Private Lessons

Music lessons allow me to engage and stimulate my mind in ways that are different than all of my academic courses. Preparation for music lessons and the lessons themselves create space for me to take breaks and relax, focus on something beautiful, imaginative and creative. — Student #162
As a non-music major, I have been able to further develop my talents as well as learn completely new instruments during my semesters of music lesson scholarships. I feel that I would not have received the encouragement, close relationship with instructors, or financial support to do so almost anywhere else. — Student #67
Through music lessons at Grinnell, I have vastly improved my singing ability and experienced a new kind of joy that, previously, I hadn't had in my life. — Student #141

The Grinnell Music Department offers private music lessons for credit at every level — from total beginner to pre-professional — in voice and more than two dozen instruments.  All levels of lessons, including recitals, are open to all students regardless of major. Our faculty teach all styles and genres of music, tailoring lessons to individual student interests and abilities. Our applied music instructors are full-time Grinnell faculty and professional musicians from around the state, including members of the Des Moines Symphony and many other professional ensembles. What’s more, if you don’t have an instrument, we will lend you one free of charge.

Music Lessons Included in the Comprehensive Fee

The affordability of music lessons at Grinnell is, in my opinion, one of the single greatest parts of going here. I've never taken formal lessons with anyone but my grandmother (who taught me for free) because I know how insanely expensive they can be. I am so so so grateful for Grinnell for providing this opportunity.  — Student #95

So much of learning and the arts becomes restricted by class. At a place like Grinnell I think it is so important that we have access to all kinds of education and resources. It is one of the things that makes college unique, and Grinnell in particular which is a place that strives to create equal opportunities for all students. — Student #69

Music Majors

All majors may take an unlimited number of private lessons at any level without additional charge. Majors must declare before the end of the add/drop period in order to receive their Music Major benefit for that semester. No application or audition is necessary to receive this benefit.


All non-majors may take one course of 30-minute private lessons (MUS 120 or MUS 220) every semester without additional charge. No application or audition is necessary to receive this benefit. For a small fee, non-majors can upgrade to 60-minute lessons (MUS 221, MUS 320, or MUS 420), or take 30- or 60-minute lessons in a second area. A limited number of competitive awards is available to cover these upgrade fees .

Registration in Music Lessons

Registration in music lessons entitles you to:

  • 14 lessons per semester
  • use of a College-owned musical instrument for regular practice
  • use of an instrument locker for storage
  • use of practice room facilities
  • a music department pianist (if needed) to accompany required public performances (for MUS 220, MUS 221, MUS 320, and MUS 420 only).

You are entitled to all these benefits regardless of whether or not you pay a fee.

Register for music lessons as you would any other course — using the New Student Registration Form (see the bottom of the form), online through WebAdvisor, or using a Course Change Form (“add/drop form”). Once your registration has been processed, your instructor will email you to arrange a lesson time. (Remember to check your Grinnell email!)

Music lessons are available for 1 credit (MUS 120) or 2 credits (MUS 220, MUS 221, MUS 320, MUS 420) per semester. Please note: Credits earned in music lessons and ensembles are not counted in the number of credits that determine whether a student is liable for an overload fee for exceeding 18 credits/semester.

For beginning lessons (MUS 120), no audition is required and you do not need to read music notation; however, you will make faster progress if you also take MUS 109 Music Fundamentals, a 2-credit course that teaches the basics of music notation.

To register at the intermediate or advanced level (MUS 220 or MUS 221), you will need the permission of the instructor. We recommend that you register initially for MUS 120, then upgrade after your first lesson if your instructor recommends it. Be prepared to perform a piece you know at your first lesson.

To register for a recital (MUS 320 shared recital or MUS 420 full recital), note that you must have been registered for MUS 220 or MUS 221 during the semester prior to the recital.

For more information about the different levels of lessons offered, consult the music section of the catalog.

Grading and Expectations

Grading for music lessons is based primarily on the evidence of consistent effort and commitment to improvement that the student exhibits over the course of the semester. Since lessons involve one-on-one instruction, attendance at every lesson is vital. Your instructor will provide you with their policy regarding absences and make-up lessons.

Students are expected to practice regularly for their lessons:

  • a minimum of 30 minutes/day for MUS 120 and MUS 122
  • 60 minutes/day for MUS 220, MUS 221, MUS 320, and MUS 420.

The Grinnell Department of Music does not hold juries (i.e. final exams in performance); however, students in MUS 220 and MUS 221 are expected to perform one or two pieces in public on a department-sponsored recital during the semester. MUS 320 and MUS 420 are semester-long courses of 60-minute lessons that culminate in a public recital.

Instruments, Practice, and Storage Facilities

All students enrolled in lessons and ensembles are entitled to the use of a music department instrument. Since our supply of instruments is finite, however, we encourage any student who has access to an instrument to bring it to campus for their own use. 

Practice rooms are located in the lower level of Bucksbaum. Ten rooms have pianos, mostly Steinway grands, and one room has two Steinway grands. There are also specialized rooms for percussion and harp practice; access to these rooms is restricted to students enrolled in harp/percussion lessons or ensembles that require those instruments.

Additional practice and instrument storage facilities are available at the Music House (corner of 6th Ave. and High St).  

Applied Music Faculty

Private lessons are available in the following areas:


PIANO Hsin-Hui Liu
Piano Melinda Westphalen
Piano Nicole Messerschmidt
Piano Hyejin Joo
Jazz Piano Gabriel Espinosa
Harpsichord Jennifer Williams Brown
Accordian Joyce Bergan


Voice Greg Sojka
Voice Mack Whitney
Voice Taylor Mayne
Voice John Rommereim
Jazz Voice Gabriel Espinosa


Violin Tracy Finkelshteyn
Violin Charles Miranda
Violin Andrew Gentzsch
Viola Charles Miranda
Cello Alan Henson
Double Bass Steve Charlson
Lute Cameron Welke
Harp Laura Erickson
Guitar Pat Smith
Guitar Alex Aldridge
Jazz Bass Steve Charlson
Banjo Fred Buck


Flute Claudia Anderson
Oboe Felisha Jones
Bassoon Felisha Jones
Clarinet Ryan Smith
Saxophone Ryan Smith
Jazz Saxophone Ryan Smith
Bagpipes Rob Clower

Brass and Percussion

Trumpet Craig Swartz
French Horn Amanda Stout
Trombone Robert Parker
BaritoneH Horn Robert Parker
Tuba Robert Parker
Percussion Stacey Ramirez

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