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Music to your Ears: Advice on exposing your children to music

By David Hoffman

Music to your Ears

I am a musician. I have been a musician since I was 4, when I began to play the piano. I have been surrounded by music all of my life, as my parents cared very deeply about music, and all the arts. As children, my brother, two sisters and I were taken to symphony concerts, band concerts, museums of all sorts, the Muni Opera in St. Louis, The Old State Capitol Art Fair, Dance Recitals and to numerous other events, on a very frequent basis. Not a week went by without some exposure to the arts. I think they did it for several reasons. One is that they were both musicians, my father playing trumpet and my mother piano.

They had developed that appreciation for all things creative in their childhood, and it was natural to pass it on. They also wanted to be sure that we were exposed to all things artistic. It created a natural interest that all of us have retained. I have been a professional musician since age 15, my brother Steve is the music director at his church, and Chery and Fianna have both danced from childhood, and continue to dance to this day.

I will now concentrate on music, since it is my area of expertise, but this all applies to any sort of creative activity.

The earlier in life you expose your children to live music, the greater chance that it will become a part of who they are. Live music differs VERY much from listening to recorded music. No matter how good the recording, it pales in comparison with hearing (and seeing) real instruments, being played by musicians working together to create the sound. It makes even more of an impression when parents are involved in the making of music. I remember the sense of pride and involvement when I was small, seeing my father play in the symphony. Just this summer, when playing with my friend Kevin Hart, his daughter Madison shouted from the audience “That's my daddy!!”. Kevin was pretty pleased at that too.

Outdoor concerts are particularly good places to expose your children to music. There the children don't have to be quiet. They don't have to sit in their seats. They can dance. In fact, at one particularly hilly venue, Ali and Madison were entertaining themselves by rolling down the hill, all while listening to very good music. These concerts are fun and relaxing for parents as well. And the musicians appreciate an audience as well. Everyone benefits.

Having musical instruments around the house encourages exploration: pianos or keyboards, guitars, drums, percussion instruments. If they are there, they will be touched. Musical instruments are fascinating to children. They want to know how they work, how they create sound. And when you get a sound on an instrument,

it's exciting and fulfilling for them.

As parents, you also have to insist that the schools your children attend have music programs from preschool on. Many schools have eliminated general music courses from their curriculum. This is the worst thing possible. Do not allow it. Demand a balanced education for your children, including a healthy dose of ALL the arts.

Band and Orchestra usually starts in the 5th Grade. When your children ask to play an instrument, encourage that. You can rent instruments at local music stores inexpensively, with an option to buy if your child has a continued interest. Private lessons are extremely helpful, even at the very beginning. 30 minutes a week of one-on-one time with a teacher can make a huge difference. Quick progress means that your children will not easily get discouraged. A band director does not have time for individual instruction. Just make sure that your private instructor is good with beginners. Not all are. Some expect too much too soon and some get impatient with younger students.

Practice at home is a must for progress on an instrument. At the beginning, 15 minutes a day will go a long way. No matter what kinds of atrocious noises are coming from the instrument, be enthusiastic and encouraging. It will gradually improve, sometimes very gradually. It will soon become music to your ears.

David Hoffman