Not sure how to encourage your child in between his or her music lessons? Show your support with the following strategies from Nashville teacher Dave L.:
So your child has begged you for music lessons, chosen an instrument, and is about to begin this new and exciting journey in music… what now? You’ve just paid a bunch of money for an instrument, instruction books, accessories… you’re considering the time and money it’s all going to take in order for them to do this… what ELSE can you as their parent or guardian possibly do for your child to help them succeed in their musical journey that the teacher CANNOT provide? This article will give you a checklist of options. The main assumption is only that your child is important to you (obviously!) and you already provide them with a living space some or all of the time. The final assumption is that we as the teacher/parent team want your child to be successful their endeavors.
So what’s first?
1. Help your child create a special music area. This could be an extra room or their own room. Include items such as a music stand, metronome, perhaps an instrument stand, a place to keep their instruction books, and also an audio source such as an iPod or CD player. This space should be a place where they can play uninterrupted away from outside distractions like their cell phone, pets, friends, and siblings. It should also be an area that is kept clean (by the student) – once kids see the value in maintaining this type of area as their own, they’ll take pride in ownership, which will spill over into their learning.
2. Understand that interest = practice, and not necessarily the other way around. You obviously want your child to practice as much as his or her teacher does. But neither the teacher nor you as the parent can truly force the student to do this while also expecting them to find enjoyment in playing music. The student must develop an intrinsic motivation to do this. Help your child create a practice schedule that fits with their daily activities – if they’re a beginner, 15 minutes a day is a great start. While they’re practicing, peek in once or twice as more of a “fan” or audience member. Show interest and ask open-ended questions about what they’re doing, like “Wow, that sounded really cool – how are you making that sound?” or “Can you show ME how to hold the instrument?” - then all of a sudden the student gets to “play teacher” for a minute and show you what they’re learning, which only strengthens the learning process for them.
3. Help your child create a fun music library that incorporates the instrument they’re playing. Ask your child’s teacher for recommendations if you aren’t sure. Also, bringing them to live concert events that feature a soloist or group playing the instrument of study is a great way to motivate your child. This may also be a nice way to introduce them to music that is exciting to you, as well!
4. Encourage discovery. Allow your child to make his or her own discoveries in music as often as possible. This encourages independence, confidence, and motivation. So many times I see parents come down hard on their kids for not practicing, or smothering the child with criticism, many times with all good intentions (impress the teacher, progress faster, etc.). But it’s my opinion that this approach isn’t best. We want to help them reach their OWN goals. The discovery in this case may be that music just isn’t what interests them – which is OK! Other students will discover a brand new love for life through music and along the way continue to learn about the world, themselves, and humanity. I believe it’s our job as educators and parents to help our youth find exactly what they’re looking for. Music is just one of MANY vehicles we can use.
Thanks for reading!
Dave L. teaches clarinet, flute, music performance, music theory, piano, and saxophone lessons in Nashville, TN. Dave holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from The University of Central Florida, and is currently the touring keyboardist/saxophonist for Platinum-selling band Sister Hazel. Previously he toured with artists such as 80s pop icon Tiffany and Grammy-nominated vocalist John Berry. Learn more about Dave here!
Photo by woodleywonderworks