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Carlotta Gärtner, left, and Sebastian Von Westernhagen jam during a band project at the Modern Music School in Heidelberg, Germany. The music school offers English-language lessons to those more serious musicians.

Carlotta Gärtner, left, and Sebastian Von Westernhagen jam during a band project at the Modern Music School in Heidelberg, Germany. The music school offers English-language lessons to those more serious musicians. (Photo courtesy of Al Nalder)

Carlotta Gärtner, left, and Sebastian Von Westernhagen jam during a band project at the Modern Music School in Heidelberg, Germany. The music school offers English-language lessons to those more serious musicians.

Carlotta Gärtner, left, and Sebastian Von Westernhagen jam during a band project at the Modern Music School in Heidelberg, Germany. The music school offers English-language lessons to those more serious musicians. (Photo courtesy of Al Nalder)

Grace Nicholls, right, and her drum teacher Falko Eckey practice at the Modern Music School in Heidelberg, Germany.

Grace Nicholls, right, and her drum teacher Falko Eckey practice at the Modern Music School in Heidelberg, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Al Nalder)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — The good news for budding Charlie Parkers living in Germany is that their sax is free, courtesy of Defense Department schools. The bad news is that no matter how many times they ask how to get to Carnegie Hall, the answer — “Practice” — isn’t usually correct.

“If you come to class every day and you practice, I can make you an average player,” said Eric Measells, music and arts instruction chief for Department of Defense Schools-Europe. “If you want to be a better than average player, you’ll have to take lessons.”

But DODDS schools are small, and although they provide band instruments free of charge, they cannot accommodate hiring music teachers for private lessons. According to Measells, it’s not even legal for DODDS schools to provide a space for private lessons, as many schools in the U.S. have done for decades.

For the most part, instruction is during band classes, Measells said, with a music teacher and some 40 other students. If a student wants a little extra instruction from time to time, the teacher can usually accommodate them at lunch or after school — but usually not on a regular basis.

Sometimes a military spouse sets up shop to give lessons for a while but then they change duty stations, and sometimes, military band members give lessons — but their schedules tend to be tight and changeable.

“Most of our students do not study privately,” Measells said. “It would be nice if they did.”

Students who want private lessons generally must find them locally. Measells said that most speak enough English to make a music lesson effective, and that the reasons most students don’t take private lessons have little to do with the language barrier.

But a music school in Heidelberg is trying to tap what it perceives is an underserved market with English-language instruction. The Modern Music School in Heidelberg — near the drive-through entrance of the closest McDonald’s to Campbell Barracks — has sought to hire English-speaking music tutors for private lessons and programs it offers, according to Al Nalder, the school director.

“I kind of made it a point,” Nalder said.

The school, part of a franchise throughout Germany — but the only one specifically offering English instruction — has been open a year, Nalder said.

“Essentially, we run three separate ‘specialist’ schools under one roof — each with their own name and logo — to cope with three very different musical needs and audiences,” he wrote in an e-mail.

One is the Modern Music School, for band instruments — guitar, drums, bass, sax — and vocals, keyboards and piano.

Then there’s the VibrA school of DJ-ing, where students can learn DJ techniques and “Turntablism,” which, Nalder said is scratching and other techniques to produce new music from already produced music.

Finally, the school includes musical instruction for preschool children ages 18 months to 7. Called the Kling Klong early years music program, it runs in group sessions twice weekly. Groups are arranged by age: 18 months to 3 years and 3 to 7. Among the activities in the program are singing, dancing and drumming music from throughout the world.

The school is having an open house Jan. 13. Nalder said the school provides private lessons for students starting at age 6. Lessons cost 10 euros for 30 minutes.

For more information, call 06221-873-4565.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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