be hired from local music shops.

    We can provide advice regarding private hire options. As your son's ability and confidence improves, the entry-level instruments we supply may no longer meet his needs.

    At this stage your son's teacher may contact you to encourage you to purchase or hire a more appropriate instrument from a music store.

  • 5.

    How much does it cost to hire an instrument and how can my son hire one?

    An annual instrument hire charge of $75 will be charged via the Parent Portal. This fee is non-refundable.

    Subject to availability, students will have access to the school instrument only after the student and parent/caregiver have signed the Instrument Hire Agreement form, and the form has been returned to the Music administrator.

    The instrument hire may be terminated if adequate progress is not maintained.

    Please note:  The hirer is responsible for purchasing consumables such as strings, rosin, reeds, valve oil etc. as needed (or replaced at the request of an Itinerant music teacher).  These items are not available through the School, but can be purchased from a local Music retail store at the hirer’s cost.

  • 6.

    When will my son start his lessons?

    You will receive notification via email when music lessons for your son have been timetabled.

    Sometimes it is necessary to place students on a 'waitlist' until a space becomes available in a suitable group. It is in the best interests of the Music Department to accommodate lessons for students as soon as possible.

  • 7.

    Do I have to re-enrol my son each term?

    Students enrol and commit to a year of lessons. However, should a student wish to discontinue lessons during the year they must notify the Music Administrator at j.mackenzie@ags.school.nz and their respective teacher as soon as possible. The administration fee will not be refunded.

  • 8.

    Can I enrol my son for individual lessons?

    We are rarely able to offer individual lessons on any instrument due to funding limits but sometimes spaces can be found for advanced students preparing for external examinations.

  • 9.

    I want my son to have private music lessons. How can I find a teacher?

    We encourage private lessons as a next step for students who have begun learning in our school group lessons. Your teacher should be able to recommend some suitable options for you.

  • 10.

    How many students are there in the music lesson groups?

    Class size varies from one class to the next, but an average guide of between two and four students is common.

  • 11.

    Will my son miss class if he takes music lessons?

    Music lessons are mainly timetabled during the school day due to teacher availability. In a few instances, lessons may run before and/or after school or during lunchtimes (according to teacher availability).

    Lesson times are rotated weekly to minimise the disruption to curriculum classes. Students are expected to be proactive in managing missed classwork.

  • 12.

    Will missing class affect my son's learning?

    A great many of our best academic students are excellent musicians who miss classes for music lessons.

    The instrument lesson is regarded as an important part of your son’s school curriculum. A range of studies shows many benefits in learning an instrument, both cognitively and in well-being.

    We recommend taking a photo of a friend’s notes, checking for homework and asking a teacher for help when necessary.

  • 13.

    Can my son have a lesson at lunchtime, interval, before or after school?

    To ensure fairness to all students, any available lesson times outside of classroom hours are rotated weekly (according to teacher availability).

  • 14.

    How does my son find out when his lessons are?

    Music lesson timetables are posted on the school’s website before the start of each new term. They are also displayed on the Music Lesson noticeboard.

    Students should check the noticeboard on the day before their lesson each week for changes. Changes to a music lesson timetable may also be communicated via assembly notices or email.

  • 15.

    Can I enrol my son for piano lessons?

    Unfortunately not. Due to funding constraints, we can only offer group tuition through our Itinerant Music scheme. This means that it is impossible to offer piano lessons (which require individual tuition).

  • 16.

    My son plays piano - how can he get involved at school?

    There are opportunities for the more accomplished pianists to accompany groups such as the Choirs, Big Band, Premier Concert Band, and Symphony Orchestra. Various Chamber groups provide opportunities for students at all levels of the school, and the string orchestra, Grammar Virtuosi, uses a harpsichord.

    We have had a number of very successful pianists who have learnt a second instrument and this should be encouraged. This has allowed the students to play in a greater number of groups, but has also been beneficial for their development on piano as well.

    Grammar has two prestigious annual music competitions suitable for accomplished pianists:

    - The Form 3 Piano Cup is our showcase for Form 3 students at Auckland Grammar School who will compete, perform, and participate in a Masterclass.

    - The Minister's Plate and Junior Music Plate Competitions recognise the achievement of the finest solo instrumentalists at Auckland Grammar School in any given year. Three finalists from each of the Senior and Junior competitions compete for their respective plates.

  • 17.

    My son will miss his music lesson - who should I contact?

    It is expected that students should notify both their lesson teacher and the Music Administrator (at j.mackenzie@ags.school.nz) for any planned or unplanned absences. In some instances it may be possible to reschedule lesson times for planned absences.

  • 18.

    How does my son excuse himself from class to attend his music lesson?

    Students excuse themselves verbally from class and then sign themselves into their music lesson using the Ggatekeeper system. After their music lesson, students must sign themselves out using this same system.

    Gatekeeper will provide a receipt, which can be used to explain an absence to a curriculum teacher.  A central attendance record is also collected and monitored.

    If your son has any issue with exiting class to attend his music lesson, please contact the Music Administrator at j.mackenzie@ags.school.nz.

  • 19.

    What happens if my son forgets his instrument on his lesson day?

    Students who forget their instruments should visit the Music department before their lesson to see if a replacement instrument is available for use. Students are required to inform their music teacher if they are unable to take their lesson.

  • 20.

    Will I need to buy any text books?

    Students may be required to get specific resources in some instances. You will be notified of this and any charges will be uploaded onto the Parent Portal.

  • 21.

    Will my son have to sit external music examinations?

    Students will be encouraged to sit external examinations when and where appropriate.

    You will be responsible for enrolling your son in the relevant examination, and for any costs and logistics.

    Your son should express their interest in sitting external examinations to their music teacher.

  • 22.

    Will my son be expected to join a performance music group?

    All students are encouraged and are expected to join a suitable ensemble group when a particular competency has been obtained.

    Priority in lesson allocation will be given to those students who are members of music ensembles.

  • 23.

    How does my son join a music performance group?

    Auditions for each performance group are held every year. Students interested in joining one of these groups should speak either to their core music teacher or to Head of Music, Mr Wasson.

  • 24.

    What are the expectations of a performance group member?

    Representing Auckland Grammar is an honour, and exemplary standards in preparation, punctuality and performance are expected of every member.

    All groups perform competitively so members must be fully committed to rehearsals, learning their parts thoroughly, and making good progress throughout the year.

  • 25.

    What performance opportunities will my son have if he is a member of a music group?

    There are many performance opportunities for performance groups at Grammar. These include, but are not limited to:

    - Performance Days
    - The annual KBB Music Festival
    - Winter Concert Series
    - Regional and National competitions

  • 26.

    Is there a performance uniform and dress code?

    As representatives of Auckland Grammar School, all performance group members are encouraged to maintain a high standard of dress at all times.

    All students in performance music groups, except Pipe Band, require a music uniform comprising of the following:

    - Music Blazer (available from the School Shop for $165.

    - White Shirt - pressed and clean (available from the School Shop for $35)

    - School Tie (available from the School Shop for $30)

    - Black Trousers - pressed and clean (available from the School Shop for $73)

    - Black socks and shoes – polished

  • 27.

    Can my son play two instruments?

    Students may wish to play a second instrument for a variety of reasons. We encourage students to consider their commitments carefully before they decide.

  • 28.

    What do you recommend as a second instrument?

    This is really dependent on individual music taste, and the personal goals of a musician. A comprehensive description of the different instrument options is detailed on our website for your information.

  • 29.

    Can I enrol my son for guitar lessons?

    The demand for guitar lessons far outweighs the opportunities we can provide within our School, as there is only one suitable performance group for guitarists.  For this reason, as well as limited funding, it is unjustifiable for us to offer guitar lessons unless the student is taking Option Music in Form 4 and above (strictly subject to availability).

    Students seeking beginner guitar lessons will need to make arrangements with a private teacher outside of School.

    We would encourage you to talk to your son about learning a different instrument at School.  Many of our best musicians play a second instrument to enable them to play with School orchestras and bands.

  • 30.

    My son plays guitar/keyboard/drums - how can he become involved at school?

    Although we cannot offer guitar/keyboard/drum-kit lessons, we do wish to support wherever possible, students who have invested time and effort into achieving a high standard of musicianship.  Music HOD Mr Wasson, would be happy to discuss suitable pathways and performance opportunities for your son during their time at Auckland Grammar School.

    The School also runs an annual ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition for contemporary bands – Students should talk to a Music staff member for further information.

    We would also encourage you to talk to your son about learning a different instrument at School.  Many of our best musicians play a second instrument to enable them to play with School orchestras and bands.

  • 31.

    Can my son learn to play the drums?

    Due to funding constraints, we can only offer group tuition through our Itinerant Music scheme.  This means that it is impossible to offer drum-kit lessons which require individual tuition.  However, please keep in mind that students who enrol for Option Music from Form 4 will be given priority for drum-kit lessons (subject to availability).

    Although we cannot offer drum-kit lessons, we do wish to support wherever possible, students who have invested time and effort into achieving a high standard of musicianship.  Music HOD Mr Wasson, would be happy to discuss suitable pathways and performance opportunities for your son during their time at Auckland Grammar School.

    Orchestral percussion is a great way to become involved in a performance group.  Students are taken through the various percussion instruments in a fun lesson setting.  The ability to read music is a pre-requisite for these lessons.  Drummers of all styles are encouraged to make inquiries.

    Alternatively, the School’s highly acclaimed Pipe Band would warmly welcome new drummers into their Corps of Drums section.  Snare, tenor and bass drums lessons are available for students who wish to extend their drumming repertoire by learning the specialist techniques necessary for the Corps of Drums.

  • 32.

    How do I know how my son is progressing in his lessons?

    Student progress is graded on a weekly basis. Requests for term by term progress can be obtained via the respective music teacher or from the music administrator.

    If a student's grades are of concern you will be contacted by their teacher, and annual reports are sent out to parents in November.

  • 33.

    My son is dyslexic and struggles to read music. What instrument would suit him best?

    Learning music can be a very valuable activity for students with learning difficulties, but it can also be frustrating.  Setting a goal for learning will help your son decide what lessons to take.

    If your son intends to pursue further education and a career in Music, learning to be literate in music will be a big advantage.

    If your son wants to learn music for enjoyment, then there is no need to learn music notation and they might consider joining the Pipe Band or the Contemporary Music programme.

    There is a lot of evidence to suggest that learning to read and write music by playing an instrument will help improve processing of sounds and symbols, and potentially help to overcome challenges in other, similar, processes like language. If this is your son's goal, be sure to discuss this openly with the instrumental teacher so they can give you the best help they can.

  • 34.

    Can my son have music lessons with his friends?

    Students will be placed in a group with others of similar ability. Your son should talk to their music teacher about forming a group with friends - they might be able to help.