Parent's Role in Music Lessons I am writing this guide from two perspectives. First, as an independent music teacher of piano and voice with over twenty years experience. Second, as a parent of three children, now all adults. What is going to be covered are topics that I have gleaned from my years of experience. Because of the instruments I teach this guide will be from that perspective. Although discussing piano study, this information will carry well to other instruments. I hope this will be helpful to parents of prospective students as well as those who have children already taking lessons.
When to Begin Lessons
The most advantageous time to begin music study is when your child begins to read. Children are very pleased with themselves when they can read the words to their songs and sing along while they play the music. If as a parent you wish to start lessons before this time, I suggest enrolling your child in a music readiness program or with a teacher that has had advanced training in teaching preschoolers.
What Are the Advantages of Starting Children While in the Early Grades?
Children are very eager and uninhibited at this age. They begin performing before getting the age of self-consciousness. They are less involved with school activities. I have always called the first two years of study the years of grace, since I am almost inevitably guaranteed an eager learner.
What Can I Expect My Child to Learn in the Early Grades?
It takes a minimum of two years for most children to truly grasp the concept of music reading, and up to six years to master all of the elementary skills. Remember, reading a score takes spatial orientation. The child must read across at the same time as reading vertically. The concept of distance between two notes, or interval, may not be readily understood without explaining it many different ways. Playing both hands at the same time uses both sides of the brain, and the coordination to do this must be developed.
What Should I Look for in a Teacher?
First and most important, look for a teacher who loves children. A teacher with experience is very fine, but don't discount new teachers -- they have fresh ideas and are eager to do their best. Young children need to be nurtured and know that they are special. They need to have music to play that is fun as well as educational. Interview the teacher before signing up. Is the teacher flexible? Will I be able to reschedule missed lessons because of illness, school functions, or Little League pictures? If a conflict arises with the lesson time will I be able to change it? It is better all the way around to change a lesson time than to call each week and reschedule -- if the teacher allows this. What is the payment schedule? Does the teacher charge by the lesson, or does he or she charge for a total number of lessons with equal payments? Am I expected to enroll for summer lessons? What about family vacations? Whatever the policy, it must fit with how your family operates.
Because it is the way I run my studio, I recommend teachers who have an open studio policy. This is when parents are invited to stay and listen to lessons. That does not mean the parent should be constantly interrupting the lesson, but you must know what is going on in order to practice with your child ...
What Is My Responsibility As a Parent?
Children through the elementary grades need a parent to practice with them. Just as you help your children with their homework and projects, so it goes with music study. The television should not be on, conversations between others in the household or on the telephone should be conducted in another room. Please -- do not over-involve your children. They need time to just be what they are, which is children. Make time for them to sit quietly, play, or sit next to you and be close.
One of the important concepts children will learn is discipline, and the important word here is learn. Also, music needs to be a participitory endeavor -- someone plays, and someone listens. Practice should be an enjoyable time. Young children may not be able to sit and practice for more than five or ten minutes at one time. Remember to always be positive before finding what needs improvement. If a power struggle ensues, stop and come back to it later. If all of their sitting ability has been used up in school, leave it for the next day. Something fun for the child is to make one day a week a performance day instead of a practice day. You might even want to dress up and make programs. Do this, and watch your child shine!
Be honest with your teacher. If you couldn't get practice in, tell him or her. If their was conflict ask for suggestions. If you play also, ask to play duets with your child. If your child hates the music he or she is playing, ask for different music.
What Is the Responsibility of the Teacher?
Patience is very important. Children some days are wiggly. I have had children sit like a puppy on the piano bench and bark. Sometimes a lesson needs to end early because there is no attention span left for learning -- it was all used up in school. The teacher should present concepts in music that the child finds enjoyable. He or she must be able to adapt to each individual that comes into the studio. While being nurturing, the teacher also needs to hold the respect of a teacher in the eyes of their student. Each music concept needs to be presented as many times as necessary until understood. Then, it must be reinforced and built upon.
What About the Middle School and High School Student?
While not necessarily needing as much supervision, the older student still needs the support of parents. Listen to your children playing their instrument. Ask them to play a piece more than once for you because it is so enjoyable. You can sit and read a book, or do other work while really listening to you child practice. Remember, young people are more mature, and they are not -- all at the same time.
When Should I Change Teachers? When Should I Stop Lessons?
It doesn't mean the current teacher is no good if the time comes to change. The approach used for young children is far different from that used with the middle school and older student. Sometimes a student just quits listening to the present teacher, for what could be a number of reasons. Talk to your present teacher if this happens. He or she should understand. In fact, it may have been on their mind already and couldn't figure out how to approach you about it. However, you must do what is best for your child.
Sometimes the conflict over practice and scheduling becomes so great it is time to stop. Talk to your child. Let them know that ending lessons doesn't mean that their lack of music participation is forever.
I hope this basic information about private music lessons has been helpful. Thank you for reading this guide.