Music instruction has always been a major part of our homeschool. A music-rich experience for children – singing, listening and moving – provides a huge benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning.
Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.
Though not all students will pursue a career in music, providing music education can be both a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
While attending a symphony performance last month, the conductor spoke directly to the youth in the audience. He stated that to become a musician one needed to do only a few things: take lessons with a great teacher, listen to great artists, and practice. He then explained that lessons should include the study of music theory and composition, not just how to play. He also stated that performance is an important part of the practice piece – becoming comfortable playing for others and receiving accolades for your hard work.
Take Lessons with a Great Teacher
My son first expressed interest in learning piano when he was about four years old. In the beginning, we had a little trouble finding an instructor who was willing to work with a child so young.
His first instructor was a gem. She related very well to young children and my daughter began taking piano lessons with her as well. When he was a little fidgety, she would incorporate other instruments to keep him interested and engaged.
The earth has music for those who listen. ~ Shakespeare
As he has gotten older, his interest in piano has only grown. My daughter, on the other hand, chose to continue her music studies with the violin. This was partially prompted by our move to California. We were initially partnered with a charter school that provided the option of violin or guitar lessons as part of their enrichment.
Though we didn’t stick with the umbrella school, my daughter continued instruction in violin. We are fortunate to have a private tutor who adjusts her teaching methods to the learning style of each child. Additionally, she works with each of the kids on music theory and composition.
I started playing clarinet when I was in fifth grade. While I enjoyed Symphonic Band when I was in high school, even participating in district honor band each year, theory and composition wasn’t taught. With 60+ students, my band teacher just didn’t have the time. My children are thereby much more knowledgeable than I.
We have many CDs of classical masters in our home library. We enjoy listening to them while we read or do chores. The kids also spend hours watching videos of their favorite artists on YouTube and then trying to emulate them.
Whenever possible, we also attend the concerts of professional musicians. In addition to the North State Symphony performances, we have also seen The Piano Guys, Alpin Hong, and Lindsey Stirling perform live. We all know that attending concerts is fun but there are hidden benefits as well.
Music can change the world because it can change people. ~ Bono
Listening to music elevates you mood. This is attributed to the fact that a live performance brings a more memorable experience when compared to a video taped clip. Additionally, there is more joy to listening to live music, as a performing artist gets to share his or her sentiments with the audience. He or she can freely express emotions and it helps in passing across a certain idea to the audience.
In live concerts, artists involve the crowd in singing along, clapping and even dancing. For this reason, live music can be used to bring people from different backgrounds together.
Where words fail, music speaks. ~ Hans Christian Andersen
Additionally, most performers will offer an opening act or two to get the crowd excited and on their feet. These acts may be bands or individuals you have never heard of and attending a concert gives you a chance to experience their music live. You may discover new sounds that you didn’t know you liked.
You don’t have to go to a large venue to experience the fun of a live concert: many communities offer live music as a way for people to socialize and visit in a safe setting. Local bands may play live in parks or venues, and attending these shows gives you a chance to get out, meet new people, and get involved in your community.
Your ability to play well is fostered primarily by the amount of time you spend playing well. Practice lets us execute a task while using less and less active brain processing. It makes things automatic. When performers master one aspect of their work, they free their minds to think about another aspect.
Practicing regularly goes way beyond music — it’s a skill that has hugely positive ramifications for personal fulfillment and lifetime success. The trick, though, is that self-motivated discipline isn’t exactly first nature for most kids, so it’s up to families to help create positive, engaging and fun ways to practice as a path towards self-motivation.
Great accomplishments do not come easy. Practice can be grueling at times, but improvement in any instrument or at any activity requires hard work. Every student (and teacher!) has days where they don’t feel like practicing, but we all do things we don’t want to do when we are working towards something valuable. Getting your children to practice, even when they don’t want to, is just one part of the process when your child is learning an instrument.
I often think in music. I live my dreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ~ Albert Einstein
My son has never needed reminders or incentives to practice. He will sit down at the piano multiple times throughout the day to practice – both pieces he is learning with his instructor as well as pieces he is composing himself. We have come to discover that he does best when his practice time is divided up throughout the day rather than all in one siting.
My daughter, on the other hand, has not had the same level of enthusiasm. In the fall of this past year, however, upon encouragement she auditioned for youth symphony. She worked hard with her instructor and was over-joyed to be selected for second chair. This opportunity has provided her with the inspiration to practice more often – a little competition goes a long way.
Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory. ~ Oscar Wilde
We have also learned that my son practices in this way because the piano is easily accessible to him. He can hardly walk past it without sitting down to play a short piece. Taking this into consideration, rather than packing up the violin after each day’s practice, we now leave the instrument and bow out all the time. Now, as our daughter goes about her day, she can pick it up and play whenever she likes as well.
In addition to improving creativity, learning and performing music cultivates many skills that will continue to be useful to your child throughout their lives. The act of learning and playing an instrument, the encouragement of a teacher and the enthusiasm of a proud parent, will build in a child a sense of pride and confidence. Additionally, assigning pieces for a performance helps to teach students about setting goals and obtaining them within a specified time frame.
Much to the delight of parents, our music teacher provides her students with an opportunity to perform at a recital twice a year – once in the fall and again in the spring. In addition to providing the kids a venue to share what they have learned, they come away inspired by others and often hear pieces that they would like to learn themselves.
Here’s a peak at their spring recital a year ago, Spring Recital: Japan & Norway edition.
I mentioned earlier that my kids enjoy watching their favorite artists on YouTube. Inspired by The Piano Guys’ Charlie Brown Medley, my son recently began volunteering to play the piano at a local retirement home. He performs twice each month and has a growing fan base.
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I certainly have no idea where the interests of my children will lead them in the future or what career path they may choose. In a related post, I outlined 5 Steps to Cultivating Passions in Children. Regardless, I know that a foundation in music education will help to encourage self-discipline and build skills in cooperation, creativity, and communication.
Discover more posts in the series by visiting iHomeschool Network’s Growing a Success.