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Why Parents Turn off Music: Part 3

By Sean Ryan, B.M.

Why Parents Turn off the Music: Part 3. It’s been awhile, since my last blog. We’ve been pretty busy here at Music Notes…

A few years ago I asked one of my violin students who is in middle school, if he listens to music. He blankly stared at me for a couple of seconds and shrugged his shoulders. I asked him if he likes music. He responded with a monotone “yes”. Now, it could’ve been he was too embarrassed to answer until I started mentioning modern artists like Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5. He knew who those people were but admitted to never listening to their music. Not because he didn’t want to but because he never gave himself the chance. So we put down our violins and I took out my laptop and went to YouTube and we started listening to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gavotte in G minor, played by Hilary Hahn. This was the piece that my student was currently working on. I told him to follow along in his music. After listening I asked him what he thought. He was very impressed by her sound and ability to fleetly glide from one string to another. At the conclusion of the lesson, I gave him a listening assignment where I wanted him to find four more recordings of the exact same piece played by different artists. I wanted to see if he could discern their interpretations and also tell me which one was his favorite.

The following week he came back to me almost anxious to show me the different recordings. So we discussed them. He played the piece again for me on his violin. The difference was overwhelming. Not so much from an academic standpoint where his technique improved, but there was feeling behind it now. In the playing itself, there was a desire to be better and a desire to learn more. He won’t outwardly express it, although I could sense it in his playing.

Parents need to expose their child to music outside of the music lessons. All kinds of music, whether it’s Classical, Jazz, Rock, Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop, World or soundtracks from shows, movies or video games. It doesn’t take much effort to do this. Show your child the methods in which you listened to music growing up. Show them how a CD player works. Have your children read about different kinds of music. Take them to a live show with professional musicians performing. Take them to an orchestra concert. Don’t let their music lessons be the only exposure they have to music.

Let their music teacher show them how to be an active listener. Not just listening to the lyrics, but listening to the sounds. How they interact with each other. Exploring different instrument combinations. Talk to them about the sounds they like and the sounds they don’t like. Have them develop an opinion without casting judgment. The more they listen in conjunction with their lessons the better idea they will have at how music is constructed. This way, they will have a way to mold their own progress to better tailor their instruction. Listening to music outside of the lesson will highly increase the chances of the students sticking with music and developing quicker, compared to those who are not listening to music.

Children Don’t Know Any Better. They are children.

If you want the answer as to why your son or daughter isn’t practicing, it’s because he or she is seven, eight or nine. Children do not practice their music at home, not because they don’t have an interest, but because they don’t have patience or guidance. In general, children do want to become better, even if your child does practice every day, but it’s because they like playing music. They don’t understand the long-term effects of it or the process of educational development. Almost every child I’ve taught wants to be good at music. So this tells me that they understand the result; they just don’t understand the process. Parents who don’t know that education is a process, not a single event, often echo this lack of understanding. This is misinterpreted into the desire to quit lessons all together.

Parents can do good a job at home and help students succeed. Be involved with your child’s lessons and practice time. Ask them questions. Ask them what they’re learning and have them show you what they’re learning. Encourage your children and force them to practice every day. Show them that there are consequences for not practicing. Take away their smart device or devices, until they put in some practice time. If even after all of this, they still don’t practice, take pride in the fact that they’re learning during the time of the weekly lesson. They may not be retaining the information, but music can be therapeutic. This could be the only source of music education they ever have in their life. Take advantage of this and the light will eventually turn on.

So when should your child call it quits? When he or she realizes how much work it takes to be a musician. When he can quantify how much practice is really needed, to not only improve from week to week, but to achieve long term goals. None of my high school aged students practice less than 45 minutes to an hour a day. They’re doing it because they want to at this point. Essentially, your child will decide when it is time to stop, when he or she is old enough to reason with such a decision.

Parents are quick to ending music lessons because they don’t want to force their kids to practice and they feel it’s a waste of money. They feel that it’s agonizing and that it’s damaging the child/parent relationship. It’s not… this is what parenting is all about. If you want your child to practice, ending their lessons is not the answer. The only thing that your child will learn from ending lessons is that it’s okay to quit something that may be difficult or difficult to see results immediately or quickly.

Answers & Conclusion
Now as a parent, here are some things you can start doing today.
•    Take Music Seriously. It’s a subject just like any other that requires patience and hard work from everyone (teacher, student and parent) to improve.
•    Before signing up for music lessons, budget time for both the music lesson and the practice time it takes everyday to improve from week to week.
•    Surround yourself and your family with all kinds of music. Listen to music.
•    No matter how much your child begs you to stop lessons, don’t listen. See this process through to some end point, at least a school year in length. Wait until your children are old enough to make informed decisions about their music education on their own, even if you are paying for it.

Every single adult I’ve spoken to that has quit music lessons when they were children regret doing so. We hear this all the time. That they wish their parents didn’t let them quit when they were younger. The students that stick with music, were glad that their parents made them practice when they were younger.

Music is everywhere. It enriches our lives, helps us achieve goals and makes us better and more well-rounded individuals. Music can be, and should be, a big part of your child’s life. They will thank you for it later.

Thank you, for reading this and considering a different vantage point. Practice smart.


Founder of Music Notes Academy, a '12 NJSBDC award-winning community music school in East Brunswick, NJ. A teacher of music since '00, with degrees in music and education, specializing in curriculum and instruction.

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