“I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT MUSIC!!”
I cannot count how many times I’ve heard a parent repeat this phrase to me. When I hear this concern from a parent, I know I have a concerned parent and I always take note. This concern of parents deserves a well considered response. Here is my response. Two simple points to remember.
A GOOD PIANO PARENT IS A PARENT AND NOT A MUSICIAN
To say that A GOOD PIANO PARENT IS A PARENT AND NOT A MUSICIAN is not to let parents “off the hook”. Parents are crucial to a successful experience in piano study. Parents provide the grounding and foundation to their children that make success possible. Most important of these is a very high view of education and the discipline necessary to achieve it. Teachers build upon that grounding with their musical and pedagogical skill; but the foundation is established by the parents.
Other parts of that foundation include the provision and maintenance of the instrument. Is the instrument in an quiet area of the home where the student can concentrate without distractions? Is the instrument tuned regularly? Once a year is a good minimum. Twice a year is better. Scheduling tunings 4 weeks after turning on your heating in the fall and 4 weeks after you shut it off in the spring would coincide with the humidity changes in your home. Humidity change is a major cause of instruments going out of tune. Keeping humidity constant is the ideal.
Parents provide an atmosphere in the home that says – Learning is valued in this dwelling. The library is a place where silence is honored so concentration can be maximized. Silence is golden and a gold mine for focus.
Parents provide maturity for their child until it becomes a part of their personality. Children are not born physically mature and I, as a teacher, do not expect them to be psychologically mature. Leading a child to mature decision making is one of the most demanding aspects of parenting. Relating this to piano; people are creatures of habit and practicing is an acquired habit. I’ve always recommended to parents of beginning students that the first thing to establish is the habit of daily practice. The amount of time per day is not important as is the fact that they practice every day. After the daily routine is established then the duration can be determined. For preschoolers 10 minutes per day is good. For school age children this time can be increased in 5 minute increments; 15 minutes a day to 20 minutes a day, and so on. Another good plan is to practice twice per day. For young beginners, most often, more can be accomplished in two 15 minute sessions per day than in one longer 30 minute session.
A good piano parent is also involved in the extra curricular activities of piano lessons; namely, recitals and evaluations. These are big events and if they are taken as big events your budding pianist will perceive this and adjust his perception accordingly. When grandma and grandpa come to the recital this translates as an important family event. If you post a picture of the recital on your Facebook Wall or send a picture of the recital to a distant relative this communicates that piano is special. If you buy a special frame for certificates won in a special place of honor in your home this reinforces everything you’ve said about how pleased you are about your child’s music studies. When words and actions speak congruent messages, you’ve created a powerful means of highly effective communication.
A GOOD PIANO PARENT LISTENS
When I was a young student I was fortunate to have many fans at a young age. My parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts all complimented me on my musical accomplishments. I wasn’t playing great music, by any means, but I could give a very mean reading of The Muffin Man after a few months of lessons. They made me feel that I was very musical so I kept working hard to meet their expectations. So, I cannot recommend enough to listen to your child. When you listen sit on the chair nearest the piano and give them your full attention. Give them expectations they will strive to reach.
I always recommend that parents sit in on the lessons of my young beginners. Many parents sit in even through grade school. Listen to the teacher as they instruct your child. By listening to the teacher you will likely be able to see where the teacher is leading with their instruction. You will then be equipped to help them in their practice. Often in a lesson, I will take a moment and tell the parent directly the reason I am emphasizing a particular point. This way the point doesn’t get lost. If lessons resort to you picking your child after the lesson and ask “How did the lesson go?” and he replies “OK” and that’s the end of it; you are really taking yourself out of the loop and eliminating the crucial parent-teacher-student triangle that is so important to maximizing the piano lesson experience. It’s a very easy habit to get into. This is just an encouragement ahead of time to get back on track when things get off center.
See. Nothing I mentioned above requires one bit of musical understanding. Be a good parent. Be a good listener. Follow these two points and you’re destined for great success in piano study.
This blog is just getting started. If you like the contents and know of other piano parents please let them know about this blog. I plan to make a major part of this blog to address the questions of parents regarding piano lessons.
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION REGARDING PIANO LESSONS? If you do please send them to me via the comment section. And while you’re at it — don’t forget to register to receive all updates of this blog so you won’t miss the answer to your question, or perhaps an answer to an excellent question you never thought to ask.
I also plan on using this blog for piano students to ask questions about their piano lessons and try to give them help on their studies. I can give you a good reason as to why your piano teacher is teaching you scales, Bach, sight-reading, theory, asking you to trim your fingernails — pretty much anything. I’ve been teaching piano since I was a teenager in the late 60’s so I think I’ve seen everything at least once. So, if you are a piano student please register to receive updates on this blog. Don’t be afraid to send me your questions; if you want to ask your question and remain anonymous I will honor your request. Just ask.