Music as a Self-Expression Tool for Children

After I write this post, I’ll be heading to my daughters’ closet to pick out their clothes for tomorrow’s unschooling adventure–a trip to The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) to see Tchaikovsky Discovers America, part of ASO’s “Concerts for Young People” series.  Both my girls are music lovers, and one (Marley) is learning to play bass guitar, while the other (Sage) is digging violin.  I’ve got a great guest post by Leila Viss on behalf of www.JoyTunes.com.  I gladly gave her space on my blog because I think this post offers great supporting insights on the relevance of music and music exploration as a resource for nurturing self-expression in our little ones. 
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Although not every person is destined to be a concert musician, everyone can be a music maker, enthusiast and supporter. Giving your child the gift of learning music on any instrument is something to treasure, but finding the answers on how to provide this gift is not always easy.
 
You may be unaware of your youngster’s readiness for making music, but there are some signs that should help you make that assessment. Here are some steps toward unlocking your child’s innate musicality and readiness.

How can I tell when my child is ready?

Encourage Exploration
• Purchase a keyboard instrument (a portable digital keyboard may do the trick but plan to upgrade when lessons begin) and let your child explore sound before enrolling in lessons.
• Once exploration begins, notice how your potential musician gravitates and experiments at the keys.
• Download some music game apps such as Piano Dust Buster 2.0, The Most Addicting Sheep Game or Magic Piano and invite your child to explore. It won’t take long for a youngster to be drawn into these magical games that also teach music fundamentals.
• If the keyboard and favorite apps receive regular visitation, this is strong evidence that your future maestro is ready to engage in lessons.
 

Prime the Potential

Some basic skills are involved in learning any instrument and it’s important that these fundamentals are developed before enrolling in lessons.

An ideal candidate for instrumental lessons can:

• Say and sing the alphabet
• Count at least to 20
• Match pitch and sing songs with ease
• Identify the left from the right hand
• Cut with scissors
• Color and draw with markers, pencils, etc.
• Dance and move freely to music
• Clap and march with a steady beat
Consider early music education groups, which are perfect for young learners.

How do I know what instrument is right for my child?

The piano is the easiest instrument to begin exploring and eventually making music. Therefore enrolling your child in piano lessons may be a place to begin his/her music education. Once your budding musician is introduced to other instruments in school around 4th or 5th grade a shift in interest may occur.

How do I choose the right teacher?

Referrals from friends and acquaintances are your best bet for a good teacher. If they are happy with a teacher there’s a good chance that you will be as well. Also, ask to arrange an interview with several teachers and you’ll discover that each owns a unique studio. It’s important for you to determine what your priorities are for your child’s music education. Here are some things to consider:
• Some teachers may excel at preparing students to compete, while others may lean toward a more relaxed approach with fewer opportunities to compete or perform formally.
• While some may remain set in a traditional approach with standard repertoire others may emphasize lessons in creativity beyond the page and various styles other than classical.
• Group lessons are a popular social setting which may best suit those who are still on the fence about studying an instrument. Private lessons usually accommodate schedules more easily and offer one-on-one instruction.
• Music should be shared so ask if the teacher offers encouragement and opportunities to perform, even casually. Although difficult, performing instills discipline, motivation, confidence and good experience for public speaking.
• Teachers usually use a method book or series to teach an instrument. A good question to ask during your chat with a teacher is “What methods and tools will you use to help my child progress in his/her music skills?”
How do I balance being a supportive parent without becoming overbearing?

Here are a couple of tips to help you maintain a healthy attitude:

1) Some teachers may require you to be present at lessons to take notes so consider this as a free lesson yourself and learn right along with your child. You will realize that building musical skills is a long-term process with peaks, valleys and plateaus.
 
2) Whether you attend lessons or not, it is important for you to remember that this is your child’s endeavor and not yours. Allow your budding musician to:
• Learn how to learn
• Read all assignments
• Take charge and ask the teacher questions themselves when they forget a concept
• Be responsible for collecting books prior to the lesson, etc.
 
3) The best support you can offer your child is providing and modeling structure.
• Make daily practicing a priority so it becomes a habit by setting up a schedule.
• Instead of setting the timer and demanding practice, ensure that the teacher’s instructions are understood and completed during practice time by reviewing the assignment with your musician. The amount of daily time at the instrument may vary, as consistent practice will make the assignment easier to play by the end of the week.
• Arrive promptly for each lesson and be on time for pick-up.
• Show teachers the respect they deserve by following all studio policies and submitting timely payments.
 
Music lessons are a worthy investment toward a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Happy music making!