|Clara M. Czegeny,
Master Piano Teacher
Paris Academy of
Paris, Ontario, Canada
|7 New Year Resolutions for Music Students and Families
Jan 22, 2015
Here is much truth in the African proverb which loosely translated reads “It takes a village to
raise a child.” And it takes a community to recognise and foster musical talent in a child. The
beginning of the New Year is a good time to reflect on what we parents, as a community can do
to nurture a love of music among our children, and take them to their fullest potential.
Here are a few suggested resolutions that can help achieve this.
1. Make practice time a daily routine: Practice makes perfect. If there is one big lesson to be
learned from the El Sistema music revolution and from so many successful music programs
around the world, it is that daily contact with the instrument makes all the difference. This is in
keeping with the “10,000-Hour Rule” (based on a study by Anders Ericsson) referred to by
Malcolm Gladwell in his bestselling book Outliers, in which he examines the factors that
contribute to high levels of success. The Rule states that success in any field is to a large
extent a matter for practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Gladwell
provides examples ranging from the Beatles to Bill Gates to illustrate this point.
Admittedly this is not easy, and I struggle with this even now. For young school-and college-
goers, where there are huge demands on their time from mainstream academic work, this poses
an even greater problem. So the sensible advice would be to keep it real and simple.
2. Find an optimal time and duration that works for your child. Some children find that they are
freshest and at their most alert before they set out for school, while others might find music a
good way to unwind at the end of the day.
Concert violinist Nicola Benedetti is the driving force behind music education initiatives in the
UK (Sistema Scotland and Big Noise). She is vocal in her campaign for daily practice: “When I
have been to people’s homes, I’m just trying to give an idea about practice –about parents
supporting practice and not giving in if the kids don’t want to do it. They have to do it! At some
point in your life, you’re going to have to execute a certain number of hours of work in order to
get paid, and that is just what life consists of. If you want to get into that habit, it’s easier to learn
that as a child than it is to learn it at 18. You’re doing yourself a disservice in not trying to apply
any kind of discipline at a young age.”
Benedetti is involved with the Sistema Scotland music education and its Big Noise Orchestra
PHOTO: Marc Marnie.Benedetti is involved with the Sistema Scotland music education and its
Big Noise Orchestra Photo: Marc Marnie.
3. A young child requires the most support in the initial years, when s/he is learning the
“grammar” of the music “language”. Playing open strings on a violin and scales on a piano can
seem tedious unless some encouragement is given by the support group of family, friends and
teachers. Hopefully once the basics are grasped, an innate love for the “language” will create
an inner drive to practice without prompting. A word of encouragement and praise in
acknowledgement of hard work can work wonders. But it can be a double-edged sword. Too
much of it lavished without justification could make a child complacent.
4. If practice is fun, it ceases to be a chore. It was instructive watching the learning games used
by Suzuki teachers to get even under-fives to seek out the instrument every day. Regarding the
bow as a train travelling on different ‘tracks’ between the fingerboard and bridge, playing out
rhythms like ‘Miss-is-ipp-i hot-dog’, But-ter-fly’, and ‘cat-ter-pill-ar’ are much more interesting
than following vague principles for an under-five.
5. When I was growing up, although we received music instruction, not much time was spent on
advising us on how to practice at home, on how to optimise the use of practice time. This gets
even more crucial today, when so many demands are made on our children. It is a good idea to
begin a practice journal for your child, which can initially be filled out by an adult, and gradually
the responsibility for this can be transferred to the child. A child old enough to think for
him/herself should be encouraged to ask why s/he is playing a scale or study exercise; why a
certain passage presents a problem, and what can be done to ‘fix’ it. Learning a challenging
work can be frustrating, and it helps to learn it a lot slower, and then work it up to the desired
tempo. The time set aside for practice can be seen as a large ‘pie’, and various ‘slices’ of that
pie can be allotted to different aspects, for instance one quarter of the time for scales and
arpeggios, a third for exercises and intonation, and the rest for working on ‘real’ music.
For many beginning students, practicing scales may seem like the least interesting part of their
practice routine. However, as professional musicians of all genres and instruments know, a
proficiency in the relevant scales can carry your musicianship to the advanced level.For many
beginning students, practicing scales may seem like the least interesting part of their practice
routine. However, as professional musicians of all genres and instruments know, a proficiency
in the relevant scales can carry your musicianship to the advanced level. Photo:
6. Get involved: It is not for nothing that parental involvement is such a crucial component of
the Suzuki ‘method’ of teaching and playing of an instrument. Indeed, the Suzuki philosophy
invites the parent to study the instrument as well, even insisting that parents be present at
each session. Even if this is not possible, taking an interest in one’s child progress is
something a child can instinctively sense, and it spurs him/her to greater heights.
7. Daily practice teaches you so much more than just music. In an earlier article ‘Music and
Intelligence’, we had seen how Nobel Prize winner Thomas Sudhof had recalled the importance
of his bassoon teacher from his childhood in instilling him the discipline that held him in very
good stead for his professional career.
Article - Courtesy
Written by Dr. Luis Dias