This blog post was written by our Elementary Lessons Specialist and Adaptive Music Lessons teacher, Marianne Sutin (M. Ed)
This is my second year back in the business of teaching private music lessons after over twenty-five years in the public school system (I taught classroom special education and general/classroom music and chorus, grades K-8). Coming back into the private lesson setting has been rewarding, interesting, and eye-opening–a lot has changed since I was in the classroom.
Despite that, even with parents having the internet on their fingertips, I still get the same questions about children in music lessons. One that almost every parent has asked me is: ‘My child likes music, but how do I know that they’re ready for lessons?’
Here are some things to consider before buying or renting and instrument and signing that lesson contract:
1. How old is your child? There are, of course, exceptions at every age level, but here are some guidelines:
Ages 4 and under: Preschool children usually benefit most from group parent/child music experiences that include singing, movement, and playing rhythm instruments. If there is a piano or other instrument in the house that they want to explore, by all means encourage this ( with supervision!) but keep it light and playful.
Ages 5-6 Children in this age group may be ready for weekly lessons, if the teacher has experience with young children and can use a variety of methods suited to their needs. Parents may need to sit in on lessons and practice sessions to assist the child in understanding and following the teacher’s directions.
Ages 7 and up. These students are usually able to read directions and song lyrics that are included in beginner lesson books, have developed finger strength and independence and can practice with minimal parent supervision
2. Does your child really want lessons?
If the child has shown an interest in playing an instrument, then give it a try! There is, however, a difference between just enjoying music and wanting lessons, and your child will have a much better chance at success if they are excited about the activity and have a positive attitude.
3. How is your child’s attention span and temperament?
A private lesson usually lasts for thirty minutes. An experienced teacher will vary activities to hold the student’s interest (this is especially important with young beginners), but the student should be have enough self -control to participate cooperatively for this amount of time. The student should have a reasonable ability to tolerate frustration, and not become overly upset when they make mistakes or are given corrections by they teacher.
4. Will you be able to commit to regular lesson attendance?
Beginning students do best with a weekly lesson, and regular attendance leads to success. When students are absent frequently, they are likely to become bored and frustrated with their lack of progress and want to quit. By making regular lesson attendance a priority, you show your child that you value the time and expertise of the teacher and will encourage a respectful working relationship.
5. Is your child willing to practice between lessons? Are you able to provide supervision and support as needed?
Although students can have an enjoyable music experience in a once-weekly lesson, in order to make good progress regular practice is essential. You can help by deciding with your child when, where, and for how long they will practice each day and encouraging them to log their practice times/days. Small rewards in the form of stickers, privileges, etc., can help with motivation if needed. Older students can make use of the new world of practice apps. Click here to see some suggestions to get you started.
If you think your child may be ready for lessons, go ahead and arrange for a trial lesson with an experienced teacher and take it from there!