In comparing notes as music educators, we quickly realized that each of us is trying to address very similar student and parental concerns especially with beginning lesson students. Chief among these are nagging doubts that the child/student won't stick with the lessons in the long run. This fear determines a number of crucial decisions many parents and students make about starting lessons:
- Instrument: Buy the cheapest you can get, at least for now.
- Teacher: Hire the least expensive teacher, and don't worry too much about his/her qualifications. Switch to a better teacher later, perhaps.
- Convenience: Ask for in-home instruction to have the ability to reschedule missed lessons at any time.
What's wrong with this picture?You get the cheapest instrument--maybe even a free one you found in the classifieds--only to discover that it sounds poor, has mechanical problems, and is hard to play properly. Then you hire an instructor who may not be qualified to teach your child (which is why s/he is inexpensive in the first place). Don't assume for a moment that teaching beginners is easier than teaching advanced students; in fact, the opposite is true! Now you are finding out that your teacher doesn't know how to guide your child, let alone on an instrument that barely works and does little to inspire practicing. But you still feel so good about saving money that you can barely contain your excitement when your new teacher also agrees to coming to your home and rescheduling any lesson your child will miss. Great deal, except that your child is now taught in an environment where the phone rings, the TV is on, and siblings and pets are running around during the lesson. Additionally, you are telling your child that it's OK to miss lessons because they will all get rescheduled. No loss, or is there?
How much harder would you like to make it for your child to succeed in music lessons?
The above scenario--poor teaching on an inferior instrument and in an informal environment that lacks structure and public performance opportunities (recitals)--is, sadly, all too common. It turns initial concerns that your child may not stick with music lessons into a self-fulfilling prophecy. This set of external circumstances, rather than lack of musical talent, is the single most important factor in a student's decision to quit lessons.
What if my child won't quit music lessons?
Rather than doing your best to make your child drop music, think for a moment what the future would hold if he won't quit! Is it not a reasonable assumption that you are signing her up for lessons because you at least hope that she will stick with it long-term and make music an important part of her education? If so, why wouldn't you make sure she has a decent instrument to learn on, one that sounds good and is in working order? Why would you not provide her with the best teacher you can afford to allow her to make progress on the instrument and gain a sense of accomplishment along the way? Why would you not rather enroll her in a respectable music program that she attends regularly to receive instruction from a proven professional, interact with peers, find role models, and be featured in school-wide performances?
Still feel good about saving a few bucks?