Why do music lessons always seem to go on the chopping block?
A few months ago, I had a certain student sign up for piano lessons who turned out to have considerable talent. Her dexterity was above average for her age and most of all – she loved playing! That’s a big deal. After all, that is the ultimate goal – for the student to enjoy playing music. However, this is probably the biggest challenge any music instructor contends with.
Music lessons, like anything else, takes practice and work to yield results. Speaking for myself, I use a variety of techniques to keep it fun and less intimidating while encouraging progress with practice. It’s not easy and is precisely why all teachers aren’t equal. You not only have to teach, but also, motivate!
Anyway, a week ago, I was informed by the student’s mother that she would no longer be taking lessons because her grades were slipping. With respect, I don’t understand the logic behind this. It’s highly doubtful that piano lessons had anything to do with this, particularly since the student was practicing about 20 to 30 minutes, approximately 4 days a week. This is merely 2 hours per week. Just being real here, but honestly, I don’t see how 2 hours per week of practice (practice that is helping the student progress), is stifling the student’s progress in school? If anything, it’s increasing the effectiveness of her study habits. enhancing her concentration and building self-esteem by demonstrating that practice can yield results!
Remember, the student truly loved playing piano. Stopping lessons has the propensity to be misconstrued as punishment. For any parents that have gone down this road or have been thinking of doing the same thing, I ask you respectfully to consider your position. I mention this not only from the point of a view of an experienced musician, performer, songwriter and piano instructor, but also a parent of four (one in elementary school, two in high school and one in college).
Extra-curricular activities and sports
I’m a firm believer in involving my children in activities and sports. It builds character, team-building, and healthy competition. However, I have to ask. Why is that music lessons are always the first to go on the chopping block when the student is involved in too many activities? You see, there’s often a lack of seriousness when it comes to taking music lessons. As parents, you have to set the tone for your child regarding lessons and practice, particularly since you are spending $70 to $100 per month on lessons!
Be the coach!
Learning happens in music lessons – a mere half hour a week. However, execution and progress happens at home through practice. In fact, through my years of both playing and teaching, 80% of progress happens from practice and applying what you’ve learned from your lessons. As parents, you need to be that “coach” at home. I’m often told by parents that it’s difficult to be any help because they simply don’t know how to play the piano. I get that to an extent, however it is essential that you support and encourage your child, to set up scheduled practices throughout the week (children thrive on structure, as you know!) and particularly to note the areas that your child is having trouble with and relate those issues to me.
There are two specific students I have where both their fathers take an active role in their learning. I must tell you, it’s having a tremendous impact on their progress. They sit in on lessons so they can comprehend what their child is learning and work with them throughout the week to achieve their lesson goals. Think of it this way – they are getting 2 for the price of one. Why do I say this? Because they are paying a monthly lesson fee for their child, but in the process, they are learning piano as well!
I’ve had another parent who told me recently that they have noticed a significant change in their sons grades and school work since he started to take piano. I love to hear these comments. Not only does it make my job worthwhile, but it proves that music lessons have a profound impact on learning and cognitive ability. In fact, studies have shown that those who take piano lessons generally score higher on cognitive and spatial testing and have increased verbal and mathematical skills (Fujioka et al 2006; Schellenberg 2006; Patel and Iverson 2007; Hanna-Pladdy and Mackay 2011).
In closing, I fully understand that there are many reasons for pulling your child from music lessons, and that is a personal matter which I thoroughly respect. However, I hope this article will help to influence your decision if stopping piano lessons was something you’ve been contemplating. Unlike sports (for the majority of us, anyway), musical skill is something that a child keeps for life! When I was young, playing the piano was a way for me to not only express myself, but to also serve as a productive way for me to “cool down” when I was upset. To this day, I still do this! It’s amazing the power that music has to transform ones mindset and emotions.
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