The ” No-No’s” and “Yes’s” for Parents of Music Students

OK ‘Rents- I’ve gotta do it. You might get miffed, surprised or challenged, but honestly…YOU NEED TO KNOW! I’ve been teaching music for over 13 years and there are several things that we teachers REALLY wish you wouldn’t do… and some things we’re practically BEGGING you to do! Take note! 🙂

 

“No- No!’s”

 

1) DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE WHAT LEARNING AN INSTRUMENT ENTAILS.

This is a new LANGUAGE!  Yes, a language. There are music RULES. Lots of them. It takes TIME. Lots of it.  To be good, it takes WORK. HARD WORK. And it takes YEARS.SEVERAL YEARS. Music lessons are not soccer practice or cheer practice where you can just drop them off and let it be their “extracurricular activity”. This is going to involve you. This is a mental and time committment, on ALL parties. Just like in school, your child might need your help with some “homework”. As much as you can, try to learn along with him/her. This will give you a good idea on how fast your child is progressing and if they are practicing correctly. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

 

2) DO NOT LET YOUR CHILD QUIT BECAUSE  “IT’S TOO HARD.”

All too often the parents let the child quit because he/she is complaining (and sometimes showing some ‘tude) because “it’s hard”. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s worth it! Are you going to let your child stay in 1st grade the rest of their lives because 2nd grade is harder than 1st? No! Of course not. Yes, it’s hard, but they’re ready for the next challenge, whether or not they think they are. Trust your music teacher. They REALLY DO believe in your child and wouldn’t give them something they couldn’t handle. Now, there is a difference between a child who is having a hard time with something and a child who just simply doesn’t want to take lessons. Assess your child. Does he/she play during “free” time. Do they play things that they like, often? Do they get creative on their own with their instrument? If this is the case, it’s not that your child doesn’t like playing, they just are having a hard time with an assignment. Encourage them to push through it. However, if your child is avoiding playing their instrument altogether,if they don’t even mention or touch their instrument on their own, it sounds like maybe music doesn’t have as much draw as it once may have and you both need to decide what THEY (not you) truly want. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to teach a student who doesn’t WANT to learn. Ugh. Trust me, the money that we receive from those lessons IS NOT WORTH IT. Again, this is a scenario different than that of a student who’s just having a tough time with an assignment. We teachers need YOU to encourage your child to rise to the challenge. If you let them back down from a challenge it WILL become habit in other areas in life.

 

3) DO NOT LET THEM TAKE BIG BREAKS BETWEEN LESSONS!

I cannot stress this enough! Summertime and Holidays are the biggest culprits. I understand that most parents do not realize the implications of letting your child skip several lessons or of having a big break, but your music teacher does. Unless that student has been taking for 2 years or MORE (and are at a specific skill level) , I highly suggest you DO NOT let them take a break (from lessons) for more than 2 weeks! Even if they are taking a two-week break, over Holiday or the Summer, they still need to occasionally practice or be doing some kind of theory refreshers ( flash cards, theory games etc.) Without fail.. students ALWAYS leak what they’ve learned any time they take a break if they don’t keep their minds sharp. It is so frustrating to both student and teacher when he/she comes back from break and has to go back in the book or relearn things they’ve already learned. Do your child a favor.Get them some fun music games to keep their wheels turning over vacation!

 

4) DO NOT FORGET THAT THIS IS YOUR MUSIC TEACHER’S INCOME!

All the music teachers said “YESSSSSS!”  We teachers realize that for you, skipping a lesson isn’t a big deal. But it really is. Think about it. We don’t get a salary or “guaranteed” paycheck like most of corporate America, and it’s the price we’re willing to pay to help keep the arts alive. To be very honest, we do love teaching your child and the best payoff is transferring a heart for music into them and seeing them grab it, BUT… we have to pay bills too. For some us, each lesson is a designated “bill”. For example, Susie’s monthly lesson tuition pays for “X” bill. Tommy’s monthly tuition is only half of “Y’s” bill so I really need Bobby too to make sure “Y” bill is all paid for. Make sense? Each month, each lesson, each cancellation makes a difference. You never know, you might be someone’s grocery money. Some may not like the pressure of knowing that your teacher is counting on ( and needing ) you to be consistent, but it’s the truth. If you’re going to cancel, PLEASE give as much of a heads up as possible. If it’s last-minute.. the polite thing to do is just forfeit the tuition for that lesson. Again, this is not an extracurricular activity for your music teacher. This is their income.

 

5) DO NOT HOLD YOUR CHILD BACK BY NOT INVESTING IN APPROPRIATE EQUIPMENT OR EXTRA LESSON TIME.

Big one here.Let’s tackle the equipment issue first. Billy is ready for a bigger keyboard. When your music teacher suggests you get one, it’s because he NEEDS one. Your child cannot play pretend keys in the air. He cannot learn proper finesse and touch sensitivity on a Toys-R-Us keyboard. Also, tune your piano! Your child will grow up tone-deaf because they’ve been playing on an out-of-tune piano for years! After some time, you know if your child is committed to learning music. Are you committed to investing in their progress?

 

EXTRA LESSON TIME. Sigh…  Sometimes, there is a student whom I feel shows extraordinary ability and I tell the parent. I will never exaggerate a students’ skill level to a parent. I then present them with the opportunity for a more intensive lesson. Sure it’s more time, which ultimately means some more money, but trust me. If it wouldn’t sky-rocket that young student into bigger skies, I wouldn’t suggest it. It would be a waste of both our time, and your money. I actually feel bad for the student ( and often have to restrain myself from just volunteering the extra lesson time) because when they get to that level, their potential is only limited to the opportunity given them.

 

 

“YES!’s”

 

1) DO MAKE THEIR PRACTICE HABITS A PRIORITY

Let’s be honest. We all wish your child would take personal responsibility for their practice time. We would love for them to come home from school with their homework already done, put their backpack away neatly and run straight to their instrument (with carrot sticks for a snack), practically jumping out their skin to play scales and tackle that new, tough song that they just got. Of all the students I’ve ever taught, I can count on one hand how many kids actually react to practice time like that. So, for the majority of kids, they usually need some reminding and encouragement. I will be honest with you. If a student is has not practiced enough, I do tend to hold the parent responsible, to a degree. I cannot be their to ensure your child practices and it’s not my responsibility to incorporate your child’s practice schedule in their daily routine.

 

I’m sure that right about now I have some parents saying “I’m too busy to keep up with their schedule” or ” I don’t want to have to always be reminding them to practice” I’ve heard it a million times, from well-meaning, but disinterested parents. Here are my thoughts on that.

 

Learning an instrument IS a lot of fun, and very rewarding. It is also a lot of work and every student learns and processes differently. For some it’s easier, for some it takes a lot more time and effort. YOUR CHILD NEEDS YOU TO BE INVOLVED. They need you to remind them, encourage them, help them, inspire them and correct them. If you cannot do that for them, they will have a much harder time and have a higher chance of quitting. If you really want your child to be successful, plan on being involved in no less than everything.

 

2) DO INVEST IN THEIR MUSIC EXPOSURE

Get out there! Take your kids to see a symphony or show! Buy them some new tunes! Ask them about their current favorite music group. Get some instrumental movie soundtracks and multicultural music. Expose them to NEW music. Help them find their musical niche and “sweet spot”,

 

3) DO SET UP A FAMILY/FRIENDS RECITAL

Sometimes your music teacher may not have access to a recital venue. Don’t let this stop your child from getting exposed to playing in front of people, and the pressure that comes with it! A little pressure is OK! Go ahead, invite your family and friends over for some snacks and a mini performance. Why not make up a program with your childs picture in it and the names of the songs the will be playing. Encourage your child to memorize the pieces he/she is playing!

 

4) BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT

Ask your child to show you what he/she has learned after each lesson. What songs are they playing now? Act like your genuinely interested in what they’re learning, not just if they’re doing it right. Why not sit down on the couch with them and their music and ask things like, ” What is this symbol?” or ” What does this mean?” It will thrill your child to be able to teach YOU something for once! You can also give them simple requests like “Hey! Dad’s birthday is coming up. Do you think you learn ‘Happy Birthday’?” or “It’s almost Christmas! Maybe you can learn a Christmas song that we can all sing together as a family!”

 

5) MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

This is SO important! With your encouragement and support, your kids can do anything! Without it, they will feel like you don’t care and are less likely to try as hard. They WANT to make you proud. They want you to ogle over them. As a teacher, I’m asking you, please sit down with your child. Listen to their songs. Applaud them. Say things like “That sounds great!” and “I love the way you play this song!” Even if it sounds simple to you, don’t belittle or underestimate what it takes for THEM to play that piece. There’s a lot more going on in the music world than most parents understand and they can be quick to dismiss or be critical of a “simple” song when really, that song took a lot of hard work. When your child struggles, encourage them that they can do it and that you’re proud of them for sticking with it!

 

 

SO. Here’s my first 5  Big “No-No!’s” and Resounding “Yes!’s” If you have any questions on how your child might benefit more from lessons or how to handle certain situations, let’s chat about them!

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