Made In The Usa Toys For 2 Year Old Girls Playing For Life – How to Keep a Child Engaged in Music Lessons From Early Childhood Through Teens

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Playing For Life – How to Keep a Child Engaged in Music Lessons From Early Childhood Through Teens

How many parents have given their children years of music lessons, only to have the child one day announce, “I quit!”

It can be heartbreaking for the parent, especially because of the thousands of dollars they may have invested in lessons and instruments.

But inevitably, years later, the former teenager will say, “I should never have given up the violin (or the cello or the viola)! I wish my parents had forced me to stick with it!”

Being a music school principal for the past ten years and a parent of three children (an 8-year-old, a teenager, and a former teenager), I’ve seen this sort of thing happen time and time again. So I’ve made it one of my main missions to create an environment that keeps kids in music, from toddlers to teens. Here are some of my most powerful techniques for keeping kids engaged and passionate about their music.

1. Start them young – on the piano. I have found that children who start with piano, and then enter my violin or other stringed instrument class, always do better than children who did not receive early piano training. The violin and other stringed instruments are difficult because of the many aspects that need to be focused on at once. It is also physically challenging. Piano is much easier for preschoolers to understand. Once the student has a basic understanding of music, including note reading, rhythm and practice, he is freer to focus on the technical challenges of the stringed instrument. Now I need the kids to take my beginning piano class and I encourage parents to take those classes until they start my violin class.

2. Don’t go it alone! How many parents enroll their children in private music lessons, only to have them refuse to go because they don’t know anyone? However, the same child will participate in almost any activity if at least one friend is present! Beginning group music lessons can be a lot of fun for the youngest and are especially ideal for children aged 3 1/2 to 5 1/2, depending on their maturity.

3. Children who play together like to play together! The more opportunities children have to play, the more they will improve. In addition to private lessons, as soon as the child is eligible, we place him in a stage group. At our school, graduates of our introductory violin class will enroll in private lessons and our training orchestra. More advanced players enter our more advanced children’s orchestra. Older students are encouraged to join regional youth orchestras. Ninety-nine percent of the time, once the initial excitement of playing an instrument wears off, it’s the group playing that kids will continue to be excited about. Children love to be with other children! Participation leads to more practice, especially if the conductor or music director connects well with the children.

In addition to private lessons and the orchestra, many participate in our chamber music program. I started the chamber music program with four kindergarten girls who knew each other from orchestra. After a few months of playing together, they called themselves best friends (‘best friends forever’) and have been playing together for 3 years. They performed for our congressman, senior centers, local schools and even at our local farmer’s market. What I found was that the kids in the quartet developed faster and played better, so I set about forming more groups and a chamber music program.

4. Keep them in the spotlight! It’s rare for a child not to thrive on the envelopment of warm feelings, positive attention, and sense of accomplishment he feels after a performance (not to mention the camaraderie with his fellow performers). Whether performing in a studio recital, in a solo competition; or with his youth orchestra at Carnegie Hall, performances are key to keeping children interested and improving their performance. The vast majority of children who only take private lessons, and have no performance opportunities, will eventually lose interest and drop out.

5. Be positive! When in doubt, do not shout, berate, belittle or threaten to leave lessons. None of the negative stuff works, and will only lead to more frustration for you and your child. Even if it seems like your child isn’t meeting your or the teacher’s expectations, keep a positive attitude. Your child may be going through a difficult time.

To overcome this, with the little ones, offer small rewards for practicing daily or weekly. It could be a sticker or a trip to the toy store. In your teens, you can relax your practice schedule if you find it too much of a burden. When my teenage son decided he wanted to quit the saxophone, his teacher suggested he only practice five minutes a day. He did it for more than a year, continuing to participate in various orchestras and jazz groups. It worked! He continued to play the saxophone throughout high school and received a huge music scholarship to college. Although he decided not to make music his career, he continues to earn money from his instrument through teaching and performing.

6. Summer and school holidays are a great time to get going! Instead of taking a break from music lessons, the holidays are actually a great time to get ahead. It’s a chance to go on life-changing musical adventures or just get a lot of stuff. Enroll your child in a summer music program that offers something different in orchestral or chamber music lessons. For teenagers, there are many programs outside the home, in beautiful settings in the mountains or in the countryside. The more your child improves, the more he will enjoy playing and the more he will feel good about himself. It is the child who falls behind who will want to stop practicing or, worse, stop practicing.

7. Do not exceed the schedule. Although we want our children to be well-rounded, it is better for their psyche that they excel at one thing. And if that is playing a musical instrument, it will have huge benefits. Skill with a musical instrument sets them apart from their peers. They will begin to identify themselves as musicians, which is great for their self-esteem. Highlighting a musical instrument, especially strings, will help with applications to schools and arts programs and eventually colleges. Most colleges have orchestras with many chairs to fill. Many more violins, violas, cellos and basses are often needed!

8. Stay engaged. Staying committed to your child’s music education can be the hardest part of raising your child, but I can say from first-hand experience that it’s worth it! The experiences your child will have being a musician will shape their lives (not to mention their brains) in ways that cannot be duplicated any other way. Music fosters self-esteem, teamwork and good study habits, and has shaped many young people’s lives in the most profound ways.

Taking all of these steps will make it much more likely that your child will develop a lifelong appreciation for their instrument and music.

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