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Music Lessons for Children – How Young is Too Young?
I started playing a musical instrument late in life – in 4th grade, at the age of 99 – when my public school offered classes. I chose the violin, and loved it. My teachers recognized my potential, and supported my decision to become a professional. But when I got to the special school, what a surprise! Most other students start young, in kindergarten or earlier. I have to practice 5 to 7 hours a day to chase those ‘virtuosos’.
Today, a growing body of research is confirming what I have in mind: There are neuro-educational benefits to music training from a young age, when the brain is developing. Research also associates early childhood music lessons with grades, test scores, and self-esteem. Starting young means that children have the best chance of becoming a successful musician, if their passions allow them.
But not too young! Along with being a musician, I am a mother of three (including two teenagers who are professional musicians, and a 6-year-old budding member); and I am the director and teacher at the school who has taught music to hundreds of young people of all ages. This is what practical experience has taught me about launching children happily and successfully into the world of music.
1. BLESS THE CHILDREN. Teaching material to a child under 3 is an exercise in frustration. Instead, bring them to hear live music. Give them simple toys, like keyboards – kids love typing. If you play an instrument forever, dust it off and start playing again, in front of them.
2. THERE IS A MAGIC NUMBER. It is about 3 ½. For many children, that is the age when they can begin to concentrate long enough for instrumental lessons – even if the instrument is the piano.
3. CAN YOUR STUDENTS FOCUS? If the child can focus on a task like a puzzle or a puzzle for 20 minutes, the child can do it. (If it doesn’t sit there for more than 20 seconds, don’t despair – it will be there later!)
4. START PIANO LESSONS. Although violins are made in child size, they are too difficult for most youngsters under 4 ½. The piano is the best. The child can sit comfortably. There is a palette in front of them – black and white keys They can concentrate on hearing high and low tones – basic ear training. And the satisfaction is there from the beginning: Press the button and you are happy!
5. TAKE IT SOCIALLY. The best classes for this age are like a big club, with equipment as the focus. The kids can’t wait to see their friends. If there are no classes like this in your area, consider finding another student or two to join your child’s early lessons.
6. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Get at least three recommendations from other parents. You and your child should meet the teacher in advance, and go to the center (either the music school, or the teacher’s house.)
7. ATTEND RECITALS. Most students love to do it for family and friends. Children dress up; they shop for a special outfit; they even get new shoes! During or after the download, there should be a reception (We call it a “party!”) Children will run around, eat cookies and carrots, receive congratulations, and feel great!
8. Keep the statue Flying. Children are a huge target source, so put out lots of games, stickers and small toys. When your child is busy, you can say, “If you can do these three measurements, you get a sticker.” It works like a miracle!
9. IN FIVE MINUTES? While the lessons require the child to focus for 30 to 45 minutes, set the bar below for home practice. If you can put it down to just five minutes, that’s great. It will get longer as you grow. Consistency is much more important than duration.
10. Create a routine. Pick a regular place and time of day for exercise.
11. GIVE FAITH. Some nights, I create an audience of stuffed animals for my six-year-old. In the “night” night, you do the measurements in reverse. Sometimes he serenades me in the kitchen, while I cook. The wackier, the better.
12. DON’T BUY YOUR WORD. If you have a choice, rent or borrow. Reducing your investment will help you achieve the right, sustainable behavior. When parents buy new equipment for the beginning class, it is practically guaranteed that the child will fail. They feel that they made this big investment, so their child better follow. That’s a lot of pressure.
13. BE FORGIVE. Always look on the bright side. Praise them for trying, and for their progress. Your approval encourages them to stay with you.
14. FOR FIVE WEEKS. After five sessions, parents and children understand exactly what is needed. That’s the time to ask yourself:
Did my child learn something?
Will he or she exercise for at least a few minutes a day?
– Do I are you ok Might I take the investment of time and energy?
If you answered ‘yes’ to at least two of these questions, continue with music lessons. Most of our students attend private lessons. Or, if they are old enough (4 ½ at least) some turn into a string instrument. Piano lessons help immensely when faced with the increased complexity of holding and playing the violin, cello or guitar.
But even if your child is not ready to continue, you have not wasted your money. Everything they learn in the first five weeks will still be there when they are old enough to continue making music, maybe in three months or three years.
© 2008, Susan Pascale, All rights reserved.
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