A graduate of Shenandoah Conservatory of Music (BME) and Concordia University (MEd in Curriculum and Instruction), Shannon loves to teach!
Learning to Play an Instrument Helps Students in Other Subject Areas
You may have heard of the "Mozart Effect." The idea is that learning to play an instrument changes brain development, and the results help us recognize patterns, organize material, retain learning, have better spatial recognition, and score higher on tests that measure IQ. This could eventually help students get accepted into colleges. There are quite a few studies out there on the net that prove this point, but the best way to see it in action is to sign your child up for piano lessons, then watch the effect unfold. Please be aware, these things take time! After initiating piano study, it will take weeks, months, even years for some of this to take effect, but, depending on the age and personality of the child, you may see great strides in academic performance sooner rather than later.
Piano Lessons Are a Great Way to Help your Child's Self-Esteem
I want to be honest with you: learning an instrument is difficult! Learning music is, essentially, like learning a different language, with the addition of a physical element using eye-hand coordination and some very fine muscle control. It is a challenge! But it is not an impossible one and a good teacher will help make that challenge fun and rewarding every step along the way. The teacher should be able to assess the student's beginning ability level, along with age and reading ability in the very young student, and then set up a curriculum plan that will lead to success. My students are so proud of themselves when they master a difficult new skill or piece of music! Recitals are exciting because we share our music with our families and fellow students, who are often astounded at how much is learning in six or twelve months' time. I also ask my students to introduce their own pieces of music during performances, which reinforces their public speaking skills.
Five Steps to Beginning a Successful Piano Learning Experience
- Make sure you understand the commitment. Learning piano, or any other musical instrument, involves regular, steady, dedicated practice. I recommend that my beginning students practice 15 minutes per day, 6 days per week. Once they are ready, practice time doubles. I know of many teachers who require 30 minutes from the beginning. Also, skipping weekly lessons is not advisable. If you're too busy to get to lessons, you're too busy to learn an instrument.
- Make sure your student has a decent instrument in good working order. You do not have to run out and buy a brand new, multi-thousand dollar piano for 6 year old Joey to learn on, but he does need a real (vs. toy) to practice on. I personally don't mind working with students who have keyboards instead of acoustic pianos, but some teachers require acoustic only, so check into that before you purchase.
- Finding a good teacher is key. We've all heard horror stories of that mean old piano teacher, smacking wayward fingers with a ruler and making students practice until the keys ran red. Honestly, I've never met a teacher like that, but I know for sure that some are stricter than others. Ask current students/parents for referrals, and ask prospective teachers what their expectations are and if there is a written studio policy. When I have studio space to fill, I offer a "Try before you buy" special, with the first two lessons free in order for both sides to make sure we have a good fit. And make sure your teacher is properly qualified to teach. By this, I don't mean every piano teacher needs to have a teaching degree, but not every person who learns to play piano is going to be a good piano teacher. I know from personal experience that it takes a long, long time to unlearn bad habits after improper teaching methods.
- Make sure your student is set up to succeed. I understand that today's students are immersed in electronics and seem to be able to multitask with no issues, but being able to concentrate is important during practice. Please locate the instrument in your home in an area away from family noise, if possible. If that is not possible, please respect practice time for the student by keeping the television off, conversations in a different area, and younger siblings occupied so they can give their practice their full attention. It is also important that they have good lighting in their practice area, and that their materials are easily accessible.
- Make your student's successes a big deal! Think of it this way: if your child scored the winning touchdown or goal, or hit the walk-off home run, you'd celebrate, right? Every performance is a WIN, and every new song mastered is a step toward that big moment. Maintain interest in what they're working on and expand on their learning by showing them you hear them and understand what good work they are doing.
© 2018 Shannon T Flynn