By Sean Stone-Ashe
When you introduce your child to the world of music, you can become one of their greatest allies on their musical journey. Whether you know much about music or not, by considering the guidelines below, you can provide a budding young musician with motivation and inspiration to learn and develop their skills, while fostering a love for music and art along the way.
1. Be in the Know
As a teacher, I always appreciate when a parent of my student has a pulse on what we are trying to accomplish in our lessons. This includes some immediate goals that will hopefully be observed by the next lesson, but also some more long-term technical or musical concepts that I hope the student masters within a month or perhaps longer.
The best course of action, then, is to have a frequent dialogue between the parent and teacher in order to create a web of support around the student. Most children don’t have a strong idea of how to improve or master a skill, and having those expectations reinforced on a daily basis in the home is the most certain way to achieve their musical ambitions.
2. Don't Mandate
While it is crucial that children have high expectations at home for their musical productivity, it is just as important that the child does not feel forced to practice without any free will at all.
After all, what is the point of learning and refining their skills on an instrument if it does not also instill a love for participating in music? I have heard numerous anecdotes from peers who were quite talented in their musical area, but for whom musical practice was nothing more than a chore and a compulsion.
Therefore, I suggest that students receive small incentives to practice at home during periods of time when they don’t feel especially motivated. But, it is important to realize that becoming proficient at a musical instrument is a long journey, and there will be periods of that journey where a student’s interest is less than ideal. As a parent, these are critical periods to have patience and strategize to help keep the child on track, rather than ruthlessly demanding productivity each day.
3. Musical Immersion
Whenever a child is learning to play a musical instrument, it is motivating to hear exemplary performances of their instrument, and meet other people who are on the same musical journey as them. Parents of musical children should seek to immerse the child in a world where listening to music is a daily routine, and their child is a member of a musical community.
Concerning listening to music, I recommend that the entire family takes time each day to sit down and actively listen to at least one musical recording. If you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend finding a well-produced YouTube video of a performance, and let the YouTube algorithm source you additional videos from there. I also recommend going the extra mile, and saving time for a brief discussion of the music.
Additionally, children become more motivated to learn when they have friends or peers who are learning the same instrument as well. I see this all the time in my high school classes, where many guitar students are all friends with each other, and through no coincidence, are all high-achieving musicians. Having musical peers brings out the best in each student, not only because of a healthy competitive spirit, but out of a desire to share experiences and have a sense of belonging.
When a child’s world is rich in music, it makes sense to them why they should be practicing daily and honing their craft. And as parents of musical children, one of the best things you can do is provide the answer to the question “why should I learn a musical instrument?”