Reasons Why Your Child Sucks...
Often times when we sign our child up for music lessons we have a few reasons.
1. We want them to advance their peers, because we heard somewhere that students who play an instrument perform better in school.
2. We played an instrument and we hope that our child will want to be like us and play the same instrument too.
3. We wished we played an instrument in school and hope that our child selects the instrument you would have chosen
4. I am tired of working and I know my kid can be a superstar so I’ll make them learn a bunch of instruments so that they can be the next superstar.
If any of these reasons apply to you, then you are like any parent who wants to see their child succeed.
However, let’s consider some other reasons as to why your child should learn a new instrument and enroll in private lessons.
1. You notice that your child enjoys having an audience however they don’t have any particular skill that warrants a performance.
Whether your child likes to perform on air guitar in front of a mirror or just enjoys being the center of attention perhaps giving them an instrument so that they can aspire to performing in front of a real audience may bolster their own internal motivation to learn an instrument.
2. You notice that your child may be a little shy or struggles in social settings.
Learning an instrument while under the care of a trained music instructor can help facilitate their ability to be more open in social settings. This may take some time, however, private lessons can help boost their confidence as they notice their progress in an endeavor as challenging as learning an instrument. Performance opportunities, whether solo or in an ensemble, is another way to get them out of their comfort zone in a more natural progression rather than dropping them off at a school activity or party.
3. You gently introduced them to instrumental music at shows featuring various musicians. Your child inquired about the instruments they heard and asked if they could learn to play one.
4. You notice your child is always humming a tune or can’t keep their hands off of everyday household items in order to make organized noise (or music) with spoons, bottles of water, etc.
Great! Now that you have made these observations about your child, you finally signed them up for private lessons. Awesome right? For some of us, we regret the day that we ever handed them that violin, flute, or drum set because listening to them at their band concert or recital is torturous. They haven’t made any progress in the one year or five that they have been playing.
Quite frankly, they suck! Mom and dad here is why.
1. You expected the private instructor to turn your novice musician into Yo-Yo Ma or lil Stevie Wonder with only a few months of lessons.
2. You yell at your child to practice, but never took the time to observe them while practicing.
3. You hear them play the same scale or etude every other day for five minutes and consider that practicing.
4. You bought them a $1000 instrument and never encouraged them to practice and/or assumed they would do it on their own because they should be in awe of its shininess. Well, now you realized that you never heard them practice before.
The truth is learning an instrument requires just as much as a time commitment for both the parent and student. Aside from the logistics of getting your child to and from lessons, rehearsals, and performances, parents must have conversations AND follow up with their child’s practice routine. Practicing an instrument is like conditioning for a sport. You wouldn’t expect your child to join a team for basketball, softball, soccer, etc without expecting that they engage in running or strength training for endurance. You may even escort your child to a park where you opt to play against them to sharpen their skills. The expectation for engagement must be the same for learning an instrument.
For example, my brother was a regionally recognized star athlete on his soccer team from elementary school through high school. Not only was my dad always pushing my brother to practice outside of the team schedule, but my dad was THE soccer coach for my brother’s team until he entered high school.
On the contrast, while I too was competitive at sports as kid I also decided to learn an instrument. My dad, however, has NEVER learned an instrument in his life. But that never discouraged him from walking into my room when I was practicing to share his honest, but loving opinions about what he heard. Whenever I had a solo at a school concert he would congratulate me, but would also tell me how he felt it could have been better. Truthfully, I would often ignore or defend myself for his critiques, BUT the subconscious messaging whether I realized it or not was that he was listening and I needed to keep practicing so I could be better the next time in hopes of stopping the unsolicited critiques from a non-musician. Well, my dad never stopped listening and critiquing. It wasn’t until my senior recital in COLLEGE that I understood the value of my father’s input as he was still sharing his feedback on my performance. Aside from my own personal expectations and those from my instructors and professors, my parents’ involvement in my music education was meaningful too. The desire to amaze them with my talent only added to my drive for excellence.
So mom and dad here are some tips to help your child stop making noise and start making music.
1. Take 10-15 minutes out of the 24 hours in your day to sit with your child as they practice for at least 30 minutes (or more depending on their level of commitment).
You may not be a musician, but you can ask them questions like what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why they needed to play a certain way to make a certain sound. My dad would always try to play my flute when I was practicing. Coincidentally, showing him how to hold a flute or make sounds somehow made me more aware of what I was doing when I played.
2. Sit in (QUIETLY) during their private lesson every now and then instead of leaving the room. This allows you to hear what the instructor is teaching your child so that you can help keep your child on task when they practice on their own.
3. Offer to record your child’s lesson or while they are practicing. This allows them to immediately hear how they sound and recall any instructions provided by their instructor.
4. Talk to your child’s instructor and discuss their progress frequently. This lets the instructor know that you are invested in your child’s musical education and encourage them to have more dialogue with you. In addition, your child is aware that you are truly interested in their progress and are supportive.
5. Purchase recordings of musicians that play the same instrument as your child so they can hear what they should aspire to be. You can also search for videos on the Internet and watch them with your child.
6. Plan and/or invite friends and relatives to your child’s recital. Knowing that people are excited about their new skill can encourage the student to continue learning.
7. SHOW UP! Like a parent screaming on the sidelines of a sporting event/practice, be present when your child is practicing or has a performance.
With you by their side, your child is well on their way to improving their musical talents.
Alissa Gittens is a musician services consultant and private flute instructor. Like “the Urban Flautista” on Facebook and email firstname.lastname@example.org