“Forte! Jump up high … higher. That’s great!” says teacher Krista Bladel enthusiastically to her eager 5-year-old student Naomi Adams. “Now, dip down low, all the way to the floor, and quietly say, ‘piano.’”
Sound like a gymnastics class? Not exactly. It was a half-hour afternoon violin lesson. Through physical activity to internalize the dynamics of a musical piece, Naomi learns essential musical concepts — “forte” means “loud,” and “piano” means “soft.” Along with clapping to grasp rhythms, the pace is set as she gets serious, focusing on Krista’s fingers on her strings as they make music together.
Sitting on the sidelines in the room, I thought, “Don’t ever quit playing the violin, Naomi.” Keep learning and practicing so that when you get my age, you won’t have regrets and say, “If only I would have continued my music lessons.”
Krista believes school-age kids often quit because, quite simply, it’s hard work. It can be frustrating to keep at it as tiny muscles train through repeated practice.
“Nowadays, many kids feel they would rather do sports, especially as spring approaches,” she says. “That’s fine. But my mom, also a violinist, kept on me to balance both. The breakthrough came when I discovered that playing the violin had ultimately become my own. It was gratifying, but it took a lot of discipline. “
The benefits of learning to play an instrument include developing self-discipline, improving academic performance in school, and the opportunity to make a whole new set of “music friends.” Plus, the sheer joy of creating music one’s entire life is a valued reward for sticking with it.
Tips for helping kids not to quit:
1. Understand that it is hard work, and for beginners, beautiful music does not happen for a while. Encouragement and praise is important.
2. Prioritize music by making it just as important as other activities in a child’s busy life. If parents take it seriously, kids are more likely to take it seriously.
3. Make sure your child has the opportunity to play fun music and melodies that align with their interests.
4. Slowing the practice pace in the summer is fine, but not playing for three months impacts progress. Just like kids need to keep reading in the summer, they need to keep practicing.
5. Give your children opportunities to share. Performances at family gatherings, neighborhood picnics or at camp encourages progress.
Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit www.donnasday.com and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”
© 2018 Donna Erickson; Distributed by King Features Syndicate
—PRIME TIME WITH KIDS – Music lessons: Tips for sticking with it–