In this third and final post on “How to Raise a Smart Kid”, I delve into the 5 factors that lead to more successful academic achievement in kids, this time specifically in private music lessons, to determine what makes a “smart musician”.
- Attitude toward education
Examine your attitude toward music lessons. Assuming this is something you want to work at, know that a mastered skill is actually built up from many small steps, and that mastery of one skill leads to mastery of more complicated technical aspects. For example, in order to play a scale, students must first be able to play with balanced, slightly rounded fingers. The wrist must be supple and free of tension. Next, students must use their thumb to cross slightly under the hand to reach the keys, aided by a loose wrist. Then, students learns to easily cross their third and fourth finger over the hand. After the students master playing a scale up and down an octave in one hand, they learn how to do it with the other hand, and then hands together. They must listen carefully for a clear, even tone, with a slight crescendo when ascending, and a slight decrescendo when descending. Finally, they learn to play the scale in more than one octave, in parallel motion and in contrary motion.
Successful students believe that no concept or skill is “too hard” or “impossible” to grasp. Instead, they assume that they just haven’t grasped it yet, but with enough correct practice and time, they will eventually learn it.
Persevering and being disciplined in approaching learning can be found in all successful students. Learning a skill takes time and energy. If learning the piano is a priority, students must find the time in their schedule to devote to this. If piano is 7th or 8th on the list of things to complete during the week, you can be sure that progress will be slow, and that lessons will soon be dropped. Behind drive is the belief that if music is important, one makes the time for it. Parents must be involved in setting up their children’s schedule to allow time for daily, effective practice, and other musical activities.
- Highly educated and competent teachers
Find the best teacher you can afford. Highly educated teachers have invested in their education (many possess degrees or diplomas in music), but more importantly, continue to invest in their training by attending workshops, conferences, masterclasses, and reading on the latest research on teaching. They are not afraid to try new methods and ideas to help students learn. Find teachers who are interested in learning and also contribute to their community. Ask if your teacher specializes in teaching young children, or adults. After being a part of a professional music teaching community for over 6 years, I can’t imagine teaching without the support of other music professionals, learning from workshops and conferences, and the various musical opportunities they provide for myself and my students.
- Parental involvement
It is the parent’s job to make music an important part of their child’s education. If their child has weak math skills, the parent will not likely say they don’t have to learn math. Instead, the parent will hire tutors, and enroll their kids in afterschool programs to help them learn. There is a belief that they will eventually “get it”. Sometimes there can be dips in their child’s interest in music (namely, practicing). Parents who understand this as a normal phase strive to encourage their child’s continuation, and let the teacher know that their child is becoming disinterested in practicing. Together, the parents, teacher, and child can work together to find ways to enliven and challenge the child to continue. Also, parents can get involved by asking their child(ren) about their lessons. They can ask them to play their latest pieces, take them to concerts and recitals while engaging their child by asking them what they liked or didn’t like about the performances, etc. Keeping an open dialogue about music is key (pun alert!)
- Participating in events with other students
Learning to play a musical instrument is often a lonely task. Hours are spent by themselves practicing and learning. However, when students come together to experience and perform music for each other, they realize they are not alone. They can see what others are capable of, which may motivate them to practice harder and more intelligently. They see that others also go through the same thing, getting nervous when performing in public, etc. and this reassures them that they are “normal” and is common.
As an ORMTA member, my students have access to their events, such as auditions for scholarships, participation in music composition competitions, workshops, master classes and recitals. The more they participate in these events outside of their piano lessons, the more they realize the world around them is steeped in music, and there are many others just like them, learning.
That’s it for this 3-part series on “smart kids”. Interested in trying the PISA for yourself to see how you do? http://www.oecd.org/pisa/test/
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