Profiling Musical Potential in Small Children.....Really?

If you live in Saskatchewan, you are probably aware of the power of the “Thirteenth Man”. Saskatchewanians have an undying almost cult-like dedication for a football team called the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It is well documented how the collective power of their support, often creates an intangible advantage for their team.

Parents can provide the same “Thirteenth Man” advantage for their children, when it comes musical studies by simply playing an active role at the lesson and in the at-home practice sessions. Parental support and participation is the norm for many other activities, such as sports, gymnastics, and dance, but when it comes to the music lesson, it has been traditionally frowned upon.

Many years ago, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki proved through his Mother Tongue learning philosophy, that incredibly young children could excel in musical studies, when a vibrant learning environment is provided at the lesson and at home. This involves maintaining a strong, open relationship between the Student, Parent, and Teacher. Parents attend and observe the lesson and play an active role in overseeing practice. Much success has been documented by studying in this way.

Unfortunately, the majority of music lessons today still involve one student and one teacher, with the student sentenced to lonely practice sessions at home. In fact, it is still considered to be the norm.

I had a conversation recently with a student of mine who is now studying music at a prestigious Canadian University. He is taking a music business class and was given an assignment to draw up a Music Lesson Contract to be agreed upon by prospective families before beginning lessons. In it, he included a clause encouraging parental participation. When the marked assignment was returned to him, that clause had a big red circle around it with the comment, “Please eliminate this – unnecessary. Most parents will just want to drop kids off. Parental participation is not that important.”

I was shocked when my student informed me of this. In this day and age, traditional values established hundreds of years ago are still the norm, even from teachers in institutions professing to adhere to the latest trends in contemporary musical education.

In my close to fifty years of teaching experience, I have experimented with various methods, philosophies, and lesson formats. Without a doubt, a healthy Student/Parent/Teacher scenario always attains far better results. In these times of Covid, it has been invaluable form my students, both in the studio lesson and online Zoom lessons.

Parents do not need to play the child’s instrument. They merely need to understand the lesson assignment and to provide strong, consistent, positive support and encouragement at the lesson and at home. The rewards are many!