by GAYLA GRACE
Piano lessons were not an option for me as a child. As a trained musician, my father insisted his four daughters start piano lessons at an early age. I didn’t always enjoy it and often grumbled about the mandated practice sessions before and after school. My father was a strict teacher and had high expectations of his students, but today I’m thankful piano lessons were a requirement my parents didn’t budge on.
Music lessons compete with a host of other activities for our childrens’ time and our money. How do we determine if music lessons are right for our child? Does it really make a difference in the long run if we expose our children to music education? The evidence of several studies supports the conclusion that the benefits of music lessons outweigh the cost and inconvenience it poses to parents to provide them.
What does the research show?
A study led by Dr. Glenn Schellenberg with 6-year-old children and another study led by Dr. James Catterall at UCLA, tracking more than 25,000 students over a ten-year period, cite the advantages of music lessons.
- Increase in IQ scores
- Promotes intellectual development
- Achieve higher test scores on standardized tests and other proficiency exams
- More cooperative with teachers and peers
- More self-confident
- Better able to express their ideas
- Improvements in hand-eye coordination, concentration, memory development, listening skills and the overall process of learning
- Enhanced self-esteem and confidence as they perform in front of a teacher on a weekly basis and participate regularly in recitals or other performances.
Studying music encourages self-discipline and perseverance, along with time-management and organizational skills. Weekly lessons require students to prioritize their schedules to allow for regular practice time. When taking lessons as a child, I was prepared with each assigned piece to avoid an uncomfortable lesson or reprimand by my father. I was actively involved in church activities and sports at school, but I learned to manage my time to allow adequate practice time on the piano.
When should my child start?
Music lessons can begin as early as 4 years old but an older child (7 or 8 years of age) has a greater attention span and more focus for a musical instrument. It’s important the child has the desire to play an instrument. Mom and Dad should encourage their child to show an interest, but not force them to take lessons. Experimenting with different instruments will help a child determine what instrument he is best suited for. When a child begins lessons, he should commit to several months of study to gain a feel for the instrument.
Where can I find a teacher?
Finding a teacher your child can relate to is important. Learning to play an instrument should be fun and interactive, although it requires a fair amount of work. Referrals from other parents and students offer valuable insight. Interviewing a potential teacher also helps identify teaching styles and personality traits before beginning lessons. Be sure to know the fee schedule and policies regarding make-up lessons before committing to a series of lessons.
Is it too late to learn?
It’s never too late to learn to play a musical instrument. As a former piano instructor, I loved working with teenage and adult students, who were often more committed and disciplined in the learning process. Older students prioritize their lessons and practice time over other commitments and have better focus and longer attention spans, which allows for faster learning and greater satisfaction with the process. Music lessons offer a new challenge for teenagers and adults and can have therapeutic effects.
Learning to play a musical instrument is like earning an education-once you obtain the skill it can’t be taken away from you. It will provide enjoyment and satisfaction for years to come. So, what are you waiting for? Seize the opportunity and schedule music lessons today for you or your child!
GAYLA GRACE is a freelance writer and mom to five children who have all taken music lessons. She enjoys playing the piano at her local church and other community events.