In our schools, music education, like art education, competes for time and resources with academic subjects—and often loses. Many schools view music as an unnecessary frill. However, music education is more than singing songs or playing instruments; it offers children important and diverse learning experiences.
It involves learning to enjoy and value music of different kinds. It involves learning about the cultural heritage of different countries from their music. And it involves learning to create and perform music, which can be a source of great esteem to students, especially those who struggle academically.
Even if your child takes music lessons in school, you may want to pursue lessons from a third party. If so, choose a music teacher with care. A good one can make the difference between an enjoyable experience and an unpleasant one. Consult with other parents and interview one or more teachers before making a decision.
There are different schools of thought about the proper age to begin taking lessons. Factor into your decision your child’s age, maturity, motivation, attention span, and schedule, as well as the demands of the instrument. Some children may be ready at age 5 or 6, others not until 8 or 9. Even if your child starts a year or so later than her peers, she will most likely catch up with time.
You also need to consider your child’s willingness to practice. Treat her practicing much like you do homework by scheduling a regular time. If she strongly resists, consider dropping the lessons. She may go back to the instrument at a later time. If she practices only occasionally but still enjoys playing, stay with it in the hopes that she will play more as she improves. What you want to avoid is a daily battle with your child.
You can nurture your child’s interest in music in other ways. Very young children love to march to music while playing instruments. A set of instruments, including a triangle, cymbals, bells, drum, and woodblock, can be found in most toy stores.Make music a part of your family experience, through singing together, attending concerts, or watching musical programs. Your child may protest your choice of music, but her early exposure to different kinds may eventually lead to her later appreciation. Encourage her to join the school chorus, which is typically open to all who want to join, and the school band or orchestra.
A recent study by the Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern University found that people with at least one year of musical training were better at processing sound than those with no musical training.
“We know from previous studies that if you have a robust response to sound, you’re generally a better learner,” said Nina Kraus, the lab’s director. “You’re better able to hear conversations in noisy places, your reading ability tends to be better, and your auditory memory also seems to benefit. Those skills are important.”
Dr. Kenneth Shore, a psychologist, can be reached at email@example.com.