Think you have a child piano prodigy on your hands — or simply want to encourage your son or daughter to explore music and art? Here are some tips for providing encouragement from Aurora, CO piano teacher Jon F...
Parents, I know what you are thinking: people who play piano are either born with a given talent, or none at all. I believe that is simply false, because whether you’re a genius or a simple person, piano is one of the best activities that everyone can learn.
I come from a family of (mostly) musicians. My father was a pianist before me, my sister and grandfather played trumpet, and several other family members had career training as musicians as well. People say that “it’s in my blood and nature to want to play piano, because so many other people in my family play an instrument,” but I believe that natural skill, and indeed, becoming a piano prodigy can be something developed over time.
Expose Your Child to Music
Some people will tell you that as early as before a child’s birth, it is imperative to play music for a baby in the womb. (Moms – this means you allowing dad to put some headphones on your big baby belly.) Doctors and scientists have confirmed that babies respond to the sound provided through the headphones. Let’s say a dad wants to play classical music for the baby; once the baby is born, chances are higher that the baby will respond positively to that sound because he or she experienced it while maturing in the womb. What’s that? Your baby is throwing a tantrum? Well throw on some upbeat jazz tunes to lighten the mood!
Another great lesson to music-loving parents for encouraging a young prodigy is early exposure to LIVE music. Symphonic concerts (and even the occasional rock or jazz concert) are what I highly recommend. Giving your child a chance to hear other live musicians and draw creatively from what they have to offer is crucial to becoming more able in his or her own playing and learning. I know I was grateful for all the times I got dragged to a theater for a live performance, even if I had to wear my finest clothes, which were uncomfortable and itchy. It all made it worth it once the symphony would launch into a wonderful concert filled with works from famous composers like Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. As an adult I know I lean the most toward Romantic Era works by composers such as Chopin, Liszt, Ravel, and Berlioz.
Encourage Your Child to Perform
Do your best to inspire your child to want to perform. If your child seems shy, come up with interesting ways to motivate and challenge him or her in a way that isn’t putting them in the limelight. If you think you have a true genius on board, give them small tests to see what he or she responds to. Most students respond positively and enthusiastically to challenges when they know it will further them in some way, whether by doing better in school, or knowing they’ll have more friends that share the same musical passion. Talent shows and music competitions are a great way to challenge a child who wants to “show off” what they know. Just look at some of the artists in today’s world, like Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, and other musicians that broke onto the music industry scene. Giving children examples of other musicians will inspire them and give them interesting and fulfilling desires to sound like their music idols.
Listen and Be Supportive
Listen closely to what your child likes and dislikes and work off of that. Be supportive, even when your child is frustrated or discouraged. (My father certainly was for me.) Make sure your child is happy with their learning, teachers, time spent practicing, etc. If your child feels they are not being challenged enough (as most child piano prodigies will be), find new ways to test them. Keep raising the bar. But most importantly, love your child for who they become. Whether or not they pursue musical passions and apply it to their intellectual abilities, be proud of them for what they do at every chance you get.
As the great Bono from U2 stated: “Music can change the world because it can change people.” Make you and your child that change.
Jon F. teaches classical guitar, classical piano, music theory, and percussion in Aurora, CO. He received his Bachelor of Music Education from University of Northern Colorado, and has been teaching students since 2010. Learn more about Jon F. here!
Photo by Ian Muttoo