How to Help Your Kids Get the Most from Music Lessons
By Remus Badea, Executive Director, American Music Institute
As a parent, you are the first teacher of your children. Most parents are involved in their child’s studies to encourage them to do well in school. Showing your support for your child’s education provides great motivation for them to improve their school performances in the whole year.
There are many ways in which parents can help their child become successful in their music education, especially through their music lessons. Your involvement in helping your children learn music lesson should be in a positive and moderate way. This will help your child experience music as an enjoyable subject and not feel they are being force to study. It is essential that you let your children enjoy their music education.
Advice for Parents of Young Children
To help a young child to be ready in school and for their music class, you can spend time listening with them to some of their favorite music. You can have a collection of songs or nursery rhymes to help them both prepare for and enjoy music. To make it more interesting, you can sing songs together.
As your children become more active and you feel they need extra stimulation, you can look for a group music class. It is important that you see that this class is as much about social skills as it is about music. You make sure your kids mingle with other children in the same age group. You can meet the other parents too so you can check if these parents are happy with the teacher. Reassure your children that you will stay with them in their class, which will create a safe, comfortable learning environment for them.
As parents, you should ensure that your child will learn by finding the most appropriate class for your child’s age. Look for a recommended and reputable school that offers great faculty and teaching. American Music Institute offers Suzuki violin and piano lessons, as well as group lessons. We generally recommend individual instrument lessons begin around the age of 4 or 5 years old.
Don’t expect that your kids will play an instrument right away. It is better to keep in your mind that your child needs to develop their motor skills to be successful. In choosing a music school, make sure that your child will not just take a music lesson but will also enjoy their time at the school. Once your child is enrolled in a class, support their music studies. There are teachers who allow parents to attend lessons, though not all do. However, do not distract the teacher or the student during the music lesson.
Once you are at home with your children, you can help them practice what they have learned. It is the responsibility of the parent to encourage their children to engage in consistent practice at home. Children need guidance from their parents and you will also ensure that you can monitor their progress. In practicing at home, keep in mind that you should provide them with a positive environment and not make regular practice a drudgery. It is the best way to ensure long term success.
The best idea is to create a musical culture at home. You can listen to music that both of you like; you can play your radio, download some music, or watch music videos on You Tube to expose young children to different musical styles and composers. Having interesting books about music around will help your kids to be better readers and learn more about music in their own time. If you keep a variety of sheet music in your home, it will provide them a better idea of the different kinds of music that they can aspire to learn to play.
How to Support Your Child’s Music Education (At Any Age)
Every parent should provide the support of their children to make them successful in learning music. However, even though you are always by their side to support them, you still need to ensure that the music teacher of your children has the right philosophy and style in teaching for your child. This is because every student differs in their learning style and the teacher needs to be able to adjust their lessons to fit a student’s learning style. The end goal should be that your children learn how to be a self-reliant musician. They should be able to enjoy and learn music to the fullest extent on their own as they grow old enough to direct their own development as musicians.
Unfortunately, many of us can think back on a negative experience with music lessons. However, I believe music lessons can benefit every child when they are taught in a positive way. At American Music Institute, our philosophy is that music lessons can be challenging and fun. Wherever you live, be sure to find a music teacher who keeps your child engaged and happy as a learner.
Here’s how to ensure your child has a successful learning experience.
1. Keep them company until they are comfortable taking lessons alone.
2. Have them practice and learn music they enjoy.
3. If they really don’t seem ready, take them out of lessons for a few months.
4. If they really don’t work well with their initial teacher, try another one.
5. Don’t punish them when they don’t practice, encourage them to continue.
6. Don’t force your child to perform if they are not ready.
7. Remember that their music development is for their enjoyment first and foremost.
Between sports and other extracurriculars, your child’s schedule is likely full. Kids today are in more activities than ever. If you’re unsure about adding music lessons, remember the benefits that come with violin or piano lessons. Your child may not pursue a career in music, but she may have an easier time learning math, manage her studies, and working in teams.
What You Should Look for in a Music Teacher
Parents sometimes think that if their child is talented and take lessons with a good musician that their child will learn well. Developing a successful music lesson is a bigger challenge than you may realize.
Musical skill involves the most sophisticated muscle training to hit the right notes (technique), complex aural (listening) training to develop a good ear, a detailed understanding of the concepts, symbols and style of music (sometimes called music theory) and much more. This material must be covered while developing the student’s enthusiasm and love of music.
Many people do not realize that great performers are often not excellent teachers as they have little idea how to teach what they play. Anyone at all can offer music lessons without training. A great start with a good teacher will give your child a great start towards learning their instrument. If you have little or no musical training finding a good teacher can be difficult.
Here are a few things to look for.
A. Look for a teacher with a warm, positive personality
Studies have shown that the most top performers began their studies with someone who was caring and made the experience fun. Once the student has fallen in love with the instrument and playing music, the teacher can safely encourage greater discipline in practicing and offer more rigorous critiques of performances. Don’t equate a caring personality with lower standards. Great do not force their students to achieve, rather they guide them to understand what top performance requires and inspire their students to seek to achieve it.
B. Look for a teacher with training in teaching
A music degree does not automatically ensure you a great teacher, but it does raise the odds they have studied teaching. Most music degree programs require some training in teaching. The best way to learn how to teach is to study it a great teacher. In most colleges, teachers will practice teaching music to students under the eye of an experienced music educator.
C. Make sure the teacher will have a clear lesson plan
A good instructor must keep track of students’ progress in many areas such as: learning new pieces and new skills, preparing for performances, plus becoming a well-rounded musician. To research a potential teacher thoroughly, ask them how they do their plans for each lesson. A good teacher should be able to give you a general idea of how your child’s lessons will progress.
How Prevent Your Child From Quitting Music Lessons
1. The first way to combat music lesson dropout is to treat music as important as learning sports and doing homework. After studies have shown that kids who study music score higher in math and reading, work better in teams, and even score higher on the SATs and go to college in higher numbers.
2. If your child is getting frustrated with music lessons, it may be that they don’t have the right tools or practice habits. In other words, they don’t know how to improve. Talk with their music teacher and with your child to figure what they need to make progress again.
3. Remember that music students who are necessarily naturally gifted can get a lot from music lessons and develop enough proficiency to play well. They just have to develop on a slower schedule. It is important to be patient. Kids develop at different speeds across a wide variety of skills.
4. Encourage your child to continue practicing over the summer just like you have them continue to work on their reading and athletics. Many music schools offer low-cost music camps to help keep kids motivated.
5. Seek out opportunities for your child to get performance experience.
This can be a great positive motivator for them to practice and develop their skills.
To be realistic, practicing a musical instrument has its ups and downs. Kids need to be encouraged to practice, but not so that it extinguishes their desire to learn. It’s a balancing act and every child responds to different kinds of motivation. However, I firmly believe that all children are capable of thriving with a musical education, and students will be grateful to their parents for not letting them quit.
Remus Badea is Concertmaster of Southwest Symphony Orchestra, adjunct professor at Elmhurst College, and Executive Director of American Music Institute. He teaches violin, viola, cello, and piano.