I love music. My undergraduate degree is in Music. As a parent, very early on, I decided that music would be a major part of my children’s education. We began music classes at age 4 or 5 and had a unique approach to piano practice. Our girls’ morning chores went, and still go, something like this: Grooming, make bed, personal devotions, practice
instruments, breakfast, start school work. We made them part of the non-negotiables that start their day. We started with Music For Young Children (MYC) http://myc.com which I became familiar with in college music education classes. Before I had children, I taught preschool music for a short time between college and law school and used some of its basic principles with success.
Why the emphasis on music? For brain development, of course! TIME published an article on how music can change the brain: http://time.com/3634995/study-kids-engaged-music-class-for-benefits-northwestern/ Melissa Locker outlines studies and their findings and concludes, “Researchers found that after two years, children who not only regularly attended music classes, but also actively participated in the class, showed larger improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers.” I am happy that research backed up my instinct! But even if brain development turned out not to be a factor, the joy of being able to express oneself in playing and composition (and both of my children compose and have won awards for that)
is worth the time and effort. And it does take a great deal of time and effort. We are in good company. Music was a major part of classical Greek education. The Greeks viewed music as more of a mathematical or science study, rather than arts or humanities.
Most music teachers agree with me that piano is the best place to start because it requires an understanding of music theory that develops along with piano skill. Many instruments are difficult for small fingers to coordinate. But, by all means, start on something and soon as you can! But what if money prevents music lessons? My oldest doll began to ask for violin lessons four years before we were able to provide them. Pray. Ask around church, ask experienced teens who play, ask at music supply stores. Khan Academy has free music theory and appreciation lessons (https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/music). There are many low cost programs on-line. We have friends who have done very well with http://youtube.com videos. Mr. Jody taught my sunshine doll some basic trumpet on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SjH0qhQpoU) before she was old enough for band. When she was eight we asked what she wanted for Christmas. She said, “A trumpet.”
We smiled to each other and asked what else she wanted. “Only a trumpet. Nothing else.” She stuck to her wish until Christmas and a pawn shop visit yielded a nice horn. Little Miles Davis can really wail. She is a kid that knows what she wants and goes for it. I can hardly the describe to you the joy in a mommy heart when your children jam together and create beautiful worship music!
As a funny side note, I played lots of Mozart when I was pregnant with my oldest doll. I was practicing relaxation in preparation for childbirth, and it was one of my cues to relax. She was born to Mozart and has a deep love of classical music. It worked, by the way. I was relaxed, for me anyway, and had the natural birth I hoped for. I was a little more confident with my second birth and added jazz to my relaxation routine. She was born to Miles Davis and has loved jazz from an early age. Sure enough, studies show that our music preferences are shaped by early music experiences (http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/15/health/brain-music-research/). If you would like your children to appreciate classical music, early exposure is important. Why classical? It is more relaxing, specifically, it reduces or does not increase stress hormone output (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734071/), lowers blood pressure, and reduces anxiety (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734071/).
And if your child wants to quit lessons? We’ve gone through dry spells where our children did not enjoy lessons. With each, we had to get to the root of the problem. For one it was a personality conflict with her teacher that led us through some great life lessons on conflicts with authority. Sometimes it was necessary for me to sit through the lessons so I could find out what was really going on. My dolls can tell a dramatic version of their story! For another it was not being challenged.
And both had trouble with pieces they just did not like nor enjoy. Sometimes I needed to walk them through a difficult part of music theory or let them hear a master play their piece. Occasionally, they were just having an episode of laziness. At those times I helped them write out goals for their lessons and practice time and post them above the keyboard. Music lessons are life lessons. It is another place where they can tangibly see the causal connection: hard work produces results.
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