Fortunately, many parents still believe in the importance and far-reaching benefits of music education, particularly for young children. While music training often has to compete with so many other activities--such as karate, soccer, gymnastics, chess, etc.--to retain its place in a child's busy schedule, we keep seeing strong demand especially for music lessons.
However, when signing up your child for music lessons, the following issues should be considered carefully in order to achieve maximum results and benefits:
1. Lessons in a private home vs. a professional music studio: if you are planning to hire an in-home instructor, do you trust this person enough to leave your child with him or her, in your home or theirs? Can your child handle potential distractions likely to interfere with teaching in a private home setting (other people in the room, pets, surprise visitors, etc.)?
2. Age: the child's age is important for several reasons. On a basic level, the student's age can help parents and educators make a responsible decision whether or not private lessons are the appropriate mode of music instruction for a particular child. In our experience, 4- and 5-year olds often do better in group classes than in private lessons. Aside from the benefits of social interaction, young children learn much from each other. In fact, they may even absorb information more readily than in a one-on-one setting, which requires a much greater focus and attention to details--abilities that are not fully developed yet in many young children. If you choose to sign up for one-on-on instruction, discuss with your teacher the option of a 15- or 20-minute format, instead of the more customary 30-minute lesson.
3. Choice of instrument: other than the child's personal color, shape, and sound preferences, age is also the single most important factor in determining the proper choice of instrument for a very young beginner. Nobody will argue that the tuba is unsuitable for small children. However, even with some of the most popular instruments in early childhood music education, the case is often not as straightforward as it seems. Let us consider, for example, the violin. While some four-year-olds are ready to take up the 1/8- or 1/4-size violin, many other children of the same age range may not yet have acquired the fine motor skills necessary to progress well on this instrument.
4. The instrument: your child must have access to an instrument for weekly practice purposes. Without some weekly practice, however casual it may be at first, there will be very little progress, if any, from one lesson to the next. Inevitably, your child (as well as his/her teacher) will feel frustrated, and you will ask yourself whether taking music lessons was a wise decision in the first place. Don't deny your child a good educational experience by denying the need to provide an instrument!
5. Renting or owning? From an educational point of view, it doesn't matter much which route you choose. Many music stores offer decent and affordable rental programs with full insurance coverage of accidental damage. Whether you rent or own, make sure that the instrument is of good quality and in good working order. In most cases, this means that you should not buy the cheapest violin or guitar you can find anywhere. The "bargain" you've so proudly hunted down may actually make it very difficult, if not impossible, for your child to achieve good and satisfying results on the instrument, regardless of how much time is spent on daily or weekly practice.
At Hunterdon Academy of the Arts, our passion is teaching music and the arts. We're happy to help parents make the right choices in their childrens' education. For more information, click here