Have you signed your child up for music lessons only to have their enthusiasm diminish after a few weeks? Many parents find themselves in this situation. In my 28 years of teaching, I have come to this conclusion: Not every student will become a great musician, but every student can develop very important life skills that will pave the road for success in life. Music is an art form that requires a complete approach to learning. Discipline, creativity, patience, perseverance, focus, interpersonal and extra personal intelligences are some of the skills that will be developed while studying music. These skills are essential in navigating life as well.
The majority of my music studio is composed of kids. Their ages range from 3 years old to 18 years old. I am fortunate to meet kids early in their lives and often, I teach them from a young age all the way to the time they leave for college. I can be with them through different developmental periods, nurture their love for music, and help them develop their musical voice.
Other times, students come for a year or two, but unfortunately, then drop off. It’s been my experience that many students need more support from their parents in order to succeed. This is especially true for students who are in the 5th grade or younger. Parents who understand their essential role in this process help place their child on a path for enjoyment and growth for the rest of their lives. Here is a list of actions any parent can take to help their son or daughter connect with a musical instrument and help create the right support for their children:
1.Pick a good teacher. Teachers should have experience with children and be proficient musicians. Master degrees or equivalent is preferred. The teacher should be a positive mentor for the student and help them connect to the music that they love. The teacher should be versatile and be able to play many styles of music. They also should be able to vary their approach to teaching music and tailor it to the student’s needs and passions.
2.Come to the lessons. Parents of young children are always welcome to observe, take notes and follow along with the instruction. This will help tremendously with practicing at home.
3.Set up practice session at home. The student usually only sees the teacher once a week. The material in the lesson needs to be practiced in order to gain mastery. The other 6 days are essential. Young children need guidance and support from their parents. I have seen much success by sticking to a 3 day a week practice routine. Young kids do not yet have this skill set and must be taught and encouraged.
4.No practice, no lesson! It’s imperative that the student understands that music lessons are a privilege. They must do their part to help create momentum and direction.
5.Create a list of goals each week. This can be as easy as a list of songs the student wants to learn, or it could be more technical (I will memorize the 12 keys, or work on my bar chords everyday).
6.Attend the recitals. We offer 3 free recitals each year. The recitals help the student to have a focus and direction for their learning. They also help develop inspiration by watching other kids perform. The recitals can help self esteem as well. The student has the opportunity to share and express their talents to a greater audience.
7.Keep a regular lesson schedule. Lessons should be attended every week and made up when possible. The regularity of lessons helps the student with consistency.
8.Consider replacing a chore for a practice session. This can work if the student is having a hard time with their discipline. Playing guitar can be much more fun than raking the leaves!
9.Play all kinds of music at home or in the car. Be adventurous and take note when something really resonates with the student.
10.Limit video game time. Perhaps use video game time as an incentive. I know one boy who gets 30 minutes of gaming after he takes a 45 minute lesson each week.
11.Offer to buy a new music book or new instrument after a successful quarter. This can work in cases where the student has reached a stagnant point and needs new a incentive.
12.Post their achievements on Social Media. After our last recital, a student’s father posted his son’s performance and over 1,000 people responded. Family members from other states were able to take pride in his performance.
13.Create performance possibilities, either formal or informal. A student can play for the family before a meal or attend an open mike event.
14.Make musical friends. Kids love to collaborate, share with other kids. Sign them up for to play in a band or find a good music buddy with whom they feel a good connection.
Here are just some possibilities. The most important aspect to any student’s development is to instill confidence in their a ability to learn. They should understand that proficiency comes from hard work. Learning music is a lot like learning a language. It takes many years to truly master it and immersion is the best way to learn. Happy practicing and feel free to leave a comment about what has worked or not worked for you!