They asked me when the best time for a child to start with music lessons is. I answered with a smile: “In mom’s belly”. They looked at me, confused as if they thought I was joking.
But this is actually one big truth! My friend was preparing her piano master’s thesis while being pregnant. She practiced every day. When her girl was born, after several years she sat at a piano and without much effort, she started playing a concert tune she “listened” while she was in her mother’s stomach. Actually, the most beautiful music for baby’s ears is mom’s laughter. And if mom sings, and does so every day, the baby could not be any happier.
Many people think they will completely guide their children towards music if they enroll them in music school. There is truth to that, but only as long as the child looks forward to going to classes. However, I have experienced firsthand (and I still hear my students say this) that sometimes it is hard to go to classes. This is not about not practicing. It’s simply that some teachers and some children “do not click” when working together. That’s when the lessons become torture. I believe that in life, we should run towards anything that makes us happy and that learning should be a pleasure. As soon as we start resisting, all the beauty and joy vanishes.
Imagine having to create music, and doing so under pressure. How much energy and time does it take to create something beautiful from something not so beautiful?
This is why, if you notice your child has an actual problem with their teacher, put them into another teacher’s class. The worst thing you can do is say: “Tough it out for just two more years, and then you don’t have to go to music high school!” Imagine saying that to someone who lives for music, who sees themselves on the global scene and who wants to share the music of their heart with the world. Should they really tough something out? Not two years, not a second!
Truth is, there are children putting up a fight against it because they want to pursue something else. I think the best thing to do, in that case, is to listen to what they want. These children can go from one professor to another, never achieving anything. Perhaps they are born to be painters, poets, actors, mathematicians, biologists, or athletes. If that is so, I do not see why they should “tough out” anything. For them, taking music lessons becomes some sort of punishment.
Hence, you should talk to your children, and avoid using phrases such as “You are still young, what do you know, I know what’s best for you!” Children do know – they have an unerring instinct.
I want to share with you a story about how I felt when I first started attending music school. It all started in 1968 when my dad and the workers were taking our family piano all the way up to the sixth floor. He thought my sister would be thrilled to take musing lessons. However, that did not happen and the piano soon became just another piece of our furniture. My mom suggested selling it. Although “I was not part of the plan” back then, my dad was adamantly against the idea, saying someday someone will be in a desperate need for the piano. As if he knew.
However, at the very beginning, even I was not interested in music school. I was into basketball, getting ready to take no. 1 place in the world of sport. My mom used to say they should have sold the piano, my dad said that my craze for basketball would be over in a few years’ time, while I was doing my own thing. They constantly switched me from one class to another, for piano teachers did not want to teach a child refusing to practice at home, but was keener on reading musical notes on paper at the sport during the piano lesson. I was devoted to taking all my exams and was even more devoted to getting on my teachers’ nerves. I was eager for my parents to withdraw me from the music school.
However, for some reasons, the basketball had to become a thing of the past back then. So? What am I to do now? I decided to enroll in a music high school and ask to be transferred to take lessons with the best piano teacher. The principal was confused. I, who was not interested at all into the piano and practicing, want to take lessons with the best piano teacher? Still, he was willing to be helpful. And he was not wrong.
All of a sudden, the piano and I started to “breathe together”.
My piano lessons involved singing, laughter and joy. I kept my focus and did my best to become the best possible friend to music. It was not until 1990 that our family piano started to be played the way it was supposed to. It was waiting for 22 long years. I do not know if it paid off for the piano, but I cannot be more grateful to it. I can only imagine how the piano must have felt while I was struggling to hit the right tone. It probably thought: “My god, child, leave me alone!” Support your children to never give up easily from beautiful things in life. They should be persistent. When they complain that something is boring or hard for them, tell them to give it a new meaning, to refresh it, stir it up and unwind. You will see, it will be magical.