Archives for 22 Mar,2010

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motivating students to practice music

I recently asked a group of parents what was the one thing they needed help with regarding their children’s music lessons, as well as something that the teacher could be working on as well.  The answer:  Motivating children to practice.

I’ve had this discussion with my own students’ parents many times.  Some parents really push their kids, and some have little to no involvement at all.  What are they doing wrong? What are they doing right? These are things they ask me.

I personally do not think that there is one right answer because every person is unique.  For example, I was a very self-motivated child and never had to be told to practice.  I just did it, and excelled at it. However, I know that some of my students don’t progress with this type of method in the home and practicing does not happen.

It can be true of the reverse as well though.  Some children may need to be reminded or pushed to practice, and therefore they excel with that type of motivation.  Whereas other children, when pushed too hard, back away or rebel.

Here are some things that I have found to help me with my students, as well as advice that I would offer to parents.   [···]

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A few weeks ago, I had a young student (age 13) be told by the music director of a local Children’s Theater group (someone I’ve been professional acquaintances with for  many years) to stop studying with me as I was teaching her to be “too classical.”  I received this information from the mother, who was getting ready to go out of town on an extended business trip.

Food for thought

I had been working with this young girl for only 6 months, and had determined that her voice had not yet begun to truly change.  We were working on getting vocal consistency and projection.  I was well aware that her goal was to sing music theater, but did not feel she was ready to try anything even approximating a belt.  She has a small soprano voice.

When I received this communication from the mother, I immediately called her to discuss my concerns.  I felt, as we hung up, that she was aware of the potential dangers of pushing this young girls voice too hard, too quickly (although she stated “I know nothing about music.”).

She tried to contact the music director the following day, and when she had not heard anything within 48 hours, I sent a follow-up email to the director.  My email said the following:

“Hey _____,

XXX’s mom said that you had a concern about where I’m taking XXX vocally/stylistically. Could you give me a call so that I can let you know where I feel XXX’s voice is developmentally and we can work on a game plan to help her have the best of everything? I know she’s really into Music Theater and I totally support that (and I love to teach broadway). I’d like to make sure we’re on the same page and can help this fabulous kid. Thanks!!!



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