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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.

10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make About Music Lessons

10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make About Music Lessons

by Lara Levitan

Music lessons can be one of the greatest gifts you give to your child; they enrich your child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development, and instill a lifelong love of music.

But while we always have good intentions, parents can sometimes get the wrong idea about what our kids really need.

Whether your kid is about to start lessons or has been at it for a while, there’s something to be learned (or re-learned!) from this list of common mistakes we’ve gathered from veteran teachers and parents.

Read on, and feel prepared to provide your music students with the support they need.

1. Starting lessons too young.

If your preschooler really loves playing instruments and singing at home, then shower them with musical toys, sign them up for Wiggleworms, and surround them with music, but save the private lessons for when they’re a little older.

Typically, three- and four-year olds (and many five-year-olds) lack the attention span, motor skills, and reading ability required for private music lessons. We recommend waiting until at least age five or six in most cases.

Watch Is my Kid Old Enough to Start Piano Lessons?

If you’re certain your young child is ready, then commit to helping them practice. Which leads us to our second common mistake.

2. Not sitting down to practice with younger students.

If it’s a struggle to get your six- to nine-year old child to sit down and practice each day, sitting down with them may make all the difference.

Don’t be intimidated. Long or set practice times (e.g. 30 minutes a day) aren’t as important as regular practice times. Even just 5-10 minutes of daily practice can be effective. See it as quality time with your kid, who may only need your quiet presence and support.

Also for younger students, consider keeping the piano or instrument in a “family” area of the house to make regular engagement easier.

3. Enforcing practice length rather than practice goals.

Thirty minutes can seem like forever when you’re eight years old and all you can think about is Pokemon. Often parents require arbitrary lengths of time for practice when what really matters is practice regularity, not length.

First, make sure your teacher is leaving your student with clear practice instructions that he or she understands. Then, work with your student and teacher to establish practice goals — e.g. play slowly through this part of the song five times, then play the song from start to finish twice.

Students may end up practicing more effectively for a shorter period. Or the lack of pressure to sit may encourage them to practice even longer!

4. Excessively reminding older students to practice.

The older the student, the more independence they crave (and need!). For middle and high-school students, the occasional practice reminder probably won’t hurt, but it’s the teacher’s responsibility to keep the students interested, engaged, and practicing all week.

If the “nagging” is left to the teacher, then parents of teenagers don’t have to be the “bad guys”– and the student may be more eager to share what they learned with the parent.

If you’re afraid that your older student will never practice if you don’t hound them, talk to your teacher. You should feel confident that your teacher is enforcing regular practice, and teaching your student how to practice.

5. Doubting the teacher.

Parents who are adamant about having things a certain way–e.g. my child must learn this type of music, play this song, or practice for X number of minutes each day– can undermine progress, and cast a negative shadow on lessons.

As a result, the student’s attitude about music lessons or even music in general could be damaged.

If there’s no clear reason to think otherwise, then hold an attitude of openness and trust in your teacher’s ability to do their job well. Left to their own devices, a good teacher will incorporate your student’s particular skills, needs, and interests–and the results may be surprising!

6. Expecting the student will always play the same instrument.

Your student’s first instrument may not be their forever instrument. Some kids and parents choose an instrument because it’s the most popular, an older sibling plays it, or they think the student has a knack for it.

But stay open to the possibility that your child or teacher may discover that a different instrument may be a better fit– it can mean the difference between a child who quits music lessons and one who keeps at it.

7. Not letting kids take lessons purely for enjoyment.

As students grow older and become more involved with academics and other extra-curriculars, music lessons can take a backseat. They may still enjoy their instrument, but the demand of daily practice and goal achievement can spoil the fun, add to stress, and ultimately lead to quitting.

If you see this happening with your student, there is another option: change the goal of lessons.

Sometimes, all it takes to keep an older student in lessons is a shift in perspective. Can they solely focus on stress relief and fun rather than hard-edged goals and progress? As long as your teacher is on board, absolutely! (And if they aren’t, find a teacher who is.)

We’ve had many parents who have found that making practice optional, letting older students pick up the instrument when they want, and emphasizing fun and relaxation has been key in keeping their students happy, less stressed out, and more passionate about music than they’ve ever been.

8. Sticking with the same teacher for too long.

If things aren’t working out with your teacher for any number of reasons — they’re constantly tardy, not a good personality fit, or are rigid with repertoire — it may be time to directly address the concerns with the teacher, or even time to move on.

Like any relationship, the teacher-student dynamic changes over time. If your student is expressing the desire or need for a change, hear them out. A great new teacher will add something valuable to your child’s knowledge and experience.

9. Letting their students give up too soon.

All artists go through rough periods. There will be a time when your child “hates” music, their lessons, their teacher, you for making them take lessons in the first place, etc.

If and when this happens, try to get to the bottom of it. Talk to your student about why they’re feeling this way, and once you have an idea of what’s going on, readjust lesson goals (see number seven), or talk with your teacher about creating new goals and incentives to keep the student engaged.

10. Expecting students to willingly perform for friends and family.

Unless your kid wants to, resist the urge to show off their developing skills to others. Learning an instrument is a very personal journey, the fruit of which should be left for the musician to share, should they choose to.

That’s not to say students shouldn’t be encouraged to participate in recitals– performances can be wonderful motivation and possibly the best way to celebrate music.

Your kid will appreciate the respect you show not only by giving the gift of music, but by allowing them to share that gift at will.

Avoiding these potential pitfalls is a great way to get maximum benefit out of of music lessons, and probably make the experience more fun for not only your kid, but you, too.

Why it’s awesome to leave your kid alone during music lessons.

Moms Share the Benefits, Challenges of Taking Music Lessons

Moms Share the Benefits, Challenges of Taking Music Lessons

Mom and daughter at piano

Music teacher Jacqueline enjoys musical quality time with her daughter.

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.”

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.

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