Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Parenting and Piano

People could probably ask me, "How do you think that you are qualified to write a post about parenting when you are not a parent?" 
Easy...I was once a child and I had parents. 
I have been thinking hard about the subject of music (not just piano) and parenting for a long time now.  I have been teaching piano and violin (as well as some other instruments) for five years consistently and I have much to say on the subject of children taking lessons on a musical instrument.
I have only been teaching for five years and I have some students who do not practice.  Sometimes, this trend of not practicing turns into a downward spiral.  After confronting the parent and expressing my concern about this lack of practice, Inevitably, our conversation goes something like this:
Parent: "Well, _______________(child's name) has just really lost interest in piano lately.  He used to REALLY love it, but I don't know. He's just, sort of lost interest.  But he REALLY wants to start taking cello/clarinet/trumpet/flute/drum/voice lessons!  So we're considering buying him a drum for Christmas.  What do you think about that?" 
Me: "Hmm, well _________________(child's name) has only been playing piano now for three months..."

What I really WANT to say is "Changing instruments is not the solution to your child's problem. It doesn't matter if they don't like practicing, you need to teach them some discipline before deciding to switch to a different instrument.  The change in instrument is unlikely to change their practicing habits."
Sadly, only one of these parents has listened to my advice when I told them that switching to a different instrument was NOT the solution to the problem. 
There are two different types of families out there. 
The type of family who has their childen "play around" on a lot of different instruments but they never truly become proficient in any,
And the family who trains their children to be proficient in everything they do. 
I do NOT believe that children must be perfect at everything they do, but I believe that they must be TRAINED to do their BEST at everything they do, and not just for 3 or 4 months.    
If my mother had left the choice of switching from piano lessons to any instrument I wanted at age 10, I am convinced that I would not be proficient in any instrument today.  The majority of children are not mature enough to know when they should quit an instrument. 

Had I been given the opportunity to gripe and whine about how hard piano was and how it wasn't fun anymore at age 10, I would have.  At age 8 and 9, I did not enjoy the piano.  The excitement of being allowed to be play and take lessons had long since worn off and it was drudgery to play the same songs my four older sisters had already played.  By the time I played them, nobody seemed impressed, but rather, they seemed annoyed to hear the "Indian Song" played again and again (from Alfred's method book 1a).  

But my mother did not ONLY teach me once a week, she also personally told each of us to go practice every day.  She also listened to us from her desk in the other room and would correct us if need be. 

Most of the parents I deal with in my piano teaching say to me "Well, I tell ____________ that they need to practice... we're paying good money for this!" as if their job ended at the reminder. 
My mother did not simply say "Make sure you practice this week!": she said, "Go practice the piano now", and then listened to or monitored our practice time. 

In conclusion, while I know that parenting is a very difficult thing, if a parent wishes for their child to learn discipline and consistency in life, a wonderful way to teach this is by having them learn a instrument.  No, not every child will wish to be a concert pianist someday as a result of these lessons, but with time, and without quitting when it "isn't fun anymore", each student WILL be a better person because of the lessons.