Parents are faced every day with making decisions on children’s activities. Moms and dads often try out tumbling, soccer, dance, music, and more before their children are even in kindergarten. Often it’s at the suggestion of school teachers, extended family, and friends. The suggestions are all well-meaning, but it puts a lot of pressure on you as a parent to sift through the huge number of choices.
If you have turned to parenting magazines for help and found studies that indicate the intellectual value of learning music, you may be leaning towards children’s music lessons of some kind. In fact, some of the studies are so convincing that parents sometimes begin searching for a good music class when their children are three to four years old. It can be a difficult choice, but considering these three things when shopping for children’s music lessons can make it a little easier.
Rubber Stamp Methods
One of the drawbacks to some popular instrumental music classes for children is that most graduates sound the same. By the end of their training, students will have spent many years learning the material, only to sound like each other.
The cause of this is rigidity. The method books require all students to study exactly the same music and play it exactly the same way. If you want to find out if a program is run this way, attend several recitals and see if the students produce the same tone, the same expression, and play the same pieces.
You can also turn to the internet and search for today’s top performers of the instrument. How many of them started in the method you’re considering? How many performers stayed with it to completion, and how many started in a different method? Artistic expression is highly prized in top performers so students should value it, too. An artist doesn’t produce a Monet with paint-by-number systems; so it is with music.
Corporate Music Classes
There are several early childhood music education organizations to choose from today. Most of them are built on a franchise system and offer classes in neighborhoods through public space rentals and large homes. While a corporation can offer good support for teachers, there is some doubt on the value to students.
Some require parents to purchase a book produced by the backing corporation. While this is fine once or twice, you may be asked to purchase further high-cost books and equipment (which the company conveniently produces). You should be suspicious if the cost keeps piling up. Here are a few other tips on finding the right corporation-backed children’s music class:
- Ask if you would be able to re-sell the equipment once you’re done with it. If it looks like no one else would want to buy it unless they had children in the class, you might get stuck with an albatross.
- Find out if anyone else makes the same materials for different classes. If not, they may be ineffective teaching tools based on a fad.
- Consider whether the company seems truly concerned about children’s music or if it is more concerned with sales.
Often these companies require a multi-year commitment as well. How can you know if a toddler is going to like the same music class three years down the road? Always use caution regarding long commitments on any music class for children.
The Talent Problem
Sometimes you will have the option of taking an introductory course to see if music instruction is right for your child. However, some of the larger music education systems force the teachers and managers to report to the parents whether their child has musical talent or not. At the tender age of three or four, how can they tell? It would be hurtful at the least to tell adult students not to quit their day jobs, but saying that to a child can stamp out any desire for creativity he or she had.
If you take one of these courses and teachers or managers tell you your child doesn’t have any musical talent and to pursue other endeavors, don’t listen to them. Try another program, or even private lessons. Talent is not necessarily inborn. Any student with good focus, desire, and parental support can learn to be happy with their musical gifts. Also, not everyone can be a star performer, and no child should be excluded from self-expression just because they don’t show great ability levels as pre-schoolers!
Just Do Your Homework
A little research can save a lot of heartache in choosing your child’s music class and method. If handled properly, it can instill a love of musical arts, aid understanding of what it is to be human, and support higher-level thinking for a lifetime. Remember that music truly is the gift that keeps on giving, so don’t give up if the first try doesn’t work out quite as you’d planned. Sometimes all you have to do is wait a few months and try again!
What things did you do when enrolling your child in music lessons?