Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It takes a village, Part 2 of 2

This is part two of a two part series about getting the most out of private lessons by guest blogger Emily Sorensen*. For part one, click here

Parental involvement is absolutely critical for student success, regardless of the instrument and age when beginning lessons. I was once told that if your child is taking lessons then you as the parent are too; this is especially true of younger students. So if you have a basic understand of things you can expect to do as part of the team it becomes easier to support your student and make the decision to invest in lessons. So here are some things you can expect of yourself.

  • Communicate
Again, the importance of communication cannot be overstated. As a parent you need to be aware of the teaching schedule and how it aligns with your family’s schedule; very few family commitments truly sneak up on us. Family vacations, school concerts/performances, holiday parties and most other family activities find their way onto our calendars well in advance and it isn’t unfair for teachers to expect and require at least 24 hours notice to reschedule a lesson with no repercussions. You can expect that if you fail to notify your teacher 24 hours in advance that you won’t receive a make-up lesson AND you still have to pay for the lesson time you canceled. Make life less complicated and save money by marking your calendar a week in advance of a planned missed lesson to notify your teacher. If you know you are going to be missing several lessons during an extended period of time (ie-summer break or an exceptionally busy family time) consider taking a leave of absence and getting on your teacher’s waiting list until you can more consistently focus on lessons. 

You should feel comfortable talking to your student’s instructor about questions or concerns about any part of music lessons. Learning to play a musical instrument is similar to learning a foreign language. It takes time, consistent effort and a lot of practice time. Your teacher is familiar with the process of learning lessons and can help you coach and encourage your student at home, so feel free to bring questions to lessons or call or email the instructor as agreed upon. 

  • Pay on time
One of the best things you can do for your student’s experience is pay on time. Unless your student is paying for their own lessons it can get awkward for your student to have to deal with the financial aspect of lessons and can be hard for them to focus in their lessons or to bring home the message to you about paying. It is much easier for all parties if you take on the responsibility of making sure payments are made on time.

  • View lessons as an investment
Music lessons are a gateway to future opportunities. It is also important to remember that learning an instrument is a progressive experience; each skill needs to be mastered before moving to the next in order to have success. In a previous post about knowing if you’re getting a good deal (link here) I talked at great length the points that help you know if your investment is worth it. At some point your student could use their skills to help pay for a college education. And really, if the goal is to learn something new and to participate in the creative process, well that’s a lifetime investment.

  • Expect reality and train for goal behaviors
Your student will experience plateaus, discouraging times and growing pains while learning an instrument. It’s like weight training, losing weight or any other skill that requires mastery. There are plateaus. Expect it and prepare for it. But in the same vein, there will also be many, many moments of intense excitement too! Every time they nail that riff they’ve been struggling to learn, the times when they finish a method book, when they master their recital piece. Well it’s those exciting times that help pull them through the growing pains and plateaus. As a parent when those plateaus come, encourage and remind them of the great times and sometimes you may have to be a little persistent about helping them make through practice sessions. 

When a student starts lessons the goal is the consistently practice and to focus during the lesson time and being willing to stick it out during the frustrations too. All the promises that they will do it are soon forgotten when it’s hard and they feel frustrated. This may leave you wondering why you bought the instrument that isn’t being played and why you’re paying big bucks each month for lessons. As tempting as it is to get frustrated and discouraged right along with your student; don’t do it! This leads me to the next point.

  • Take an active role
For the ultimate success of your student you can expect to take an active role in lessons. I was told as I was preparing to sign one of my children up for lessons at a young age, “oh, you’re taking lessons too?!?!” This was said in a joking manner and with a little sarcasm; however, I find it extremely true. If you are really ready for your student to be successful, go to lessons with your child, at least until you have coached your student into healthy practice habits; and especially go if you have a young student. You’re being at the lesson allows you to assist your students memory during practice times and coach them through specific items. If you are willing to be this proactive during the beginning of your students lessons, your student will have a higher rate of success, more enjoyment of their instrument and develop better habits through you role.

  • Hold your student accountable
This is the absolute most important expectation for your student’s success. When your student signs up for lessons make sure they understand they are agreeing to be consistent about practicing their instrument, showing up to lessons and working to learn. THEN hold them accountable to their end of the agreement. 

Your student will not magically learn an instrument or improve on what they know simply by walking into a private music instructor’s studio. Many students think that by simply showing up at lessons with no other work or practice they will become this amazing rock star or concert musician. And then become confused, frustrated and quit when it doesn’t work out as they imagined it would. NEWS FLASH! It doesn’t work that way. Any way you look at it, learning to play an instrument takes work. Hold your student responsible for their potential and encourage them to do what it takes and then follow through with them. 

Many factors lead influence your student’s success in private music lessons. Be assured that it is a team effort. The teacher, the student or the parent cannot make it happen alone. There will be times when the student is extremely discouraged and often as parents we’re ready to allow them to quit because we’re already over booked. Take it all into consideration, but be aware as you have and follow expectations for yourself and your student’s teacher the team effort will make it easier to continue and get over the “growing pains” of learning something new.

Best to you and your student as you embark on an amazing journey in music education and creation!

*Yep, Emily is my wife and best friend. She's also an experienced musician and was the administrator at our music teaching studio where she worked with about 20 teachers and over 100 students. She dealt with all of the day-to-day operations, including interfacing with parents and students. In short, she knows her stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Love it! I completely agree with this. Parents really do need to take an active role in their child's music lessons. Know what your child is practicing, give encouragement, and by all means respect the teacher, who is trying so hard to help your child succeed.

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