One of the most common questions that we are asked is, “Can we try a few lessons and see how it goes?”. This question might seem perfectly reasonable for someone looking into a new hobby, but to a music teacher, it tells us that perhaps these students (and parents) are not mentally prepared to learn an instrument.
Do you know why your child wants to take lessons or why you want them to take lessons? Is it because you know music is good for them to learn? Or is it because their friends are doing it? Or have they expressed an interest on their own? Either way, make sure you are honest with yourself. Knowing that your child will benefit greatly from music lessons will help keep you strong when your child begins to feel discouraged.
Learning an instrument is a true lifelong skill; there is always something to improve, and always more challenging pieces to tackle. One must be aware that hard work is ahead, and remember that learning it proficiently takes time. I’m fairly certain that Rachmaninoff didn’t master the piano in a year or two. Even as a teacher myself, I am constantly trying to improve my skills, be more sensitive to dynamics, put more expression into my work, become a better sight-reader, etc. With that said, nothing gives me more pride than when my efforts come to fruition and I finally master a new skill.
This brings me to my next point; learning an instrument builds character. If we let our children quit an instrument after a few months, what values are we teaching them? Is is really okay to give up if we aren’t good at something right away or because it gets tough? Should we only do things we are naturally good at? Think about this idea as an adult; should we switch jobs if we aren’t at the top right away? Or should we work hard to be better at what we do? As I observe children of this day and age jumping around to different activities and looking for instant gratification, I can’t help but wonder how they will be as adults. No one ever said that parenting is easy, and this is a perfect example of how being the “parent” versus being a friend is even more important. Our children depend on you for guidance, and if you agree that music lessons are important for the development of your child, then help them stick with it.
My advice to students (and parents!) who are considering starting an instrument is be prepared to work hard, be challenged, and feeling frustrated at times is a given. Personally, I wouldn’t have the work ethic I have today if it wasn’t in part for learning an instrument. It has taught me persistence, patience, resilience, and self-discipline. These are all necessary traits for a successful student and adult, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to to build these traits from learning an instrument.