Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Making Music with Our Kids

When I was about eight years old, I started taking piano lessons with Mrs. Van Den Bosch.

I don't remember too much about how she looked. I do remember that she made me sit up very straight, curve my fingers like an egg was resting beneath them, and gave me gold stars if I did well.

Mrs. V was psychic. She knew when I did not practice. Like other students, I sometimes thought that the piano playing I did at the lesson itself would suffice. She could tell, and my chart had shameful glaring empty spots where those cherished gold stars should have been.

The funny thing about my piano lessons was that my dad was an excellent piano teacher. He just couldn't teach us kids. We would whine, refuse to cooperate, or get hurt feelings when he tried to correct us.

The same thing has happened with my daughter. For the past four or five years I tried to teach her piano. I'd get out my beginner book and eagerly show her Middle C. She would be bored and frustrated. I'd get upset and give up.

One of my facebook friends is experiencing the same problem. A music major in college, she has been unable to teach her own son to play. Should she pay someone else to teach him what she knows how to do very well herself? I think this is a common problem. Sometimes there are too many family dynamics involved to administrate the discipline needed to learn a new skill.

While I almost gave up on teaching piano to my daughter, at age 12, in the midst of long summer days, she has decided to learn. The songs in the piano primer are beneath her at this age: "Little Indian Chief" and "Drip Drop Rain" don't hold the same excitement as other tunes on her IPod, but she is loving it and learning quickly!

I am a firm believer that learning music is good for kids. It teaches discipline. It balances structure with creativity. It gives them a talent to take pride in. It helps them appreciate other great musicians.

We'll see where this goes. But for now, I'm morphing into the Mrs. Van Den Bosch of my childhood.
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