With the seasons shifting and the smells of summer in the air, it’s a great time for reflecting on the past school year and planning how we will spend our summer days. Here are a few thoughts on getting the most from your music lessons.
Lessons with a music teacher is participating in the art of mentoring. When you or your child have a weekly lesson, that time is spent transferring skills and the love of learning from the mentor to the student. Outside lessons, the most effective way of spurring on learning is not nagging to practice. Instead, it is deliberately planning ways to inspire the student. In the car, discuss different musical styles. (Listen to all different kinds!) This summer, plan on attending the outdoor concerts in Maple Grove, on the Town Green or hear the Minnesota Orchestra perform free on Lake Harriet. Try a music festival like the Joyful Noise Family Fest, sponsored by KTIS Radio.
This Spring, I decided to do an experiment with my own kids. Instead of even mentioning, “You should practice,” I began playing piano more often myself. Immediately, the younger kids were drawn to the piano. They watched and listened, and then they wanted to play after me. The older ones started asking questions. We discussed the basics of songwriting, and my 11 year old started jotting down chord progressions and composing music. I said “yes” to accompanying a choir and played for a wedding last weekend. Modeling my love of music has spurred on my kids to play and sing more themselves and ask more questions at their lessons.
What if you aren't musical or don’t play an instrument? How about taking lessons yourself? Have you always wanted to play or sing? There is nothing greater that you can do for your own child’s music education than modeling it yourself. My husband Chris started guitar lessons this year. Seeing him struggle to learn simple songs and switch between chords has inspired my son with his guitar more than any nagging! He loves practicing with his Dad, and figuring out new things together. Education expert Oliver DeMille says “Youth very naturally long for the passion of being inspired, although many would probably not say so or even admit it explicitly.”
3. Make space for learning
Too much clutter in any student’s life, in their room or in their schedule, can derail the love of learning. As you change over the winter clothing into the summer apparel, consider boxing up most of the toys, books, Legos, and “stuff” cluttering your child’s space. Take out those items again when the snow flies—your kids will love the clean space to think and dream (and the toys will feel new again in a few months!) Or, just donate it!
With school out, you may naturally find your kids (or yourself!) wandering over to their instrument or to sing more often. Let practice happen organically—it doesn't have to be a set time and place. You may find yourself playing for hours one day, and then have a stretch when you are traveling and it’s hard to get any practice in. Just remember to create space in your schedule where lazy summer days can turn into strumming the guitar or playing a new piece on the piano.
Let this be an encouragement to you: Learning music starts with loving music. If you turn your head and heart in the direction that you want your arrow to fly, you will hit your mark.
Don’t underestimate the power of deliberately exposing your children to the things you want them to pursue. If you guide them in the right direction, you won’t have to “force” them to do anything at all. Their own inspiration will guide them into depths of learning that you didn't even know were possible!
Jen Hickle, Author
Since I was a little girl playing "school" in the garage with the neighbors, all I've ever wanted to do is teach. I'm passionate about passing on knowledge to other people!