My child is ready to start lessons…or is she? (Topic 1, Part 4. What is involved?)

Prepare to change and adjust. It’s very important to keep up with your child’s progress and not let him stagnate.

You are looking at a starting just the way most people do: take piano lessons once per week for 30 minutes.  You think you can make a commitment to the driving, keeping up with assignments, and help him at home. Initial requirements are not so overwhelming, you need to establish daily routine of practicing for about 30-45 minutes. The total time can be split into two sessions of 15-25 minutes each, not too bad. It’s very important to keep positive attitude, at the same time be very firm that no day goes without practicing. You teacher will guide you through creative approaches

to getting the child to start the practice and to keeping him involved and focused during the sessions. There are game-like assignments, structured practicing involving repetitions, writing, rhythm, and so on.

Keep in mind that kids progress at a fluctuating pace. Some weeks they seem like not really making much progress even though they practice very well, other week they may seem to not be very focused, but may be showing better result. Do not try to find answers to these patterns and puzzles yourself, make sure you talk to his teacher about your concerns! 

In a longer perspective it’s essential that your child is given enough to work on: enough pieces, varied assignments, and, very importantly, his is exposed to age appropriate musical events and settings. Listen to your teacher when she talks about attending performances or watching videos, listening to audio recordings of recommended musicians. Take your child to classical music events appropriate to his age, make sure you follow up with discussing about what he saw; how he felt. Try to always go beyond and above basic question: “Did you like it?”. We recommend avoiding that question altogether if possible because it puts your child in an awkward position: what if he didn’t really like it? Or, he felt sad, or even a bit alarmed by the music he heard, doesn’t quite understand where this feeling came from, doesn’t know how to express it. Musical experience may not always be “just fun” or “just pleasant”, trust your child to be able to feel much more complex emotions through connecting to music, way beyond simple consumer attitude expecting arts to entertain. It’s much more than simple entertainment, and your child is capable to feel it. Come up with more meaningful questions, share your own true feelings.

These experiences are essential to keep your child from stagnating in her musical and artistic development. Remember, once music narrows down to an obligation to push keys on the piano for 30, 45, 60 minutes per day, she is basically starting to loose the meaning and purpose of it all. And yo are not far from hitting the disaster: she will get truly bored, will feel the pointlessness; the mechanical  will take over, the emotional connection will disappear, and she will start fighting to quit. It isn’t her fault, it isn’t her lack of talent, not at all. It is your fault, you lost your pace, you fell behind your child’ progress, you need to catch up. No big deal! Hopefully you are watching your child closely, and you caught her stagnating when it started. You can get her back on track: just ask her to postpone talking about quitting just yet, because there are some events which were scheduled and can’t be canceled. Help her reconnect with the larger world of music.

We need to also mention additional time you will need to start adding to the commitment for additional classes: music theory and ear training, orchestra, small chamber ensembles, etc. All these are enriching learning environments, many also provide great experience of learning professional etiquette, dealing with colleagues, they are great! Keep in mind it WILL happen, and your child WILL start traveling for her trio or quartet performances and competitions, you WILL be purchasing matching dresses for her group:)

Remember we mentioned that the demands on your time will grow even as your child is getting more independent in his practicing? Make sure you are prepared to dedicate your time as needed to meet your child’s growth. You don’t need to plan it now, but be aware that your routine and your schedule now is not what it may be in 3-4 months, and definitely very different in 3-4 years..