“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything” – Plato
But Daniel, you ARE a music teacher! More importantly, you are MY CHILD’S music teacher!!!
Trust me, this is going to get good. Click bait? nailed it!
I teach close to 60 private lessons per week
almost all of them classical violin. I manage a moderately sized music school with 6 teachers and over 175 students. I go to great lengths creatively and financially to convince others of the value of music education. Yet, there is one area that I constantly have trouble communicating – “Is my child ‘getting it’ or am I wasting my time/money?”
Here is how the scenario plays out:
I am teaching a lesson. The student is not 100% laser focused on the task I have given them. Mother or Father says something along the lines of “If you don’t straighten up and pay attention then we are not coming back – I am not paying good money for nothing!” Ok, so that is a bit harsh. We actually have an amazing clientele who fully appreciate the work we do with their children. But let’s suppose previous students (wink) have said such things…and let’s answer the question
“Are we wasting money on music lessons?”
Many of you are losing a significant portion of your tuition. But in a totally different area than you think, and its entirely curable.
You think you are paying for someone to teach little Johnny how to play an instrument.
We are actually teaching Johnny how to practice his instrument. Huge difference. Learning to practice at home is where the magic happens. It builds discipline, a healthy relationship with commitment to growth, concrete skills that can translate into income later in life…all this doesn’t happen during the lesson – it happens at home with CONSISTENT effort over time (years). Lesson time is used to give golden nuggets of knowledge, and provide direction, inspiration and accountability. So when you are frustrated that 5 minutes were seemingly squandered out of a 30 minute lesson, understand that the real tragedy is that a majority of my students practice less than 1 hour per week… out of the 167.5 remaining non-lesson hours.
I have never had a non-productive lesson with a student that was prepared.
Isn’t that interesting? Practicing isn’t usually the most fun endeavor (especially when up against playing with friends, eating, TV, videogames…etc) and it is hard, brain-squeezing work. Yet, AFTER a budding musician has conquered a difficult passage on their own, mastered a new technique, or memorized their latest piece, they typically cannot wait to show it to me. Also, since when does desire alone determine actions? one of my favorite quotes from painter Chuck Close is “Inspiration is for Amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” I believe that teaching children to put themselves in a position for inspiration (through specific challenges) is one of the greatest gifts we as teachers can give.
Should I quit?
Does this mean if we have a few consecutive weeks of limited practice that we should quit? It depends… Is the teacher a good role model for your child? Can the child have too many encouraging people in their life? Do we teach them to quit when things are hard? OK, maybe I am biased I will say that if there are NEVER moments when your child has the sparkle of joy in their eye (in lessons, in practice or in performances) then you may want to consider finding something they are more passionate about. Too often however, children quit because they want something that gives them instant gratification and in their zeal to prove how much they want the “new” thing they make blanket statements such as “I hate music” “I want to quit”…. I used to do this occasionally. In fact, even at age 14 I would consistently pretend to be sick on lesson days so I wouldn’t have to be held accountable for my valuable practice week (which I often squandered). Usually I suggest a trial period, often finishing the current term, and then re-evaluate what can be changed to re-energize the student.
So what can we conclude?
If you want to make the most of your investment in music education – find ways to constantly improve at home (get 1% better each week at practicing) and nail the daily disciplines.
You will find that most students will re-engage in lessons almost immediately and you will then truly see the value in your time and money!
I hope you find this informative (or at least interesting)
Until next time!
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