by Dana Vachharajani
It’s common for the initial fervor of pursuing study in a musical instrument to wane at times for many kids. Though music is a lifelong gift and has many benefits, children can easily get distracted, lose interest, stop practicing or quit altogether. You’ll need to find different ways to nurture your child’s musical passion while keeping them motivated.
Changing our Notions about Practicing
What do you think of when you hear the word “practice?” Does it remind you of work? If so, we don’t want to go on this journey already feeling like it is unpleasant. We need to “work” on our skills, but what if we just asked our child to “play?” It doesn't mean that you don’t focus on the foundations of practice, set up by the teacher, it’s just changing the focus to more enjoyment in their process. It’s a very simple concept but one that our teachers are inquiring about at our school. Instead of asking, “How much did you practice?” or “How did you practice?”, we are asking “How did your playing go this week?” Simple, right? I mean, ultimately, this is what we put our children in lessons to do, play their instrument, so let’s make that a part of their thought process.
Setting goals will challenge your child, increase their excitement levels, and hold them accountable, so practice/play time feels productive. I recommend praising efforts, not talent. Remember, our expectations are most likely different from our child. Parents need to be sure that they are listening to their child’s set goals and supporting them. Instead of focusing on the end results, it is more effective to support and praise the child’s consistent efforts. Talk to your child about how the best musicians in the world found success through practice and dedication and not just talent alone. Celebrate goal achievements.
Appeal to the Kid in All of Us
If you had successful and fun lessons as a child, think about what made those lessons and play enjoyable. See if you can incorporate some of your positive experiences with your child’s practicing. However, what if you didn’t enjoy your lessons? What would you have wanted to experience? See if you can have a dialogue with your child about fun. Feel free to have a dialogue with the teacher about styles of music your child enjoys. This helps your child become fully invested. If your child likes to sing and move, allow them to explore this. It will actually help them internalize their musical skills.
Nurture a Love of Music
Show up for rehearsals, concerts, performances, and all other music-related events of your child’s. Share your love for music and encourage them to be curious about it and develop their passion for music. Attend concerts with your child, especially those that allow them to see their instrument of choice played professionally in front of an interested and supportive audience. Most importantly, make sure you ask them for their thoughts on the experience. Great communication is so important on this journey.
Variety is the Spice of Life
At a young age, exposure to a variety of instruments can help build an incredible musical foundation and interest for your child. Look for great exploratory classes for your babies and toddlers. The group parent and infant classes are super fun and your little one gets to see you participate and have fun too. This exploration of play in music is so helpful as they grow.
At Dana V Music, we created our own early childhood program for 3-5 year olds that allows them explore their world through music but also prepares them to start playing an instrument later. Music Explorers at Dana V Music get a child hands-on experience with not only instruments but social and emotional growth as this is the first time they will be independent in class from parents. The sessions end with them making their first performance which instills such a sense of confidence and pride.
What about the first instrument? As far as first instruments in private lessons, we usually recommend piano but there are little ones who get so excited about other instruments that as long as there is an instrument fit and fine motor skills, we will give it a try! Some students don’t “click” right away with their first instrument and that’s no reason to be discouraged! A great benefit to taking music lessons at Dana V Music is the opportunity to try out many different instruments. Taking lessons on different instruments not only exposes students to new teachers and ideas, but is a great way to build unique and varied musical skills to prevent detachment from their musical goals.
Children might lose interest in the beginning of exploring an instrument. However, a parent’s consistent support and encouragement go a long way in keeping up motivation. Take time to listen to your child’s concerns and help them find creative solutions. Recognize that musical success requires the engagement of both parents and students, and that your encouragement and support can go a long way! If you make your child aware of the long-term benefits of music and show how much you appreciate it, this can make a world of difference in your child’s musical journey.
Dana Vachharajani, Founder of Dana V Music School and Head of Teacher Development for Ensemble Music Schools. Dana’s multifaceted career has been marked by singing in top venues, founding and teaching in her own private music school, Dana V Music, as well as consulting, and advising to further develop music education. A graduate of The Juilliard School and Carnegie Mellon University, she has been a featured soloist in Carnegie Hall, and Alice Tully Hall, as well as a touring artist and soloist with major orchestras around the US. Dana is a mother to three incredible children and also currently teaches voice at Dana V Music, the original Ensemble Music School.