When your child tells you "I want to quit music lessons", then something has gone very wrong.
Music lessons always start with a few joyful sessions in the fall but then, the teacher starts to ask questions. The reason why she is asking those carefully phrased questions while the pencil in her hand points to a certain note in the music book is to check if the student has done the homework.
Learning the note names isn't easy
Some music students struggle with memorizing the note names although they enjoy playing the music. Generally, it's not the end of the world because knowing the note names has nothing to do with one's musical ability. Over the past 30 years, I have worked with many children who were able to play and even compose music but didn't know more than a handful of notes.
Many guitar players are self-taught and often have an amazing vocal ability combined with the know-how to accompany themselves on the guitar or piano. Since they bend music their way, no written music exists and we need to understand that the super creative brain likes it that way.
Why is memorizing the note names so hard?
I believe that many students who struggle have been misinformed about the task plus, kids live a busy life. There is much stuff to do and so little time so when the teachers ask to practice, the inner little voice says "but you have a whole week until the next lesson" and then the amazing conclusion is drawn that "tomorrow" is when practicing begins.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow ... oh no, today is the next lesson and guess what?
Perhaps worse than not practicing is telling the teacher "why" the past week was so busy. Believe me, I have heard it all. I know all of their little tricks and methods and could write a book about this topic (but I won't).
OK, I tell you one that is easy to spot and every music teacher knows that one anyway.
The lesson is finished and final words of encouragement and advice are given. The music student gets up, smiles and looks the teacher straight in the eye and tells her that the lesson was fun. Then the magic moment happens. The student vacates the piano and heads straight for the door while the teacher is busy greeting the next student. Just a little too late, the teacher discovers that the student left the music book behind. Too bad because without music, the teacher surely can't expect me to practice.
Do you see how brilliant the procrastinators are?
There are hundreds more which have the same outcome. Unfortunately, time moves on and after a year or two, another child becomes a statistic of the millions of kids who quit music lessons and think that they have done the right thing until they are the parent of a seven-year-old who has her first lesson. Then they tell the teacher: "I used to take piano lessons" and regret that I stopped.
So let's be smart about this and acknowledge first and foremost that most kids are super busy. Overloading them with more information isn't doing them any good and enrolling them in all kinds of lessons isn't having the effect you are hoping for because sooner or later, they will try to get out of it and tell you that phrase that no parent wants to hear: "I want to quit piano lessons".
The future and why music will be more important than ever
Every time I get to meet a new music student, I look back 40 years and see myself when I started. Back then, no one could have told me that music will bring me half way around the planet, put me on more stages than I can remember and that I will meet incredible people of which some turn into life-long friends. And the best part is that all of this still continues.
But there is even more to it. The musical mind is creative and creativity is a sought after skill. Watch the news and you will get the sense that the future is about new, never before seen, products. If one has the natural ability to do well in music, then she/he could have the gift of inventing. The world needs original ideas and those who copy are not in demand.
Please make time and talk with your child about music lessons. Watch if they practice. If they love playing, you won't have to constantly remind them and if they don't, be creative. Don't MAKE them practice and instead, find a way to reward them but not like your parents did. Do this or you won't get to (insert whatever you remember from back then here).
Often times, it is enough if you listen to them playing you their favorite piece. Every student has one or more pieces they like and play well. Be proud of your child and appreciate what they are doing. No one learns a new skill overnight but those who have patience and are willing to repeat will succeed.
Don't complain how much the lessons cost (my mom did this) and don't rush them out of the house on lessons day. Being late for a lesson eventually turns into missed lessons and those eventually turn into someone who wants to quit lessons.
Music is amazing because it unites the human race like nothing else does. I can not think of a single thing that brings us more together than music does. Can you imagine the Olympics without the national anthems being played?
Would you listen to the radio if people only talked (ignore this if you are conspiracy enthusiast and know who George Noory is).
Time is the most precious commodity we all have. Not matter if you are rich or poor, you have the same 24 hours every day than everyone else has. The only difference is how you use it. Most kids who want to have fun with playing computer games will not have the same opportunities than those who learn amazing skills. In the end, every parent has to ask themselves if they want their kids to be well off which means having skills that tomorrow's economy can employ and most of all, be proud of. But then again, you must be proud of your children no matter what because you love them more than anything else in the world.