Skip to main content

Music professors say they’re willing to get non-majors who are talented in music to also be involved in their programs

Individual piano classes are available to all students.


The Music Department at BYU–Hawaii offers an opportunity to play music through a class labeled “individual instruction” for non-music majors. This class gives students who have a passion for music a chance to improve their skills, especially those who do not have music as a minor. The Music Department faculty members said they hope to find non-music major students who are self-motivated to practice and improve.

What instrument classes are available?

Percussion, trumpet, jazz voice, jazz composition, piano, jazz piano, violin, and bass lessons are available on campus. Those lessons can be offered by the faculty members in the department and do not require special arrangements that involve resources outside of the school, according to music professors.

Dr. Darren Duerden, professor of music at BYUH, oversees most of the lessons for individual instrument instruction. He explained if a music major needs to learn an instrument not listed above, the department would have to look for an instructor outside of the campus. However, the department cannot do that for non-music major because of limited resources. 

How many seats are available for non-music majors?

For every individual instrument class, the priority goes to music majors. The number of seats available for non-music majors can depend on how many music majors are accepted or returning to the school. After the lessons of all music majors are arranged, the rest of the seats will be opened to non-music majors, according to music professors.

Duerden shared an example, “When I have six or seven students, that’s a lot. But if [my workload] is not filled, I invite non-majors to learn to play the drum sets to fill out my faculty workload.”

Space is limited and signing up is not a guarantee of enrollment, according to Dr. Melissa Walker Glenn, a music professor at BYUH who teaches voice lessons.

How do students register for the class?

Duerden said students can contact him because he oversees lessons of most of the instruments,  and he would advise them or refer them to the professor in charge of the instrument they wish to learn.

What are the requirements for students to get into the class?

The 30-minute individual instruction course contains an extra fee of $160 outside of the tuition, according to the university’s website.

No audition is required for non-music majors who wish to take instrument or voice lessons, but students are mostly expected to have experience and passion in what they wish to learn, according to the professors.

Duerden said he would interview students and get to know to find out if they have a passion for music. “I just chat with them to see if they’re committed. If yes, I’ll get them involved in the class.”

He continued, “If they have experience and passion, I like them [in the class] just fine. If I have to be a motivator to motivate them, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to waste their time. I can’t make up for [their lack of passion for music].”

For students with no experience in the instrument they wish to learn, Duerden said he could teach complete beginners only when he has extra availability in his workload.

However, piano instruction has an exception. Students do not need any experience in piano playing to get into the class. Dr. Scott McCarrey, a piano professor at BYUH, shared, “We take any level, from complete beginners to very advanced non-music majors.”

McCarrey explained while the instructors of other instruments have limited availability, there are advanced students in the piano program who can give piano lessons to non-music majors, which create more available seats for non-music majors to learn how to play the piano. 

As a piano instructor who has non-music-major students, Kelly Lee, a senior from Korea majoring in piano performance, said she had never imagined herself having the chance to teach piano lessons in college and she’s grateful she could help others make progress.

“It is fun to see their progress and exciting to see them achieving their goals. I feel their achievement together and feel motivated to teach better.”

Words from the instructors

“Everyone should have an opportunity for artistic expression,” McCarrey said. “With the Church, there can never be enough piano players. There will always be a need for pianists.”

Duerden expressed how he cherishes students with musical talents. “If someone is talented, I’ll find room for them even though they’re non-[music] majors. Our Music Department cannot be everything to everybody, but what we can do, we do very well.”

Non-music majors are also able to take part in the ensembles at school, said Dr. Daniel Bradshaw, the chair or the Department of Music and Theatre.“Even for non-[music] majors, we still get them involved in many ways.”

Glenn shared, “It's wonderful that non-[music] majors have this opportunity here at BYUH, which is often not the case at other universities.”


Writer: Tomson Cheang