Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to be a non-profit/charitable organization?
It means that any profit goes back into the school programs and services. Generally this enables us to pay a larger amount to the teachers than a for-profit music school/store does - and results in the finest teachers possible. We have relocated a core of outstanding teachers from across Canada to teach at the Conservatory and through the music department at Algoma University. It also means that we can issue tax receipts for all donations and the funds from the donations also assist with our student programs, concerts and services.

Is the Conservatory more expensive?
The price of our lessons is much lower than you would expect. The teaching rate for most of our teachers is between $22 and $29 for a private 30 minute lesson. Group classes are much less expensive. This is far lower than comparable teachers in Toronto - and you will find is about the same or only slightly more than many student or amateur teachers in the community.

Are all music teachers qualified?
There are no regulations in Ontario to teach music. Anyone can call themselves a qualified teacher - even if they have had only a handful of lessons, or are self- taught. At the Conservatory our instructors have many years of extensive conservatory and university music training.

Can anyone who plays a little music start a beginning student?
Beginning students need the best teachers! It is very important to have a professional teacher from the very beginning as this is when lifetime playing skills are developed. It is much harder for our teachers to repair the bad habits resulting from poor teaching, than it is do develop a student's technique and love of music from the very beginning. Unless a teacher is familiar with the thousands of technical and musical details that go into playing an instrument or singing well, they do not know how to structure the progress of a student and correct and develop the technique. Needless to say a $28 lesson with a professional teacher at the Conservatory is far better value than a $25 lesson elsewhere with an amateur or student teacher.

Is the Conservatory only for older students?
The Algoma Conservatory specializes in instruction of students between 2 and 18 years of age. We have several levels of group introductory classes for children from 2 to 6 years of age; and then a core of outstanding teaching that specialize in teaching all instruments and voice, primarily to elementary school and high school students. We also offer instruction for adults at all levels, and many of our teachers teach various music classes and give lessons on all instruments and voice through Algoma University.

Are the teachers strict?
It is a fallacy that a qualified teacher is stricter than an amateur or student teacher. Most students at the Conservatory will not pursue a career in music and the teachers do not expect them to. All of our teachers hope to encourage students to advance to a level where they will enjoy making music their whole lives. The real enjoyment comes with an instrument or voice when a level is reached where a student can effortlessly make music. There are daily practice assignments and the teachers will encourage the students to meet these simple goals each week. It is more fun to excel than to be struggling because of poor teaching. All of our teachers believe that encouragement is their best tool to stimulate a student's desire to learn.

Can I start after the year has begun?
Lessons are offered year round. Most lessons are September through June, with between 34 and 36 lessons, however, students can start at any time and the tuition is pro-rated for the actual number of lessons. There is also a 6 week trial session available for all new students. Many teachers also offer blocks of lessons in the summer.

Do you have to take exams and play in recitals and the music festival?
All of our teachers can prepare students for Royal Conservatory Examinations and will often encourage participation in Conservatory student recitals or the Music Festival - but they are optional. For many students these goals encourage better progress - but for others they create too much stress. Students progress at their own rate and the teacher and parent decide together what activities will be most beneficial.

Should I attend the lessons with my child?
We encourage parents to attend the lessons, especially for young children, however, it is not compulsory. In effect the parent is the assistant teacher. While the lesson focuses on the student - it is really showing the parent what to do with their child when they get home. Young children cannot organize their practice well by themselves. The parent will be encouraged to spend a few minutes of positive practice time together with their child most days of the week (20 to 30 minutes). This teacher/parent/student partnership often works well into the early teens, and finally the student has the practice skills needed to make excellent progress without assistance from their parent.

Do you have to take singing lessons to be in the choir?
No vocal experience is required.

Can an instrumentalist join the choir?
Yes. The choir is a great opportunity for students studying any instrument to be part of an ensemble and participate in a variety of concerts.

Do you have to take violin or cello lessons to be in the youth orchestra?
Yes, the skills required to play in the orchestra can only be developed through private instruction.

Do I have to pay for parking?
Parking is free. Most of our classes are at our fantastic new building at 75 Huron (the former historic office building of St. Mary's Paper).

If I register am I committed for the whole year?
All classes have the option to withdraw after a 6 week trial period or half way through the year. In such cases we refund the remainder of the lesson fees. If you continue after 6 weeks, then you are committed for the 1st term. If you continue after the 1st term then you are committed for the 2nd term.

Do I have to pay all at once?
The tuition can be divided into several payments through a series of post-dated cheques (each for about 6 lessons). It is also possible to pay with a credit card

Are there extra fees?
The only additional fee is an annual registration fee of $50 for one student or $75 for a family of two or more. There are usually a few music books required each year. The music teachers will advise locations where they are available and the expense for junior/intermediate students is usually under $50.

Is there tax on music lessons?
Music lessons are tax-free. No HST.

Do you have rental instruments?
We only rent instruments to students registered for lessons at the Conservatory. It is a student service and rentals can be returned at any time. We then pro-rate the annual fee for the number of weeks you had the rental. We have very reasonably priced rentals for the following instruments: digital piano, guitar, violin, cello, trumpet, clarinet and saxophone.

Do you sell pianos and other instruments?
The Algoma Conservatory is the regional dealer for Yamaha upright and grand pianos which are some of the highest quality pianos in the world. As a non-profit school we are able to extend outstanding discounts on these instruments. New upright pianos start from about $5,000 and new grand pianos from about $12,000. There are further discounts on used studio instruments. We generally do not sell other instruments but are always happy to give purchasing advice.

Do you arrange music for weddings or events?
The Conservatory does not directly arrange music for events, however, we are pleased to forward your email request to the appropriate faculty or ensembles. We prefer that you email rather than phone, algomaconservatory@algomau.ca

Will you take our old piano or organ?
For good quality newer pianos we are always pleased to accept them as donations and can issue tax-receipts for their value. In some cases we will consider purchasing a good quality used pianos. We are receiving frequent requests to accept donations of century old pianos. Unfortunately the cost to move them here and then into someone's home often exceeds their value. Most of them are also not worth restoring. Organs have generally been replaced with keyboards and we are not able to find new homes for old organs.

Algoma Conservatory of Music, 75 Huron Street, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, P6A 5P4
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