One, of the most common questions that parents have for music teachers, is how they can be more involved in their child’s music education.
Sometimes it can feel like there is a divide between what happens in the lesson room and what happens on a daily basis at home.
Parent engagement equals success in music lessons.
There are many ways to approach parent engagement.
Here are a few effective ways to encourage your student’s parents to get involved more meaningfully in their child’s musical development:
EXPERIENCE MUSIC TOGETHER
Often, children feel they have very different musical tastes than their parents, and this can certainly be true.
Parents can go to live performances together to establish a musical connection with their children.
This can be any kind of music, whether it’s more to the child’s liking, more suited to the parent’s sensibilities, or somewhere in-between.
The important thing is to experience music together and to talk about it afterward.
Discuss what your impressions were: what you liked and didn’t like, what surprised you, and what inspired you.
Take advantage of the connections you make in these interactions, and you will see your musical relationship grow very naturally.
On a more daily basis, listen to music while at home or in the car. This is the easiest way to connect with your child about music.
Go so far as to invite music to be a part of your family, whether it’s while you’re doing chores at home, driving to school, or just relaxing on the weekend.
When possible, take the time to have sessions of “active listening” – not just passively hearing background sounds, but focusing on the music and talking about it afterward.
Enjoying and discussing music through these kinds of experiences will help you get to know each other’s musical sides much better, which will open the door to getting more personally involved in your child’s education.
TAKE A MORE ACTIVE ROLE
Once you’ve established a relationship with your child regarding music, it becomes much easier to take an active role in their music education.
The best way to begin this is to ask them specific questions concerning what they are working on and how their lessons are going.
Too often, parents ask the obligatory “Did you practice?” and “For how long?” without following up with more in-depth questions.
Find out what exactly what they are working on, how it is different from the other pieces or technical exercises, what do they find easy or difficult, what they like or dislike about it, and what they aspire to be able to play.
It’s essential to ask your child how they think they are doing in their practice and lessons.
If the child is struggling to stay disciplined in practice, you can help them set up a practice schedule that is easy to maintain.
Overall, encourage self-appraisal and always be supportive, since self-criticizing isn’t easy for any of us to do!
SET GOALS INDEPENDENTLY OF THEIR TEACHER’S GOALS
The next step in taking an active role in your child’s musical development is to set goals independently of their teacher’s goals.
The teacher will always have the dominant role as an educator, and this can make the parent-child dynamic seem less important.
The best way to remedy this is to come up with activities that don’t directly involve the timelines of what they are doing in lessons, for instance, set up family concerts at home or have recording projects that you do together and share with family and friends.
Reinforce the idea that music is not just about preparing for lessons and competitions but is something that enriches the lives of all of your loved ones.
If your child responds well to this approach, make it into a family ritual, and your musical relationship will strengthen further.
Along with these ideas, it is helpful and fun to play duets with your child if you have basic skills on any instrument, particularly piano.
Playing together is truly the most direct way to establish an active role in your child’s musical life, so if needed, you can take lessons as an adult to share the experience.
GET MORE PERSONAL
An important aspect of understanding your child’s musical education is to have honest conversations with them about their experiences.
You can talk to them about their musical aspirations, what makes them nervous or anxious when performing, or what kinds of music they are interested in.
As they reach adolescence, it becomes crucial to discuss with your child how they see their future regarding music, whether as a career path, as a serious hobby, or just an appreciation.
These kinds of discussions are much easier to have if you’ve already established a supportive relationship when it comes to music, and with the advice of their teacher, you will be able to help your child realize his or her musical aspirations as an adult.
Above all, remember that parent engagement = success in music lessons.
About the Author: This guest post about parent engagement in private music lessons is by Carter McMullen from the Baltimore School of Music. You can read more about Carter and his work below.
Carter McMullen is a piano teacher at the Baltimore School of Music. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgia State University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, both in Piano Performance. He continued his music studies at conservatories in Paris, France and London, England.
Carter maintains an active performing schedule including solo and chamber music, instrumental and vocal accompanying, and jazz. He toured South America three times with the Chase Educational Foundation, giving concerts and masterclasses in Argentina and Chile, and has performed in concerts in France, Italy, the UK, and the US. He regularly collaborates with performance students at the Peabody Institute.
In 2017, Carter founded the Union Square Chamber Music Society, and as Artistic Director, he organizes monthly salon concerts in which he regularly takes part as a performer.
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