When you decide to find your little George or precious Susie a music teacher, let’s face it, it can be pretty overwhelming – especially if music is not your forte. As a pianist and mama of two boys, ages 8 and 10, who both play piano, I want to share some tips on finding the right music teacher.
Start your search now. The second you know you want to introduce your child to music, start researching potential teachers. My boys, for example, started playing at six months old at the Rollins College Community School of Music. According to The Secret Life of the Unborn Child by Dr. Thomas Verney, musical interest can be traced back to the womb. Begin your research now and get things rolling.
Avoid decisions based only on convenience. First impressions are important, and if you want your child to fall in love with music, you need to invest in the right teacher, not necessarily the most convenient choice. If driving to a lesson, for example, gives you access to the best option, then do it. You’ll be happy and your child will be too.
Select someone who is qualified and enthusiastic. There’s nothing worse than an experienced teacher who is boring, disconnected, cranky and burnt out. Your child needs someone who can “bring the notes to life” on the page. Lessons that incorporate humor and fun activities help the music resonate with your child. Learning music is a journey, and the beginning of the journey is critical for lifelong learning.
Research the instructor’s teaching style. It’s important to know what motivates your child and how it fits with the approach of your music instructor. When I was growing up, I took lessons from Marian Gordon. She was known for moving quickly away from “method” teaching, which focused solely on one approach to teaching, and digging into real music. I was introduced to a variety of music, history and theory – all of which created a story and brought meaning to each piece I played. Prior to tackling a certain song, we would also listen to audio tapes so I could get an idea of how the piece should sound.
Stay the course. Once you’ve selected a teacher, remain flexible and know that each musical experience is different for each child. If necessary, be willing to change instruments until they find the one that matches their personality. Even when the road seems tough, I’m sure we can all agree that music makes a significant difference in the lives of our children. It improves overall development, decreases learning problems and enhances brain functioning—all in a learning environment that fosters the building of community.
Dottie Clendenin is a mother, accomplished pianist and former Disney executive. She recently release her second solo-piano album, Cool Beans, featuring timeless classics such as “Moon River” and “Over the Rainbow” – as well as medleys from “Phantom” of the Opera” and “Les Miserables.” A portion of proceeds from the CD will benefit Orlando Philharmonic’s music program for Central Florida youth.
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