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Do’s and Don’ts for Parents During Music Lessons

Do’s and Don’ts for Parents During Music Lessons

 

 

 

A while back we published Why Taking Music Lessons with Your Kid is Awesome.

Our friend Brendan Bosworth, owner of Meter Music School in Seattle, countered with this assertion: Leaving your kids alone during lessons is awesome, too.

 

This may be harder for some of us than others. Music lessons are a big investment of time and money, so naturally we want to make sure everything is going smoothly. And we want to support our children by keeping tabs on their progress.

 But at what point does our support become stifling? And at the other end of the spectrum, how might our lack of involvement in music lessons negatively affect our student’s progress?

We asked a few seasoned music teachers for their advice on the right blend of parental involvement and detachment.

The big takeaway?

Involvement during music lessons should be minimal to none, depending on the student. But music practice is most effective–and productive– when a parent or caregiver takes an active role.

Be a Fly on the Wall

Imagine you’re in a piano lesson, nervous because you haven’t practiced since your last lesson. Not only is your teacher evaluating your performance, but your mother is sitting behind you, listening closely.

“Learning an instrument is intimidating, and a new teacher is intimidating,” said Brendan, who also teaches guitar and ukulele. “Having the audience of your teacher and your parent watching you try to play in a small music studio can be a lot to handle.”

If your student and teacher are okay with it, sitting in on a first lesson can show support and provide an extra source of background information. But for future lessons, occasionally popping in for the last few minutes of a lesson is a milder, more helpful approach.

“By the end of the lesson, often the student and I are into the groove of playing something together, and it’s fun to let a parent be a fly on the wall.” Brendan said. “Many parents I work with will do this every couple of months, as they are able.”
By making an occasional, brief appearance at the end of a lesson, you can get more insight on how to be helpful.

“Usually coming in at the end helps parents gain perspective and know when to be involved,” said Piano Power teacher Alex Rowney.

If you are sitting in on a portion of your child’s lesson,  stay positive and be mindful of your comments or body language.

“I once had a very well-meaning parent who would literally cringe any time she heard a wrong note or rhythm,” said Piano Power teacher Lucas Gillan. “While I appreciated that the mom cared so much about her son’s lessons, she took it so far that it discouraged him.”

An overbearing parental presence might also distract the teacher, who could feel the need to put on a “teacher show” rather than focus on the student and build rapport.

Ultimately, music students need time and space to discover their instrument on their own terms and at their own pace, and to develop their relationship with their instructor as a mentor.

You’ve already given the child the gift of music lessons– once they’ve gotten started, it’s time to let them unwrap it and discover its possibilities.

When You Can’t Be A Fly on the Wall

Oftentimes, work or other responsibilities keep parents from being around during music lessons. If students are dropped off at a studio, or at home when a particular parent isn’t present, months can go by without any in-person teacher-parent interaction.

Staying in touch by any means — emails, texts, or phone calls– becomes crucial to getting the scoop on progress, successes, and challenges.

Students might consider keeping a notebook where teachers write assignemtns and offer practice advice parents can read, too.

But while a student can still progress during music lessons with little to no parental involvement, practice time is a different story.

A “Practice Coach” Is Essential

Students who don’t practice will not progress– or they’ll at least progress at a much slower rate.

Most students–especially if they’re young or having a difficult time getting motivated or staying focused– won’t practice on their own.

And any student today has many activities vying for their attention.

Left without a “practice coach”–be it a parent or another caregiver– they’re much more likely to lose interest in lessons.

“Especially with young beginners, parent support can be crucial during practice time,” Brendan said. “By checking in regularly with an instructor, parents can learn very basic ways to support at home with technique, understanding notes on a staff, shaping a practice routine that works for their family, etc.”

A few more recommendations:

–Keep scheduled, consistent practice times
–Use persistent, gentle reminders
–Use incentives
–Guide the student to their instrument
–Sit down with young or struggling students to help keep them on track

Typically, students can expect to follow through with lessons on their own by around late elementary, middle school, or junior high– but even then they’ll probably need a little push!

The Music Lesson Experience

Of course, all students are different. You may have a junior high kid who loves you to watch her lessons and doesn’t need a single reminder to practice. (We should be so lucky!)

The most important thing is to “tune in” to your student’s experience. In other words, be sensitive and responsive to what works–and doesn’t work– for your unique child.

And remember that a journey is full of ups, downs, and forks in the road.

“Making errors, recognizing them, and dealing with or accepting them is a deeply personal experience,” Alex said. “Parents must allow their children to make mistakes and learn from them on their own without too much intervention.”

Want to read more about the role parents play in music lessons? Check out this article on managing expectations for your child’s music lessons.

 

 

 

 

How to Create the Space for Amazing Music Practice

How to Create the Space for Amazing Music Practice

 

Whether you’re new to lessons or a veteran, the quality of your music practice space matters.

 

Even if your options are limited— the piano is in the cold, dark basement and that’s that!— these suggestions will help you create a productive environment.

1. Quiet isn’t just obvious, it’s essential.

Unless you thrive under noisy conditions, audio distractions are the music student’s worst enemy. Make sure your co-habitators knows you’re practicing so they can keep it down, or choose a space removed from the hustle and bustle of family and the ringle-dingle of electronics.

2. Out of sight, out of mind

The ideal music practice space shouldn’t be so secluded that it feels irrelevant to your day-to-day life. A piano concealed in a cryptic part of the house can be easily forgotten, perpetuating a practice drought.

“For students with a lot of different things vying for their time, they need to actually see the instrument as they go throughout their day to be reminded to practice it,” said Piano Power teacher Lucas Gillan.

You can try keeping mobile instruments in an opened case in a well-tread room, allowing the instrument to whisper to you. I’m so lonely, come play me, it will say.

3. Keep it private…

You know how it is when you feel like someone’s listening to you practice—you become stiff and self-conscious, worried about what they’re thinking. When Piano Power teacher Dan Huber was in college, he would practice in the music building late at night when it was mostly empty to avoid being listened to.

“For me, practicing is more embarrassing than performing,” Dan said. “One needs to repeat possibly bad or incorrect sounding music over and over and over and over. I tend to practice once everyone in my house is asleep.”

If you’re a piano player who lives with other people or in a shared building, a digital piano with headphones could be a solution for when you just can’t be alone.

4. …or not private at all.

A student’s age may be a factor when it comes to privacy levels. Young students may need an attentive, encouraging parent nearby to keep them on track with assignments and goals, while older students may prefer more independence during practice.

Personality comes into play here, too.

“I’m an extrovert, so to be relegated to the basement is not pleasant,” said music teacher Sandra G. Connoly. “I feel isolated and disconnected. Just around the corner of some activity is perfect. My son, who is an introvert, enjoys being in his room.”

5. Consider acoustics.

High ceilings or an echoey room will drown out the finer details of your playing and possibly disrupt your focus. Conversely, a room that is all hard surfaces or soundproof will make you sound great, but may be glossing over your deficiencies and creating a ‘singing in the shower’ effect.

Music teacher Roger Stimson notes that acoustically-excellent practice can disappoint when you play in a performance hall with lesser conditions.

“I always practice in a well-furnished room and then, when I am performing, what a boost I get from the resonance of the acoustic!” Roger said.

6. Keep tools handy.

Gather all the necessary tools (pencils with erasers, metronomes, sheet music, stands, tuners, etc.) before practice time so that you don’t have excuses to keep getting up and interrupting your flow.

7. Make it a pet-free zone, at least temporarily.

Fido makes a lovely companion but a terrible practice partner.

“If pets disturb practice sessions half as much as they disturb lessons, it would be impossible to focus for very long,” Lucas said. “It might not be a terrible idea to put attention-seeking dogs behind a closed door during practice sessions.”

8. Feed your inspiration.

If your music practice room depresses you or evokes powerful feelings of indifference, you’re going to feel unmotivated to practice. Decorate it with pictures of inspiring musicians, artwork that evokes feelings of joy or creativity, or plants and flowers that brighten the room. Make it your favorite place to be.

9. Practice time is key.

Work with attention to your body rhythms, avoiding scheduling practice during times when you’re usually hungry or overly tired. If you’re a morning person whose mind shines with the sun, try to fit in lessons before work or school if you can make the time.

“Practice is like exercising,” says Piano Power teacher Dominic German. “We’re much less likely to do it after a long day.”

On the contrary, night owls should squeeze their creative juices when the moon is ripe.

For voice students, leave time between rehearsal singing and practice singing to give the vocal chords a break. Same goes for instrument students who’ve worn out hands, arms, backs, or shoulders while doing another activity. Rest your body when needed or it will find some clever way to rebel.

10. Consistent practice time trains the mind.

For many of us, routines alleviate angst. Like habits, we live life in routines because we’ve trained ourselves. Making practice time a routine carried out at the same time every day takes the question “but when will I have time to practice?” out of the equation.

11. Evaluate your goals.

Piano Power teacher Sarah Diller swears by setting goal limits for practice rather than time limits.

“Instead of saying ‘I’m going to sit at the piano for 30 minutes’, say ‘I’m going to practice until I’m comfortable with the first page,'” Sarah said. “Doing this emphasizes quality over quantity in practice.”

12. Special advice for singers.

Singers may find themselves limited to practicing wherever there is a piano for pitch checking. They may also use a computer with internet access to YouTube karaoke tracks, or a smart phone with organized music tracks.

However, you can practice without all of that stuff!

“I find when I’m practicing voice, I often move around my house,” said Piano Power teacher Leah Rockweit. “I like to practice in different sized rooms and spaces because when you perform, the space will always be different. I like to encourage students to find ways to be creative with how and where they practice voice.”

Accommodating all of these suggestions is impossible for most imperfect human beings. Perhaps what’s most valuable to remember is that music practice time or space may never, or rarely, be perfect. What matters is not the pursuit of perfection, but the pursuit of practice. 

8 Tips to Prepare for Your First Music Lesson

8 Tips to Prepare for Your First Music Lesson

What an exciting time!

First lessons mark the beginning of a new era in your kid’s life, whether they’re new to lessons, or resuming their study with a new teacher. Cheers to that!

Expect your first lesson with us to be a blend of music, chit-chat, and plenty of smiles.

Your teacher will get to know your student, exchange some favorite artists and songs, and maybe- if it feels right–  discuss their long-term goals.

If you don’t have time to do all of this before your first lesson, don’t sweat it. The most important thing is to be present and ready to learn! 

Here are 8 ways to shine on first-lesson day.

1. Make sure the instrument fits.

For young piano students, this means having a small foot stool or ottoman to place their feet on for balance and posture. If they’re using a keyboard, make sure it is adjusted for height.

Similarly, guitars and drum sets should be the appropriate size and fit for the student.

2. Have supplies ready.

Here’s a quick checklist of things you might need/want:

  • Tuner
  • Metronome
  • Blank notebook (for notes and assignments)
  • At least one pencil with a good eraser
  • Music stand
  • A recording device so you can review lessons later
  • A chair for your teacher (and maybe a cup of tea), who will certainly appreciate it!

3. Books from a previous teacher?

For students with experience, it may be helpful to perform what they learned most recently. This will help your teacher assess skills. In that case, make sure old books are at the ready.

4. Remove pets– unless it’s okay with your teacher!

If your furry friend really needs to scope out the new person in the house, it’s probaly best to sequester them to a different spot once the lesson starts.

On the other hand, some teachers really like pets! Asking your teacher is the safest bet.

5. Be present when the teacher arrives.

Don’t waste valuable lesson time searching for your student! (Those littles love hide n’ seek, don’t they?)

As a parent or guardian, your presence at the beginning and end of a lesson creates security and confidence for both student and teacher.

6. Wear comfortable clothing, and minimize accessories.

In addition, all instrumentalists– namely pianists and guitarists– are encouraged to cut their nails regularly.

7. Prepare to talk about yourself.

A good teacher (ahem, our fabulous teachers) will want to know more about their student– their musical likes and dislikes, their hobbies and interests. Especially for young or more socially cautious students, it may be helpful to talk this out in advance.

8. Be patient and have fun!

Nothing quells nerves and anxiety like preparation. Following these recommendations will help you or your student relax, leaving more time for the sheer joy of learning music.

The Number One Quality We Look for in Teachers

The Number One Quality We Look for in Teachers

Since 2007, we’ve interviewed hundreds of would-be teachers, but hired only a small percentage of them.

 

To us, one quality in a music teacher really stands out. It isn’t musical expertise, awards, or a prestigious degree. The quality that really matters in a music teacher? Emotional intelligence, or EQ.

In a nutshell, EQ refers to people skills, or how well you “play with others.”

Why Emotional Intelligence is Crucial for Private Music Teachers

Because a private music teacher works with not just students but their families– in their home environment– the ability to connect is incredibly important. This is especially true in long-term relationship building.

Not only do they deliver the musical goods, private music teachers:

  • Can adapt lessons to students’ emotions
  • Build strong relationships through empathy and active listening
  • Attune to the unique dynamics of different family environments

If a student is acting out, a great music teacher can identify the root cause. Is the student tired? Experiencing trouble at school? Needing physical activity? As any M.D. will tell you, once the cause is correctly identified, the symptoms are infinitely more treatable.

Does Gender Matter When it Comes to Emotional Intelligence?

Studies have shown that certain facets of emotional intelligence, i.e. emotional regulation and empathy, may correspond more strongly among gender lines. But does gender, which is largely socialized, really matter when it comes to EQ?

EQ isn’t a fixed trait, like eye color. Rather it can grow and change over time, regardless of gender identification. If an individual does or does not express an EQ trait associated with their gender, that can change with growth, and awareness.

At Piano Power, we believe in the individual strengths of each of our teachers.

They shine in their empathy, perceptivity, and ability to create positive learning experiences. It’s why we hired them!

And while EQ is extremely important in teacher-student relationships, chemistry boils down to the student, the teacher, and the magic that happens–or doesn’t– when they work together.

Much like dating, you just never know who’s going to click. And sometimes, your match surprises you.

The two objectives we keep in mind when hiring teachers

First, our teachers should feel at home in the Piano Power culture of feedback, friendship, and collaboration.

Second, they should have the skills to help students achieve our overarching goal: a lifelong love of music.

Want to read more about the teachers who made the cut? Check out our roster of great instructors!

Six Benefits of Music Lessons on Teen Mental Health

Six Benefits of Music Lessons on Teen Mental Health

Any parent of a teen will tell you– concerns about mental health are no joke.

 

On top of the urge to conform, the hormonal surges, the increasing academic and extracurricular pressures, today’s teens face stressors their parents never had to deal with.

Social media, school shootings, anxiety around climate change– teens have a lot on their mind, and they don’t necessarily have the skills or coping mechanisms to deal with these stressors healthily.

As music educators, we’ve very attuned to the amazing mental and emotional effects of learning an instrument. We witness it every day in lessons with our students.

So of course, we were interested in a recent episode of The Huberman Lab that examines what our body goes through when we listen to and play music. The episode covers the role of music in boosting motivation for both cognitive and physical tasks, among other effects.

It inspired us to uncover more of how music lessons– or even just listening to music — could benefit our teen students, and the students we’ve yet to teach.

To note: music lessons cannot replace professional medical treatment. For more information on helping teens navigate this difficult terrain, check out the Helping Adolescents Thrive Toolkit published by the World Health Organization.

1. Immediate Stress Reduction

Teens need emotional expression to feel heard. Learning to play an instrument can be an ideal way to express feelings and pent-up tension. Like a good cry, playing music can evoke a much-needed, stress-zapping catharsis.

2. Enhanced Cognitive Development

Working out your brain muscles is important to stay mentally sharp. Learning and playing an instrument is a cognitive workout that could result in increased memory, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills, as well as an increased attention span.

These characteristics come in handy when managing a hefty academic load.

3. Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence

Part of the teen struggle involves the desire to feel confident and capable. With the right dedication and mastery of an instrument or vocals, teens can practice overcoming challenges. A generous dose of self-esteem can permeate other areas, like social and school life.

4. Resilience

Studying an instrument requires consistent practice. Consistently overcoming the challenges inherent in practice creates resilience. Resiliency increases confidence and self-esteem. Music lessons create a chain reaction of positive mental health outcomes!

5. Emotional Regulation

Playing music can not only help teens express emotions, but regulate them, too. Studies have shown that teenagers in music therapy have a better understanding of their emotions than their peers. More importantly, they develop skills to manage them. Especially when the teenage years become turbulent– and they will!– the ability to regulate emotions is critical.

6. Community

Whether group or solo, music lessons create the community and belonging every teen craves.

The mentorship built with an awesome teacher can fuel a teen’s confidence to join a band or participate in a recital, which could help build up social skills lost during the pandemic.

Having an environment outside of school where they can rely on another trustworthy adult, and share a common interest with peers, is incredible for belonging.

Most importantly, find what works for the individual.

An amazing thing about music-study is there are so many options to choose from. Throughout their study, your teen can float different instruments, genres, and goals. By providing a blend of structure and creativity, music lessons can help teens discover their musical preferences and improve their well-being in way that resonates with them personally.

 

Curious to learn more benefits of music lessons? Check this out.

Piano Power Provides Full Health Benefits for Teachers

Piano Power Provides Full Health Benefits for Teachers

Since April 2023 we have offered full health benefits to our dedicated teachers. This commitment to our staff’s well-being reflects one of our five core values: happy teachers make happy students!

Commitment to our teachers’ well-being

It’s always been our vision to provide health benefits to our teachers, who we value so much. Over the years, many teachers have told us how much comprehensive health benefits would mean to them. We’re thrilled to finally bring this vision to life!

Our core values: happy teachers, happy students

We believe in the simple philosophy that content teachers create a positive learning environment for students.

By providing health coverage, we’re investing in the wellbeing of our teachers, ensuring they can focus on what they do best — educating and inspiring our students.

The stability of a regular income plus health insurance leads to long-term, committed student/teacher relationships for our families.

Qualifying for health benefits

Let’s dive into the details. To be eligible for our health benefits, teachers must maintain:

  • A minimum four-day teaching schedule per week
  • A 90% attendance rate

These requirements help us ensure that our students receive consistent, high-quality instruction.

Comprehensive coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield

Our health benefits package is robust, offering:

  • Coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the state’s largest provider of health benefits
  • Options for vision and dental
  • Addition of other family members 

We cover 75% of each month’s monthly premium — well above the standard contribution — underscoring our investment in our teachers’ health.

Tax benefits for teachers

Not only do we contribute a substantial portion towards the premium, but the entire amount — including our teachers’ 25% share — is tax-deductible, easing the financial burden even further. 

Join our team!

Sound like a workplace you’d like to be a part of?  Head to the Teach With Us page and introduce yourself! 

We’ll show you why we’re the most teacher-friendly music studio in the Chicago area.

Stories of Piano Power Parents Who Play in Recitals

Stories of Piano Power Parents Who Play in Recitals

Most of our students are kids, so our recital participants typically comprise the 18 and under set. However, there are a few brave, grown-up souls who place themselves (willingly!) on the roster of recital performers.

Stephanie Petrusha says playing her first recital made her a “nervous wreck”, and Katie Licup says being a litigator is nothing compared to playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in front of a group of strangers. But both women agree that the belly-butterflies were worth the growth and exhilaration that followed.

Here are their stories.

Adult woman playing the piano at a recital
Stephanie Petrusha plays at a recital

Stephanie Petrusha, piano student

After Stephanie Petrusha inherited a piano from a family member, she decided to start lessons for her son. Like a lot of kids new to lessons, he became frustrated because he wasn’t immediately great at it. Practice dwindled.

Stephanie wanted to show her son that learning something new takes work, and that piano isn’t easy. So at age 38, she signed up for her very first piano lesson since the fourth grade.

Two and half years later, she’s still at it.

“I found piano therapeutic,” Stephanie writes in an email. “I’m at ease knowing this is something I will enjoy and build upon even as I grow older.”

I asked Stephanie (and Katie, whose story follows below) a few questions about what it’s like to play in Piano Power recitals. Here’s what she had to say.

What motivated you to play in a recital?

Performing in a recital is definitely out of my comfort zone. There is a lot to be said for leading by example, though. How could I expect my child, who was hating piano at the time, to perform if I didn’t do something uncomfortable for myself?

Little did I know how rewarding this would be for me in return. I had done it! And the years of lessons my son took gave him the confidence that has helped him breeze through the middle school keyboard curriculum. And he’s the best french horn player in beginning band at his school.:) These are my motivational reasons to do it.

How would you describe the experience of playing a recital?

At my first one, I was a nervous wreck! I have never been more proud of myself after the second one.

Would you do it again? Why or why not?

Yes. I will continue to force myself out of my comfort zone, mainly because it forces me to practice a lot more. I am determined to sit down at a piano someday and look at a sheet of music that I have never seen or heard before, and immediately be able to play the song with the right rhythm.

Piano lessons have taught me a lot more than how to read music and play the piano. It has helped my chaotic life seem calm, and I can share it with my children and friends. Piano is my outlet. It has made a huge difference in my life, and I will forever be grateful.

Katie Licup and her son at a recital

Katie Licup, former piano student

Katie Licup and her 8-year-old son started piano lessons at the same time. He wanted to explore piano and drums, and she was interested in the “creative and mental ‘workout’ learning a new instrument would give.”

But like Stephanie, Katie also wanted to set a good example for her son. He’d tried piano once before, and became discouraged when he discovered how much he had to work at it.

“I knew I wouldn’t be very good at this, and thought it would be good for him to see that even adults need to exert effort to improve their performance,” Katie writes in an email.

What motivated you to play in a recital?

My teacher didn’t tell me I had a choice! 🙂 Also, I thought it would be hypocritical for my son to play and for me not to.

How would you describe the experience of playing a recital?

All the fear and adrenaline of playing violin recitals as a kid came back to me. I am a former litigator and a leader in the Fortune 500 office I work at now, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been as nervous as playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in front of 30 people at the recital! But I felt proud and exhilarated after it was over! (And I even messed up a couple times.)

Would you do it again?

Yes. But practice really does make perfect, and so it requires time and commitment, which can be in short supply as a working parent.

Piano Power did a fantastic job of preparing both my son and me for the recital, and while I know my son was proud of his performance, we each were also very proud of each other. It was a bit of a role reversal having him cheer me on!

Want to read more about why it’s great to take music lessons as an adult? Check out 8 reasons you’ll never regret taking adult music lessons!

Moms Share the Benefits, Challenges of Music Lessons

Moms Share the Benefits, Challenges of Music Lessons

Gaea Gomez Fidler loved music as a kid, but found lessons boring. Her more musically experienced siblings, some of them classically trained, pressured Gaea to level up.

And so, like so many kids who don’t get what they need from lessons, Gaea gave up rather than level up.

But now as an adult, enrolling her son Jamie in piano lessons led her to “making friends” with the piano again.

Initially, she took lessons as a way to help Jamie develop and stay motivated. But as his lessons progressed, she recognized her own relationship to music was improving.

Through more positive, engaging lessons– and less external pressure– Gaea has rediscovered the joy of music.

Whether inspired by their own children, redefining their relationship to lessons, or enjoying precious solo time, Piano Power moms find so many benefits to studying an instrument.

A meditative state of mind

Gaea finds that along with the mental challenge of learning music theory, relearning the piano has a meditative effect. Playing piano, she says, relaxes her brain.

“For a little while during the day, I tune out external distractions and focus on what is in front of me presently,” Gaea says. “Maybe it’s a stretch, but playing piano is like an active meditation for me with similar benefits.”

It’s not a stretch.

As Melissa Venditti writes in The Mindful Word: “When I play, I can feel the sensation of my fingers pressing against the keys or strings. I can become actively aware of my own emotional reaction to the music on a beat-by-beat basis.”

Others have noted the meditative, relaxing effect playing music has on their consciousness, a benefit of music study that may be particularly valuable to busy moms.

A connection to the past

Parent Alyse Gamson’s story is similar to Gaea’s. She signed up for lessons after becoming “completely entranced” while witnessing her son’s lessons. Now she enjoys the peace she’s found in playing.

“When I’m in a good practice rhythm and playing a song that I love, it immediately puts me in a wonderful, meditative state of mind,” Alyse says. “If it’s a classical piece, I’m completely enchanted and feel a connection with the past.”

Mom and daughter at piano
Music teacher Jacqueline enjoys musical quality time with her daughter.

Making time for learning

Unlike Gaea, Alyse had no experience with studying music before taking adult lessons. Initially her goal was to sight-read easy music. She then moved on to intermediate songs.

But life can easily get in the way of goals. With three kids under nine and a business to run, Alyse’s biggest challenge is universal: making time for practice.

“It’s important to practice regularly, ideally at least five times a week,” says Piano Power founder and director Abraham Levitan. “But the length of practice doesn’t matter nearly as much as regularity. So if all you can manage is five minutes a day, you can still progress if it’s a daily habit.”

For parent Mindy Ingersoll, knowing she’s investing money into lessons motivates regular practice.

“I’m not stressing out about finding time to practice, but at the same time I’m using ten minutes when dinner is cooking to play a little bit,” Mindy says. “Instead of checking Facebook I’m playing the guitar. It’s definitely a better use of my time.”

Reconnecting with songs you love

Choosing to learn favorite songs with a personal connection can help motivate practice. Learning the classics is wonderful. But like working out to a good mix, it’s the songs we really love that move us.

Learning easy versions of songs by her favorites (like Jason Mraz, Imagine Dragons, and Elvis Presley) was the jolt Alyse needed to make time for practice.

The accessibility of at-home lessons

Taking private lessons at home has been key for Gaea. She describes her son as “pokey” when it comes to leaving the house. Add that to the time-sucks of getting dressed, gathering supplies, and hustling in and out of buildings, lessons can quickly devolve into another chore.

With lessons at home, Gaea says, “It’s no longer an event. It’s just another thing we do, like eating our dinner or brushing our teeth.”

The most important thing to know about practice

Sometimes, you’re just not going to do it.

That doesn’t mean you should give up, or not take lessons at all. Parent Taryn Fisher says that flexibility is key to balancing work, family, and personal time.

“I am not going to pretend that I’m a poster-child for the ‘mom who does everything,’” Taryn says. “Accepting that this is something I am doing for myself– a treat, something to look forward to– is important. Which means not squeezing it into an already stressful day. But I’m also not putting it last after everyone else’s needs are met.”

Learning to learn again

Buddhist teacher and monk Suzuki Roshi said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Kids are masters of “beginner’s mind”. Constantly learning new things, they’re well-acquainted with being new to something. But adults? Our egos cringe at the sound of our own amateur playing.

“I do feel a little vulnerable as an adult not feeling like I’m entirely competent as I’m learning a new piece,” says parent Lindsey Harrington, who is also a middle-school teacher.

But rather than letting that feeling of incompetence stop her, Lindsey lets it deepen her compassion for herself and her students.

“It’s always good to remind myself of the various learning styles and give everyone, myself included, a bit of grace during the learning process,” says Lindsey. “It takes different people different lengths of time and a variety of methods to figure things out. It’s good to be reminded of that.”

Jacqueline Arrigo, a Piano Power teacher who also cares for her infant daughter, has played, taught, and performed piano for years. She recently started guitar lessons to challenge herself with a new instrument.

“[As a music student in college], I just never had the motivation to practice guitar, especially with my shiny piano sitting right there,” Jacqueline says. “But as a student now, it’s fun, challenging, and empowering to learn. In the end the goal is the same for me– to always be learning.”

As Taryn puts it, why do only what comes easily?

Creating community with family

As a new mom, Jacqueline struggles with “mom-guilt” and falling behind on chores. But she loves the ways music enriches her relationship to her daughter. It’s a benefit worth delaying the laundry for.

“Livvy loves music and always hangs out with me in our music room while I’m playing,” Jacqueline says. “She has her own mini-piano and other percussion instruments that keep her busy while I practice. I want her to be surrounded by music, and this is a perfect way to do it.”

Several moms mentioned playing with their kids, including songs their kids wrote for them. They report being delightfully surpassed in skill by their children. And they let lessons drive what the family listens to together.

Rekindling sparks with your spouse

After helping her husband find a guitar teacher, Mindy realized she wanted lessons, too. They’ve now found that playing together helps connect them as a couple.

“It’s hard to find time to practice at the same time, but when we do, we start laughing or smiling because we messed up,” Mindy says. “And it’s fun when my son walks in and wants to take out his guitar. He’s not taking lessons yet but it’s getting him interested.”

It goes to show that once someone in the family starts lessons, a passion for music begins to catch.

“My husband started taking piano lessons this year, and our youngest can’t wait for lessons,” Alyse says. “Music is such a gift. We hope to inspire our children so that they’ll want to learn instruments at a young age.”

Taryn grew up in a musical family. Her brother went to a music conservatory, her sister is a professional performer, and her parents play together as a duo. She easily envisions a family band in her future. Once the least confident musician in the family, now that prospect excites her.

Feeling like yourself again

Momhood is equal parts joy and pain, euphoria and exhaustion. What time we may have once had for soul-searching, creative expression, or intellectual pursuits, is replaced with caring for our kids.

“The creative part of me had been missing for almost a decade, and that can be a sad loss,” Taryn says. “Tapping back into making music has been so refreshing, like, ‘Oh, it’s nice to see creative Taryn again’.”

Before we become parents, we understand that parenting involves sacrifice. But when the sacrifice becomes real, seeping into our daily lives, we can begin to feel starved. Music lessons — with the social and introspective opportunities they offer– can be a marvelous antidote.

Want to learn more about adults in music lessons? Check out 8 reasons why you’ll never regret taking adult music lessons.

Are Group Piano Lessons Good for Your Child?

Are Group Piano Lessons Good for Your Child?

Piano Power doesn’t offer group piano lessons, but that doesn’t mean we don’t endorse them! Parents and students should definitely weigh all of their options before starting lessons, and sometimes group is the way to go. This article by Jennifer Hughes of Know Your Instrument will help you decide the ideal learning setup for your budding pianist.

by Jennifer Hughes

When you think of piano lessons, the one-on-one setup– teacher sitting with a learner at the piano, guiding their little fingers on to the keys– might be the first thing that comes to mind. But don’t forget about group piano lessons!

While both scenarios have their pros and cons, in this article we’re looking at how group lessons can benefit a young piano player. Some questions you might have are:

Will my child be able to focus in a group social setting?

In most cases, there are at least four students and one teacher in a group piano class. For younger students, activities might include group games that develop rhythm, movement, pitch matching, listening, and music appreciation- all of which are necessary before learning the more technical aspects of piano playing.

A good teacher, supportive peer environment, and well-structured program will help your kid stayed focused. Be picky about the class you sign up for. Don’t hesitate to talk to teachers in advance of signing up for their class, and parents of students who took the class previously.

With that support in place, a group class will cultivate social skills like:

  • Making friends
  • Taking turns
  • Practicing patience with other kids
  • Offering encouragement and support to others

Will being in a group class help my kid develop the confidence they need, or will they get lost in the group?

In a group class, your student has a built-in audience. It’s likely they’ll have to play in front of their classmates as well as the teacher, and possibly in front of an audience at a recital. Playing in front of their peers may help them break out of their comfort zone, and motivate them to keep on practicing.

A shy student may feel more comfortable playing with others at first rather than solo– especially if they get to play duets, or an ensemble with the whole class. Some children build confidence when they know there are others doing the same thing.

All in all, group piano lessons enable children to experience the joy of learning and making music together. This not only does a lot in building confidence and social skills, but also in increasing motivation to make progress. For a more intensive and specific piano training for your child, you can always supplement group lessons with private instruction.

Still have questions? You might also be interested in: How to Decide Between Group and Private Lessons.

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