Is Music Your Child’s Thing?
Music is our universal language and all children can benefit from music education, no matter their natural ability. But it’s undeniable that some kids have that certain something; maybe they sing right on pitch, understand musical concepts quickly or pick out tunes by themselves on the piano. How can you recognize a natural musical talent and support an inherent ability? And how does a musical education benefits children? We asked a few local music professionals for their thoughts.
“All of the things that language does for a child, music does in a different way,” says Andrew Hisey, Visiting Professor in the Music and Arts Technology Department and Director of the Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) Music Academy. “It is a vehicle for self-expression. It gives kids an outlet, opportunities for socialization and, depending on the direction they go with it, it can [help them] self-actualize, providing accomplishment and pride in what they do.”
A music education can help children excel in the classroom as well. “It has been proven that students that participate in music do better in math and science. They also have better attendance and are more likelyto participate in other school activities, like student council,” says Josh Pedde, Artistic Director of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir.
What signs might indicate a natural inclination towards music? “Many children when they hear music will light up with enthusiasm. They will tap and hum,” says Sarah Beck, Interim Director and Violin Faculty at the Indianapolis Suzuki Academy. “A lot of people are musical, so we encourage families to make music a part of their family,” she adds. “The Suzuki approach is that we believe every child, given the proper environment, can develop extraordinary ability.”
Hisey suggests that parents pay attention to what kids naturally gravitate to. “When they are in the presence of live music, do they run to the music or to an instrument? Do different kinds of music affect them differently? Some kids seem to display certain affinities in one sense or another. Are sounds interesting to them? I encourage parents to notice those things,” he says.
If your son or daughter is displaying a natural talent for music, there are many ways that you can appropriately support and encourage him or her. “Our community is rich with musical opportunities,” says Beck. “There are family concerts, the Indianapolis Symphony, local high school productions. Expose your kids to a variety of music. You can get it from the library or go to free concerts.”
Hisey recommends having instruments in the house as well. “Drums, a keyboard, anything that has the potential for musical noisemaking,” he says. “Parents can provide learning settings, dance opportunities, help their kids play instruments with other people, or expose them to anything to do with singing or even acting for that matter. Performance is performance and using your body to communicate something else – all of that flows in the same direction. Our bodies are the first music making tools we have.”
“I have two kids and both of them love to sing,” says Pedde. “They sing all the time. My daughter is now old enough to be in choir and loves going to be with her friends and to make music. However, she also loves to dance. I think we always want to make sure we offer our children different opportunities and ways to explore what they might enjoy doing.”
As with all new endeavors, the association that a child makes with it affects their experience. That’s why it is important to make sure that music making doesn’t get connected with negative feelings. “We take it in small steps,” says Beck. “At a young age we can start a student on an instrument as long as the parent has appropriate expectations for their child’s age and understands their motor skills, focus and stamina.”
“You can push too hard and too soon for private lessons,” warns Hisey. “Private lessons are a good thing in many ways. It’s a unique one-on-one relationship-building scenario with an adult. But the flip side is that in private lessons the focus moves pretty quickly to issues of technique and to reading music. Those things are really necessary for growing, but it can be too much too soon.”
Pedde adds that he became a music teacher because he loved singing. However, in college, the thing he loved to do became the thing he disliked most. He almost gave it up. “Don’t push your child,” he advises. “Listen to them. Try things that are not too stressful like open houses and camps to see if your student really does have a passion. The directors and instructors are always there to help and give their advice on what they think might be best for your student.”
“As parents, we don’t want to live out our unfulfilled dreams through our child,” adds Beck. “With the right spirit, music can be a lifelong joy.”