So it’s been a few months since taking the shiny new instrument out of its case but after the initial excitement of playing has worn off your child doesn’t want to practice. Every day you are asking, begging and pleading with them to practice before their next lesson. What is a parent to do? We talked to a lifelong musician and music teacher for some advice.
- Set aside a specific time every day to practice. This seems simple but kids thrive on schedules. For example, after school and a quick snack, have your child practice the violin for a half hour. It’s one less thing to figure out how to fit into your day and it will help prevent arguments. Ramona Coppage, a professional musician and violin teacher with 42 years’ experience says setting that time is vital to a student’s success. “If you say you are going to practice at the end of the day, it won’t happen – so set a practice time that fits with your family’s schedule, whether in the morning or after dinner – whatever works – just keep it consistent.”
- Find a great music teacher. How do you find a teacher? Call your local symphony for suggestions – they employ professional musicians that often teach on the side or you can ask other parents in your school. A good music teacher is not only an excellent musician but will also communicate and motivate your child. Selecting a music teacher can have a lifelong positive impact on your child so do your homework and make the best choice possible.
- Inspire your child. Take your children to a symphony concert or chamber concert so they can both see and hear a professional musician performing. It gives your child something to aim for – someday they might want to be up on stage in the spotlight basking in the applause of the crowd. You might just end up having a new hobby to share with your child – finding concerts to attend that you both will enjoy.
- Sign your child up for an ensemble. In addition to private lessons, getting your child together with other young musicians is a great way for them to meet kids with similar interests. Kids are great at motivating each other, think of a relay race – they each want to do their best in front of their peers. Who knows? They might end up with a whole new group of friends who are striving for excellence too. “I love seeing the kids’ excitement when they hear the great composers and all the parts of the orchestra playing together for the first time,” said Coppage. “The kids challenge each other to play at their very best – it’s a vital part of developing young musicians and getting them to practice more.” The Academy of Music is a great resource for parents, you can sign up your student for Philharmonia (middle school), Philharmonic (high school) and String Ensemble (elementary).
- Be realistic. “The end goal of music lessons isn’t necessarily creating a professional musician; the goal is using music to develop and enrich your kids’ lives,” says Coppage. So, have fun and enjoy the music and all the benefits it brings to your child.