FAQ

How long are lessons?

Most lessons are 40 minutes long, longer than a standard 30 minute lesson because there are so many musicianship skills like ear training and improvising to fit in!

Students who are studying at a conservatory grade 5 level or higher are encouraged to have a 55 minute lesson, particularly if they intend to take written theory examinations. Preparation for Level 5-8 theory exams is included in this lesson time.

What ages and levels do you teach?

I generally teach students once they are 6 years old and in Grade 1 and up! Parents must realize, however, that the younger the child, the more help practicing at home they are going to need. A 6-year-old probably needs a parent sitting beside them or close by while they practice, while an 8-year-old should only need a little help to get started or to check up that they did what they were assigned. Depending on the child, of course. If they are not reading yet, I would recommend that you wait a little longer or consider a choir or other music education program geared to their age.

Since I have my Associate diploma, I teach up to Royal Conservatory Grade 10. I also teach Rudiments, now known as Level 5-8 Theory with The Royal Conservatory. If you're looking for Grade 10 or higher or for the harmony and history co-requisites, I can give you recommendations in Edmonton, or you can check out the Find a Teacher directory for registered music teachers.

See more about me and my qualifications here.

Can you teach me to play jazz?

Kind of. Not as well as I can teach classical, but I have successfully prepped students for a Conservatory Canada Contemporary Idioms Grade 6 exam. This is an alternate stream of examinations where students are expected to be able to play from a lead sheet (melody and chords, but not everything written out) and improvise as part of their exam. I do play a lot of chord charts and lead sheets and do plenty of improvising, which are foundational skills for playing jazz, but I mostly play contemporary Christian worship music and pop music this way and not as much jazz. I like it and can teach it up to a point, but if you're looking for advanced jazz teacher, I'm afraid you'll need to keep looking.

What times do you have available?

I teach Monday through Friday in the afternoons and evenings, and during school hours on request. I am currently scheduling lessons to start in September 2020. 

See my Calendar. 

What happens if I can't make my lesson time?

If a student is unable to attend their regularly scheduled lesson, the following options are available:
  1. Online lesson. An online lesson may be substituted for an in-person lesson at the regularly scheduled lesson time at any time for any reason. If either the student or the teacher is unable to pass the daily health screening questions, an in-person lesson will not be possible, and an online lesson will be substituted. If an in-person lesson is changed to an online lesson, their next lesson time can become an in-person lesson. The teacher should be notified by email or text before the beginning of the lesson time that you wish to substitute an online lesson. 
  2. Makeup lesson. Makeup lessons at alternate times are available for illness, self-isolation, or quarantine of any member of the family, or deaths in the family. An alternate lesson time is not available for lessons missed for vacations, school events, or sport events. Makeup lessons can be either in-person or online, depending on the missed lesson. Makeup lessons can be scheduled by logging in at www.vickimartinmusic.com and registering for available times a minimum of 24 hours before the lesson time. Makeup lessons will usually be available during open or cancelled lesson times, two Thursday evenings a month, and one Saturday a month.  
  3. Video feedback lesson. If a makeup lesson time can not easily be arranged and a video feedback lesson is chosen as the alternative, the teacher will put together a 5-10 minute video explaining concepts and doing demonstrations for new material or assignments that the student is currently working on. This will be made available by a link to an unlisted video posted on YouTube. The student can submit a video of material that they have been working on up to 15 minutes long. The teacher will provide feedback on their video within the week by email or video as appropriate to the student.
The student or responsible adult will be responsible to book a makeup lesson or inform the teacher that they wish to have a video feedback lesson. If they do not do so by the end of the contract, they forfeit their lesson time. The teacher may cancel one lesson during the contract for illness without penalty or makeup lesson, and should the teacher need to cancel any additional lessons, the student or responsible adult will be given the option of a makeup lesson, a video feedback lesson, or a pro-rated individual lesson refund.

I have a keyboard. Will that be okay for practicing on?

That depends. Does it have 88 keys? Does it have a pedal? Can you play loud and soft depending on how hard you play it? Are the keys weighted or feel heavy? If the answer to all of these is yes, then odds are good that I would consider it a digital piano and an instrument rather than a toy. Anything less is a keyboard-shaped toy, and while fun to play with, is not adequate for private piano lessons. If you're looking for a general rule of thumb, your instrument should be worth at least as much as a year's worth of lessons!

While a digital piano will do the job, I will almost always vote for an acoustic piano over a digital! They sound better, they are more responsive to how you play it, and students do make better progress with a better instrument. I know they aren't as portable and you can't use headphones (unless you spring for a Yamaha Silent Piano) and they need to be tuned, but even my youngest students can tell you that it's easier to play on my acoustic upright grand than on my digital piano. Please consider a used acoustic and remember that acoustic pianos retain their value much better than digitals should you ever need to sell it. Then you also don't need to worry about upgrading once you start getting up into grade levels where you really should have an acoustic instrument. Used pianos are like used cars, though, so the older it is, the more likely it needs more maintenance than just a tuning.

Who do you recommend for tuning my piano?

Bruce Bischoff with Piano Action is excellent, though you'll need to book him well in advance! 

How much do I have to practice?

How good do you want to get, and how fast do you want to get that good? Generally speaking, the more you practice, the faster you will learn! Research has found that on average, it takes about 450 hours of practice to finish Grade 1 (since there are usually a couple years of prep before that) and 3,300 hours of practice to reach the equivalent of a Royal Conservatory Grade 10. It's for good reason that you can get high school credit in Alberta for completing your Grade 6, 7, and 8 exams, because there's a lot of hours invested in learning it!

I expect my students to regularly practice five days a week, so with your lesson day, you can take one day off a week. I consider it to be a reasonable expectation for good progress to practice 15-20 minutes a day in early elementary (perhaps split into two mini-practice sessions for those squirmy distractable little ones!), 30 minutes a day for late elementary, 45 minutes a day for junior high, and 60 minutes a day for high school. More is better!

How much do lessons cost?

There are two different rates depending on your lesson day, since Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday lessons get 37 lessons through the school year while Monday and Friday lessons only get 33 lessons since they get most of the holidays and PD days.

2019-2020 RATES Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
37 lessons/year plus $50 registration & recital fee
Monday, Friday
34 lessons/year plus $50 registration & recital fee
40 minute lesson $99.05/month $92.21/month
55 minute lesson   $134.50/month $124.00/month

Payments are due on the first of each month for September through June and may be paid with recurring credit card payments, online by credit card or PayPal, by e-transfer, cheque or post-dated cheque. Invoices will be sent out 10 days prior to the first day of each month with reminders on the first day of the month and automatically recurring payments are on the first of the month. Payments that have not been received by 9:00 am on the third day of each month will be subject to a $10 late fee per student. 

What is included in that cost? Is there anything else I'll need to pay for?

Your monthly fee includes:    

  • two performance opportunities, typically studio recitals, one held at the end of January, and one at the end of June.
  • one duet recital called Two Much Fun which is done together with a group of Edmonton piano teachers. For this recital, five pianos are gathered on one stage with two performers at each to give pianists the opportunity to perform in an ensemble with a conductor. It really is quite fun! *Pending for 2020-2021
  • an assignment binder and some worksheets.
  • the use of my extensive music library to borrow materials on a short-term basis for
    sightreading, quick studies, or to review supplementary material that you might be interested in purchasing.  
  • Stickers and prizes from the treasure box

Your monthly fees do not include:    

  • your regular lesson books.  You can expect books to cost about $50 per year.  I will order books and materials as they are needed for you and consult with you before ordering optional beneficial materials.  Payment is due within 30 days of receipt.
  • conservatory exam fees or music festival entry fees, which are recommended but optional. It is up to you to register and pay for these directly.  
  • lost or damaged (beyond reasonable wear) books from my library, which will be invoiced at replacement cost. 

Do I have to sign up for the whole year?

As a general rule, yes. I'll make exceptions for university students who have a different academic year, but my standard contract is from September through June. It takes time and determination to learn an instrument! If for some reason things are not working out, you can cancel your contract with a minimum one month’s notice and one month’s payment. For example, if  notice is given on the 15 th  of the month, then the usual monthly payment is due on the first of the following month, but if notice is given on the 1 st  of the month with that month’s payment, no further monthly payments will be required. Pro-rated individual lesson refunds will not be given. You can continue to take lessons until the end of the paid month. 

What if I'm signing up in the middle of the year?

In that case, I would add up however many lessons are left in the remainder of the year and adjust your first month's payment so that you pay for the correct number of lessons over what is left in the year. Each month following will be at the usual monthly rate. 

Do you teach in the summer?

I try not to! Adult students or advanced students preparing for August exams may continue lessons throughout the summer on a per-lesson basis with as much flexibility as needed to accommodate holiday plans for everyone.

Do I have to play in recitals or take exams?

I expect my students to play in recitals, but it is not mandatory. Missing a recital is like missing a lesson, though, since there is a lot to be learned from preparing and performing and hearing everyone else play! Memorization is encouraged but not required. I usually have two studio recitals in January and June. Dates, times, and places will be announced well in advance. For 2020-2021, these performance opportunities may take the form of an online recital, mini-recitals, or pre-recorded performances, depending on what restrictions are in place in Alberta at the time. 

Students are also encouraged to participate in examinations with The Royal Conservatory or Conservatory Canada and in music festivals with the Kiwanis Music Festival or Contemporary Showcase. You will be reminded of dates as they come near, but it is your responsibility to register. The more advanced you get, the more I will encourage all of them, but first year beginning students usually don't. For exams, I generally recommend that students take a couple of the Grades 1-3 exams, but every one isn't necessary. We'll cover all the requirements in lessons even without the exam at the end. Once you hit Grade 4 or 5, you should plan on doing each exam, as much for the goal and motivation as for getting an evaluation from an outside perspective.

Are lessons any fun?

I sure hope so! We rotate through different musicianship skills each week so that there's always something a little new. While I will get my students to play tricky passages until it's easy (or at least easier!) like a personal trainer asking for just one more pushup, I try to keep everything lighthearted with laughter. We'll play rhythms on cups, play hand drums, play duets, and occasionally play music games on the iPad. I have an incentive program where students can earn badges based on their accomplishments and use the points from those to earn prizes from my treasure box. 


Sign me up!