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It Takes Two…Generations

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So you are not a musical parent?  No worries.  As a parent, are you overwhelmed with all the things I might take for granted of you along the way?  I understand.  As time passes, you’ll become an expert at supporting your child’s music education.

But, until then, here are 10 absolute basics to keep in mind:

You simply cannot miss lessons.  

Over the years, I’ve had the honor of teaching not one child in a family, but, two, three, and even four.  One of the things that I have observed, is that these families know that unless you’ve just had a car accident, your child has a communicable disease, or your grandmother’s funeral couldn’t be scheduled any other day, you simply don’t miss piano lessons.     

Your child having extra homework, or wanting a playdate with a best friend simply doesn’t cut it as a reason to consider skipping a lesson.

Practice has to happen every day.  

Even if it’s just for three minutes.

The act of commencing practice every day is more important than engaging in prolonged practice every day!

Get your child into the habit of playing his or her instrument every day, and to a certain extent, the practice will take care of itself.

Practice might not mean playing through a piece from beginning to end.  

In fact, practice rarely means playing through a piece from beginning to end. I will give your child clear instructions as to what is required each week on those pesky yellow assignment sheets.

You might even receive a short video with a correct hand position or technique for the week.  Your help in reinforcing those instructions go A LONG WAY

 

Your beginner student should be learning new music almost every week.

If your child isn’t bringing home a new song almost every week, it means something isn’t going right with your child’s learning (probably due to issues with practice at home). If you find pieces are assigned for a second, third or even fourth week, talk to me about how you can support your student’s practice.

 

 

The lesson time is when you should talk to the teacher, not afterwards.

Most days, I have a packed schedule; I am usually not able to have anything but a short quip outside of the lesson time. 

I am always available for phone calls, emails, or text messages, but I’m sure you can understand that the time directly after your child’s lesson is sacrosanct (and not dedicated to you).  It might be my only chance to use the bathroom in five hours (and I’m not exaggerating one iota!) . 

Just because you need to remind your child to practice does not mean that they don’t want to practice or that they don’t want to play piano.  

Just as you don’t give your children the option of failing to brush their teeth, bathe, eat or get dressed, so practicing is not optional, even if that means you remind your child to do it every day for a decade.

You are the parent: you make the rules. No one ever reached adulthood and said “I wish my mom had let me stop learning the piano.”

Think long-term.

In other words, don’t plan to ‘try’ piano for six months to see if it’s a good fit – if you want your child to learn to play the piano you need to be internally committing to three, if not four years of lessons and practice. Then you can reflect on how things are going.

This isn’t about being a tiger parent, it’s about being realistic about what’s involved in gaining musical skills. Remember that 10,000 hour rule? You can have an awful lot of fun during that first 100 hours of piano practice, but you’re still only 1% of the way (if that) toward being amazing.

Many times,  I teach ALL of the siblings in a family, and for several years. No, not all of them have become great musicians, but my parents have been COMMITTED to giving each child a music education.  

I guarantee, not one of these students will or have reached adulthood saying, “I wish my mom would have let me stop learning piano.”  Because she didn’t.

Piano is impossibly easy and hard at the same time. 

This will happen:  One week you will find out that your student is a musical genius; some cool things at the keys are easy to learn.  Feel free to enjoy this sensation, but don’t be disappointed if the next week your child reverts to just being the cool, fabulous kid that you know and love.  

Some difficult things that pianists do appear to be very easy.  While some of the impressive things pianists do are ridiculously straight-forward to execute (if a teacher just shows you how).

Recital participation is not an option.

Most students are super motivated to playing at recitals – they get to hear music being performed by more advanced students.  I love the rivalries that develop between students in my studio.  

Students actually look forward to hearing one another play, and seeing if they ‘move down the recital program list’ (if, in fact, the program is organized by ability).

Plus, recitals allow students begin to build a repertoire of pieces they are comfortable performing.  When I see previous students around town, I always ask if they are playing piano anymore. 

I always hear that studio graduates can at least play their last recital piece. (Well, after a decade of lessons, that’s a great accomplishment!   Note:  Saccharine sarcasm) . In all seriousness,  it’s like riding a bicycle:  even if they hadn’t played in years, they can come back to several old favorites.

And, don’t project any nervousness you may feel onto your child – children don’t know they are supposed to feel nervous unless you tell them.  Recitals are that perfect opportunity for students to perform in public.  

Name five things you think I should know?  

Does he/she have a morbid fear of spiders? An allergy to cats? A learning disability or a processing disorder? On ADD medication?  Please don’t wait for me to figure it out for myself– sharing what you know about your child won’t be prevent me from building a positive relationship with your child; you’ll be helping to facilitate a great learning experience IMMEDIATELY.

Playing the piano is a holistic learning activity.   You might find that I can alert you to quirks in your child’s learning behaviors that will help you finesse their school-based learning!

In the past, I have been among the first to notice problems with vision, dyslexia, problems with proprioception, processing problems, pronounced learning style, simply because I am spending 30 minutes one-on-one with your child, and maybe this is the first chance your child has had for that kind of regular, professional adult attention.

Just so you know, some of my own children have been diagnosed with disabilities:  autism, a processing disorder, and a learning disability.  I am not here to judge your child.  We are team; lets make your child the best person he or she can be!

One thought on “It Takes Two…Generations

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’m currently working on the f# minor nocturne! they’re beautiful pieces.Don’t get me wrong, you have to be strong and confident to be successful in just about anything you do – but with music, there’s a deeper emotional component to your failures and successes. If you fail a chemistry test, it’s because you either didn’t study enough, or just aren’t that good at chemistry (the latter of which is totally understandable). But if you fail at music, it can say something about your character. It could be because you didn’t practice enough – but, more terrifyingly, it could be because you aren’t resilient enough. Mastering chemistry requires diligence and smarts, but mastering a piano piece requires diligence and smarts, plus creativity, plus the immense capacity to both overcome emotional hurdles, and, simultaneously, to use that emotional component to bring the music alive.Before I started taking piano, I had always imagined the Conservatory students to have it so good – I mean, for their homework, they get to play guitar, or jam on their saxophone, or sing songs! What fun! Compared to sitting in lab for four hours studying the optical properties of minerals, or discussing Lucretian theories of democracy and politics, I would play piano any day.

    But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Academy, I understand just how naïve this is. Playing music for credit is not “easy” or “fun” or “magical” or “lucky.” Mostly, it’s really freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every little segment over and over, dissect it, tinker with it, cry over it, feel completely lame about it, then get over yourself and start practicing again. You have to be precise and diligent, creative and robotic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-discover the emotional beauty in the piece, and use it in your performance.

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