|Instrumental FAQ|

You should begin at this link to get an overview of the instrumental music program: Beginning Instrumental Music at Fairmount Park

Sign-ups for instrumental music for the 2019-20 school year are coming. Please wait before getting an instrument for your beginning instrumentalist until you hear from Mr. Pendergrass in the fall.


I understand that students are pulled out of their home room class for instrumental lessons…we are worried about any class work our daughter may miss during this time. Can you allay our fears?

Students will be pulled out of class once a week. While students are responsible to make-up any classroom work they miss during a lesson, the classroom teachers are in support of the instrumental music program. During testing, special projects, or “must do” assignments, students report to Mr. Pendergrass that they need to skip their lesson for that day.

How long are lessons?

Lessons are 30 or 40 minutes once a week. The schedule is not solidified until the fall when students are divided into groups by instrument, level and ensemble.

How do I get an instrument for my child?

Families typically rent or buy instruments from the local music stores in the area. Please do not rent or purchase an instrument until you register and Mr. Pendergrass contacts you about your student’s choice of  instrument.   A local music store can help you pick out the right instrument and size your child accordingly. Many offer rental plans for the school year with several different options, including rent to own with affordable monthly payments. Please do not buy an instrument online without consulting an expert about that instrument. While it may seem a better deal to buy a brand new clarinet or flute online at Amazon versus renting locally, many of these instruments are very poorly made and will not with stand the regular use of a first year player. You will most likely end up paying more in repairs to a local music store for bent keys, stuck valves and other issues. Most if not all local music stores that have rental programs also include basic repairs in the rental package. So if a key is accidentally bent on say a clarinet,  or a valve gets stuck on a trumpet, the music store will let you bring that in for a repair, and most times give you a loaner instrument while yours is getting fixed. I recommend this option rather than buying an inexpensive but cheaply made instrument that will most likely arrive out-of-tune and cause headaches for your first year player who will lose interest quickly if their shiny new instrument doesn’t work most of the time. Unless you can take the time to research new or used instruments that are from a reputable company , renting one may be a better option for your family.

Doesn’t the school have instruments we can borrow?

The school district has some instruments to loan to families. This requires a signed loan form and commitment from the family and student to be responsible for the instrument while in their care. The very few district instruments we do have to loan have been reserved for students enrolled in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program. If you cannot afford to provide an instrument for your student please contact Mr. Pendergrass at kependergrass@seattleschools.org

My daughter has a flute her aunt gave her to play. Can she use this instrument?

Yes, but have it checked out before your daughter plays it. Many well meaning family members or friends donate instruments that have been sitting unused for a while and tend not to work. Flutes, clarinets and saxophones have pads that can dry out and crack, making it hard or impossible to play notes.  Violins and cellos may need new strings if sitting for a while and bridges may need an adjustment. Bows may need to be re-haired. Also- violins and cellos need to be sized to your child properly. Trombones need to have a slide that moves easily and is not bent. Trumpets may need to have valves and slides oiled so they will move easily and not get stuck. Bottom line: get the instrument checked out by a professional even if it looks o.k. No beginner should have to start on an instrument that does not work.

Do I need to get a method book for my son/daughter or will the school provide a book?

Each 1st year student needs to purchase a method book for their instrument. Any local music store will have your method book in stock for purchase and you can order one from Amazon. Local bookstore will probably not have the book in stock. Details about what book you need to purchase will become available after Mr. Pendergrass contacts you about your student’s choice of  instrument.

How about additional supplies for instrumental music?

In addition to your music book, each instrument requires some basic supplies. These will be outlined after Mr. Pendergrass contacts you about your student’s choice of instrument.

I don’t see an instrument my child wants to play on your list? Can she still play this instrument as a 4th grader?

The flute, clarinet, trumpet, alto sax, trombone, baritone/euphonium, percussion, violin, viola and cello are offered because they are the best choice for beginners at this grade and stage of musical development. Highly motivated flute or clarinet players may switch to the oboe or bassoon in middle school. This is also true for alto sax players who may switch to tenor or baritone saxophone. Highly motivated trumpet players with a great sense of pitch may switch to French Horn as well as string players making a switch to double bass. But until students have at least two years of experience on one of the instruments above, and the strength and stature to play the more challenging instruments, beginners should choose one of these  instruments. Exceptions will be considered for students who are taking private lessons on an instrument not listed above after Mr. Pendergrass consults with the parents, the student and their private teacher.

Why isn’t piano or guitar or drum set on the list?

Instrumental music instruction is for band and orchestra instruments that are typical of ensembles in middle school and beyond. While the piano and guitar is used in these ensembles, we are not set-up for group lessons on these instruments.

What about the drums and percussion?

There will be a limited number of beginning drum students each year. Students wishing to learn drums will be considered percussion students and will learn the fundamental rudiments on snare drum, auxiliary percussion and mallet percussion. Instruction on the drum set or drum kit will not be offered.

Can my child start 2 new instruments?

If a child plays the piano or violin with a private teacher outside of school, they are more than welcome to begin a new instrument if they feel they can keep up with their private teacher’s workload and practice on a new instrument with Mr. Pendergrass. But a child can only choose one new instrument when they sign-up for instrumental music at Fairmount Park.

My child will be in 5th grade this fall and wants to switch instruments- do you advise this?

No. Students should try to stick with one instrument for at least 2 years so they can get a solid foundation before making a decision to switch to another instrument. Exceptions to this would include some physical change or limitation that makes it difficult for the child to succeed at their first choice. If a child feels the need to switch for other reasons after consulting with their parents and Mr. Pendergrass, they will most likely start over as a beginner.

What if my child has played a band or orchestra instrument for 1 or more years before entering the 4th grade? Will they have to start as a beginner?

Students who have played an instrument for more than one year with a private teacher or at another school will be evaluated by Mr. Pendergrass and placed in the appropriate group. String players who started the violin, viola or cello before grade 4 are encouraged to see Mr. Pendergrass to be evaluated and placed in an ensemble.

What if my student forgets to bring an instrument to school on a lesson day?

Since we have so little time each week for lessons, it’s important students remember to bring their instruments to school. If a student forgets their instrument, they still must attend their lesson and tell Mr. Pendergrass they forget their instrument. An email will be sent home reminding the student to bring their instrument to school next time and the work they missed at their lesson.

Should my child only practice if they don’t have homework in other classes?

No. They should practice everyday. One 30 or 40 minute lesson once a week with Mr. Pendergrass is not enough time for your child to progress on an instrument at this stage and requires regular, consistent  practice at home. Expectations and tips on “tears-free” practice will be provided for families.