Archive for August 20th, 2012

August 20, 2012


I’m not a music teacher, but my goal, when I started this blog, was to inspire and help young people who love music. Having worked as a professional musician and composer for most of my life, and having been involved in my kids’ music programs, I’d like to offer a few tips for the new school year.


• Choose an instrument that appeals to you, rather than the one that your friends think is cool. Experiment with different instruments, until you find one that best fits your personality and ability. Most schools and music stores offer trial rental programs and/or programs that apply rental payments to the purchase of an instrument.

• Yes, you do need to practice. Don’t fall into the “all or nothing” routine. Setting aside 20 minutes a day, or even a few times a week, is better than not practicing at all.

• Look for role models and mentors — not just your favorite recording artists, but people in your community. Park districts and teen centers often sponsor free or inexpensive concerts or workshops where you can interact with more experienced musicians. Some of the most successful musicians and composers of all time — The Beatles, for example — were once just curious kids who sought opportunities to meet like-minded, talented people. And look where it got them!


• Don’t force a particular instrument on your child because it’s the instrument you played or wanted to play. Likewise, don’t choose your child’s instrument based on gender. Once upon a time, girls played flutes and clarinets and the brass and percussion instruments were reserved for boys. Thankfully, times have changed. At most schools, you now see kids of either gender playing any instrument they like. Keep in mind that if your child is not happy with his or her instrument, practice will not be a priority and it’s even less likely that he or she will want to participate in school music at all.

• Show up for your child’s performances. Just as student athletes would be discouraged if no one showed up to cheer for them at the big game, music students want and need your applause and your approval. Make every effort to attend your child’s recitals, concerts and athletic events where your child is a member of the marching band or pep band. Kids and teens don’t always admit it, but your presence (or lack thereof) matters to them. When they don’t see your face in the auditorium or the stadium, it sends a negative message: “My parents think this is a waste of time, so why am I bothering to play music?”

• In this tough economy, many schools are struggling to keep both sports and music programs alive. Parent-run boosters’ clubs often must come to the rescue. If your child’s school doesn’t have a music boosters’ organization, “band together” (pardon the pun) with other parents to start one. Every dollar helps, whether it’s raised through a bake sale, a silent auction, creating small music ensembles to perform at private parties and so on. Do check with teachers and school administrators to make sure that proper policies and guidelines are followed.


• I have a lot of respect and admiration for hard-working men and women who have the patience and dedication to share their love of music with kids and teens. Dealing with a wide variety of kids and their parents and their various temperaments has to be enormously challenging. Having said that, when I was growing up and when my kids were in school music programs, there were always a few music students who stood out for the wrong reasons. Either they were the class clown, they were cocky and rude or maybe they were excessively timid or falling asleep in class. Before judging that child as a troublemaker or slacker, please stop to consider circumstances that might not be visible. The child may be facing a crisis at home or he/she may have an undiagnosed illness or learning disability. Helping that child to “fit in” in a music program may be a lifeline, a reason for him or her to care about coming to school.


Best wishes for an exciting and successful year of school music.