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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 10: A child dances to ...

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Given that the future of music, and all the arts, is in the hands of our children, what can we do to enhance their exposure?

Very often, the adults who make kids’ schedules send them to events, lessons, classes, etc.  That’s commendable.  But is it enough?

I think frequent parental involvement is crucial.

When playing “Pirates of Penzance” performances in an elementary school, I had the opportunity to observe a class of young students (about age 4) discussing what they had seen and heard.  The kids were so excited, they couldn’t wait to talk about it.

Adult Involvement
I would love to see more parents going to all things musical with their children and talking about it afterwards.  Ask your child what they liked best, what they noticed, why they liked it (or didn’t!), what they would do differently, etc.  Involve them in the discussion, and listen to what they have to say.  Their interest will grow every time.  And what they say will definitely surprise you.  You too will gain new perspective.

While living in NY, one of my students, an 8-yr.-old, attended a “Young People’s Concert” at Lincoln Center.  When she mentioned it during her lesson, I started asking questions.

Me:  “What was on the program?”

Student:  “They did this piece by this guy named Frederic.”

Me:  “George Frederic somebody?”  (You can tell where this is going…)

Student:  “Yes.”

Me: “George Frederic Handel?

Student produced program.  She had been talking about the Hallelujah Chorus. (But wait!  There’s more!)

Me:  “How was it?”

Student:  “It was boring.”

Me (surprised):  “Why was it boring?”

Student:  “They did the same word all the time!”

So… she had actually listened and made an accurate assessment!

We then discussed how early music was often instrumental rather than vocal in character, and how that approach would affect the “lyrics.”

If your children are taking lessons, that’s wonderful!  Please encourage them and don’t be critical.  You can help them make practicing fun.

Early Childhood
Are your preschoolers involved in the arts?  You don’t need to buy a set of rhythm instruments.  Pots and pans and a wooden spoon are fun!  If you don’t want to see your Cuisinart equipment being banged on, then go to a tag sale.

You and your child can make shakers from a container and some pebbles.  Much more fun than buying them at the store, especially if you paint them.

Try making a play guitar using a cigar box with rubber bands for “strings.”

Glass bottles, when filled with different amounts of water, produce different pitches when tapped with a fork.  With a little experimentation, you could make a scale, then play “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Frere Jacques,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Twinkle, Twinkle,” etc.  Barney’s song, too, if you can stand it….

Babies need to be sung to!  A performance-level voice is not required.  Please don’t wait until your child is “older.”  Babies will happily move to a CD, clap, mimic songs they hear, and make up their own.  If you wait until your baby is two, your baby will be two years behind.

When your baby or toddler goes to the piano, let them play! Rather than discouraging them, try showing them how to produce a pleasant sound.  If you play yourself, have your child play one or two notes while you play a melody.

Music’s Effect on the Brain
Studies have shown that involvement with music creates new pathways in the brain.  This results in an enhanced ability to make relationships and solve complex problems in creative ways.

I’m trying to think of a down side right now, and nothing comes to mind.

Your Child and a Future Career
The benefits of being involved in the arts last for a lifetime and have an influence on the next generation.  The more an individual knows about music, art, dance, theater, etc., the more that person will understand and take away from a performance.

A career in the arts may or may not happen ~ it takes years and years of training, a great deal of determination, an environment that is friendly to the arts, and, of course, luck.  But aspiring to a career is, hopefully, not the only reason your child is taking lessons.  (You may be hoping for that career, but your child wants to be a kid.)  Producing concert performers is certainly not the only reason I teach lessons!

Future audiences depend upon our children.  In light of all the music programs that have been discontinued, there is precious little music education going on.  More and more of the responsibility lies with us, the adults.

Are you doing your part?

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