Is Your Child Ready for Music Lessons?
By Alina Niemi
Most children these days are involved in a multitude of activities. Everything from sports – soccer, baseball and gymnastics to social groups – scouting, church and school clubs. If you want to start music lessons, there are many questions to ask. What age is best? Which class? What if I don't know anything about music?
As a keyboard and drum teacher for children, these are questions I hear all the time. Here’s some information to help you decide what’s best for your child.
What’s your child's attention span?
In order for a child to take instrument lessons, he or she needs to be able to pay attention for 20-30 minutes and get along with other students. If your child is especially shy around new people, or very easily distracted, a better choice would be group singing or music play classes.
How interested is your child in the class material?
Some kids love the sound of percussion. And many other sit at a keyboard and plunk on it. Knowing what your child responds to and enjoys is key. Very physically active children may do better with dance or music play classes, which provide an outlet for their energy. Others are sure they want to play the guitar and nothing else.
Whenever possible, matching classes to your child's interests and natural abilities helps to reduce the chance your child will not want to attend because of lack of interest. It also nurtures the God-given talents that are unique to each of us.
Are you willing and able to commit to this?
Lessons require money, time, energy and attention from the entire family. Just as in school, regular attendance is crucial to continued progress in music, and your child will struggle if you miss class often. Are you willing to make lessons a priority?
Learning to play an instrument involves practice every week at home with parental involvement. Even if you don't play the instrument or know how to read music, your child still needs to know you care. By establishing a practice schedule, enforcing it and reinforcing your child’s efforts you’re teaching your kids the concepts of discipline, hard work and delayed rewards. These qualities will benefit them the rest of their life. .
Do you have realistic expectations?
"My child is musically gifted" is something many mothers secretly dream, but the reality is, natural musical genius is extremely rare. Of the hundreds of students I’ve taught and seen through our studio over the years, I know of only one child I could say who was a true prodigy. Even then, he spends hours every day practicing drums, and has since he was 4, in order to become as skilled as he is now at the age of 7.
Music instruction helps to develop listening and math skills, getting along with others, and self-discipline. Perhaps most importantly, music allows us to express ourselves. That’s important no matter what our age.
Getting your child involved in the right lessons at the right time can lead to lifelong enjoyment and excitement. Above all, getting your child involved in music should be an activity that remains fun and pleasurable.
Alina Niemi is a music teacher in Hawaii who strives to never create another adult who says, "I took music lessons as a kid and I hate music now!"