Why do children lose interest in music lessons within the first six months? After listening to many parents’ stories, I wondered. In my experience teaching and running a music school, I saw only a few dropouts after six months of studying.
I asked several students’ parents and found some common factors that kept kids engaged in music:
- In-person experiences with a music teacher: There are lots of online music lessons available, but they aren’t the best way to get a young child interested in playing an instrument. Students taking online lessons lose the chance to have a teacher’s guidance, modeling, correcting technical and rhythmical mistakes, helping them physically work with hands and enjoying the excitement of playing as a duet.
- The teacher’s passion and creativity: The majority of new music students today are 3-5 years old. They have lots of imagination and natural curiosity. Some children this age have pretend friends, love making silly faces, singing unintelligible songs and being funny. They learn best when they are active – dancing, moving, stomping feet, snapping fingers and clapping hands. Teachers must be creative and fill young children’s lessons with music-related activities that boost their imaginations and creativity. Once a student falls in love with music, they will be ready for the next, more advanced and difficult level of playing.
- The teacher’s music education credentials: Teachers who have earned a university degree in music education have spent years studying how to teach, and learning the psychology of children and adults. Many have also invested in additional training in methods such as Suzuki, Kodaly, or Orff, which enables them to better understand intricate ways of connecting with students as young as 2.
- The teacher’s teaching talent: Performing music and teaching music are two different sets of skills, and not all great musicians make great music teachers. To become a great teacher a musician should have the teaching skills required to explain, elaborate and demonstrate, besides being creative and visionary. Knowledge of the instrument is crucial, but knowing how to teach and explain is paramount to becoming a good instructor.
- The removal of distractions: Many children’s homes are filled with TV, computers, cell phones and video games. Another distraction can be the parents – interrupting a student in the middle of the lesson to ask a child if he understood the teacher, if he needs something to drink or other unnecessary requests. Such parenting not only distracts a student, but gets in the way of his emotional connection with the teacher, which in turn leads to lack of respect for the teacher or loss of interest.
- The parent’s support in practice: Parents do, however, need to be involved outside of lessons. When a very young child begins taking music lessons, he or she is usually not accustomed to routine practice, homework and learning responsibilities. Many parents place all responsibility for building these skills on the teacher. However, the only way for a student to progress, retain information, and build self-esteem and character is to practice outside of lessons. It is important that parents become inspiring and enthusiastic team members, who are teaching their children how to arrange and stick to the practice schedule, and who use their own imaginations to make practice fun, consistent and engaging for their little ones.
Olesya MacNeil is the owner of MusicTeacherLA, and has Master’s degrees in music, psychology and pedagogy and more than 20 years of teacher experience. Visit her online at www.musicteacherla.com.