Is Cello Or Violin Better For 7 Year Old Boy Playing For Life – How to Keep a Child Engaged in Music Lessons From Early Childhood Through Teens

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Playing For Life – How to Keep a Child Engaged in Music Lessons From Early Childhood Through Teens

How many parents have given their children years of music lessons, only for the child to announce one day: “I quit my job!”

It can be heartbreaking for parents, not least because of the thousands of dollars they may have invested in lessons and instruments.

But inevitably, years later, the former teenager will say, “I should never have given up the violin (or cello or viola)! I wish my parents had made me stick with it!”

As a music school director for the last ten years and a parent of three children (an 8 year old, a teenager and an ex-teen), I have seen this sort of thing happen time and time again. So I’ve made it one of my primary missions to create an environment that keeps kids engaged in music, from toddlers through the teenage years. Here are some of my most powerful techniques for getting kids involved in and passionate about their music.

1. Start them young – on the piano. I have found that children who start with piano and then come to my violin or other stringed instrument class always do better than children who have not had piano training before. The violin and other stringed instruments are difficult, because of the many aspects to focus on at once. It is also physically challenging. The piano is much easier for preschoolers to understand. When a student already has a basic understanding of music, including reading notes, rhythm and practice, they are freer to focus on the technical challenges of the stringed instrument. I now need little ones to take my beginner piano lessons and I encourage parents to continue those lessons until they start my violin lesson.

2. Don’t be alone! How many parents enroll their children in private music lessons and they refuse to go because they don’t know anyone? However, the same child will participate in almost any activity if at least one friend is present! Group beginner music lessons can be great fun for younger groups and are especially ideal for children aged 3½ to 5½, depending on their maturity.

3. Children who play together love to play together! The more opportunities children have to play, the more they will improve. In addition to private lessons, as soon as the child meets the requirements, we put him in a performance group. At our school, graduates of our beginning violin class will enroll in private lessons and in our training orchestra. More advanced players go to our more advanced children’s orchestra. Older students are encouraged to join regional youth orchestras. Ninety-nine percent of the time, once the initial excitement of playing an instrument wears off, kids will stay excited about group playing. Children love to be with other children! Participation leads to more practice, especially if the conductor or music director connects well with the children.

In addition to private lessons and orchestra, many participate in our chamber music program. I started the chamber music program with four girls from kindergarten who knew each other from the orchestra. After a few months of playing together, they called themselves best friends (‘best friends forever’) and have been playing together for 3 years. They have performed for our congressman, senior centers, local schools, and even at our local farmers market. What I found was that the kids in the quartet developed faster and played better, so I set out to form more groups and a chamber music program.

4. Keep them in the spotlight! It’s rare that a kid doesn’t thrive on the envelope of warmth, positive attention, and sense of accomplishment he feels after performing (not to mention the camaraderie with his fellow performers). Whether it is a performance in a studio recital, a solo competition; or with your youth orchestra at Carnegie Hall, performances are key to keeping a child interested and improving their playing. The vast majority of children who only do private lessons, without any opportunities to perform, will eventually lose interest and drop out.

5. Stay positive! When in doubt, don’t yell, scold, belittle or threaten to quit the lesson. None of the negative things work and will only lead to more frustration for you and your child. Even when your child doesn’t seem to be meeting your or the teacher’s expectations, stay positive. Your child may simply be going through a rough patch.

To overcome this, offer small rewards with the little ones for daily or weekly exercise. It could be a sticker or a trip to the toy store. In the teenage years, you can relax their exercise schedule if it seems like too much of a burden. When my teenage son decided he wanted to quit the saxophone, his teacher suggested he practice just five minutes a day. He did this for more than a year, continuing to participate in various orchestras and jazz groups. It worked! He continued to play the saxophone through high school and received a major music scholarship for college. Although he has decided not to make music his career, he continues to make money with his instrument through teaching and gigging.

6. Summer and school holidays are a great time to get ahead! Instead of taking a break from music lessons, vacation is actually a great time to make progress. It’s an opportunity for life-changing musical adventures or simply to achieve a lot. Enroll your child in a summer music program that offers something different in the way of teaching and orchestral or chamber music. There are many programs for teenagers away from home, in beautiful settings in the mountains or the countryside. The more your child improves, the more he will love to play and the more he will feel good about himself. A child who falls behind is one who will want to stop practicing or, worse, quit.

7. Don’t over schedule. Although we want our children to be well-rounded, it is better for their psyche that they excel at one thing. And if that one thing is playing a musical instrument, it will have enormous benefits. The skill of handling a musical instrument sets them apart from their peers. They will begin to identify as musicians, which is great for their self-esteem. Excelling at a musical instrument – especially strings – will help with applications to art schools and programs, and eventually colleges! Most colleges have orchestras with many chairs to fill. There is usually a need for many more violin, viola, cello and bass players!

8. Stay committed. Staying committed to your child’s music education can be the hardest part of raising your child, but I can say from first hand experience that it is worth it! The experiences your child will have as a musician will shape their lives (not to mention their brains) in ways that cannot be replicated any other way. Music promotes self-esteem, teamwork and good study habits and has shaped the lives of many young people in the most profound ways.

Taking all of these steps will increase the likelihood that your child will have a lifelong appreciation of their instrument and music.

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