So you’re interested in having your child learn to play a musical instrument? That’s fantastic! The skills involved in this process are key for many other things and will benefit your child for the rest of their life. In addition, there is no substitute for the value that a child receives from learning this unique form of self-expression.
Many families ask how best to support their budding young music student. This guide will show you the primary things you can do to assure your child gets the most from their music experience.
1. Remain positive!
There’s nothing that kills a child’s interest faster than turning their fresh, newly discovered love of music into a burdensome chore. Even though regular practice is essential in order to make progress, we adults can keep an excited and eager attitude about music and what it takes to succeed. Whenever you discuss music, keep this in mind.
2. Enroll your child in music lessons.
No one, adult or child, can learn this intricate skill set alone in a bubble or by watching YouTube videos. And it’s very frustrating for students to try and learn music all by themselves. Plan for your child to take regular music lessons from a competent trained teacher so that they can get trained in a one-on-one coaching, and not just the kid next door. He may be cheaper, but rarely does he know how to teach it, even if he plays it himself. So stick to a trained and experienced teacher that understands and enjoys working with young people.
3. Provide the best student instrument kit you can possibly afford.
Yes, even a child is turned off by a poor sounding instrument that is unresponsive to their technical exercises. When something falls out of repair, get it repaired right away. An instrument that has broken parts and performs poorly not only sounds bad, it is also a deterrent to practice and the child may get frustrated and needlessly discouraged.
4. Enroll your child in orchestra and ensemble classes at school.
That is a fantastic way for your student to experience the joys that come from mastery of their instrument -- so that they can play along with others. Most people don’t play an instrument just so they can practice alone all the time; they find how much they love music by playing in ensemble.
5. Consider a summer music program.
Summer music camps are an excellent way to continue progress throughout the summer months when school is out and the temptation is to slack off for weeks, losing precious ground and forgetting a lot of what they’ve learned during the school year. Summer programs are able to provide a more intensive work environment and you will most likely have your child return from camp having improved drastically in a short amount of time. This boosts their interest and also their pride. Also, the camaraderie they experience in a close environment with other music students at camp helps them feel connected to other kids that love to play music. Shorter two- and three-day events like District Honors have this same effect on students. An enthusiastic student once told us, after attending her first three-day Honors Orchestra event that she “had finally met other kids that were from the same planet!” That’s how powerfully supportive music-intensive events can be.
6. Talk to your child about why it matters.
It is true that colleges like to see music studies on a student’s curriculum vitae. They are aware of the character it took to pursue music studies and fall in love with an instrument long enough to master it. Even so, that is not a motive that will sustain most adults or any kid. It’s too far into the future and too elusive to grasp. The more immediate benefits include thinking creatively (thinking IS creative), as well as developing the discipline to confront a task on an almost daily basis and persevering long enough without immediate glory. There is no first quarter touchdown in music. It can take several years before a student experiences a touchdown, and it takes a family standing by the child long enough to make it to that first touchdown moment. You can’t walk up to an instrument and by the end of the first season expect to play varsity the next year.
7. Make time regularly to listen to music with your child.
A couple of songs at a time is enough. Show an interest in music and share that together. Discuss what each of you like. Kids know what is important to you. You can plug into music together wherever your mutual interests take you.
8. Attend your child’s performances and be enthusiastic.
Bring family members who share your pride and show their support. Make an event of it and celebrate afterward. You have every reason to be proud.
9. Don’t let your child quit!
The easiest thing to do is to allow your student to quit at a time they are most vulnerable and need your guidance, wisdom and foresight. Resist the temptation to cave and let your child discontinue the moment they get frustrated or bored. There’s no way to achieve excellence in anything without perseverance, and, in a positive way, you can encourage your student to break through their current plateau with a little more time and effort. Many adults tell us wistfully, “I wish my parents had made me continue when I wanted to quit instead of just letting me drop it.”
The benefits of playing a musical instrument are things that your child will reap for the rest of his or her life. He or she can’t see that far into the future yet, but you can. Musical instrument performance is perhaps one of the most unassumingly difficult activities a person could ever start, but the rewards last a lifetime.