Monday, October 26, 2009

Instrumental Music Lessons for Children

“When should I start instrumental lessons for my child?” is a question parents often ask me. This is a complicated question that causes a lot of parental anxiety. I usually ask the parents if the child seems interested in the instrument at this time. This is often the key to success.

For example, if your child is asking to play the piano you might well want to find a piano teacher in the area who teaches individual or group lessons for the children of the same age. Trying it won’t hurt anything. If it doesn’t work out at least your child knows that you are listening to him or her.

If your child is a preschooler you can look into parent/child music classes in your area. Classes such as Music Together, Kindermusik or Musikgarten are a great way to get a child off to a good musical start. By attending group classes with your child you show that child that you value music. During these classes you will sing, play and move to songs and music in class. You will also get a book and recording to use at home so that you can reinforce the activities used in class.

When your child reaches elementary school I hope that your child will have a music specialist who will build upon those things learned earlier in the preschool classes. In upper elementary school your child should have the option of joining the school chorus or choir. Some schools even offer instrumental music to children in fourth and fifth grade.

All of these musical activities build upon each other and stimulate the synapses in the brain that will stand your child in good stead later in his or her musical life. I’d love to hear about your child’s musical experiences – what they’ve asked for and what you have tried. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Singing Lessons for Children

I wish I had a nickel for every time a parent has asked me "Where can I get singing lessons for my child?" The answer to this is not until they have gone through puberty. Most educators and voice specialists will tell you that pre-pubescent children should NEVER be given voice lessons. Their voices are just too delicate.

Yes, we've all seen those child stars singing an aria on TV complete with adult vibratos. Many parents believe that their child could be doing the same thing. Don't even think about it. The young larynx is a delicate instrument and should be treated with the utmost of care.

We have all heard children whose voices always seem raspy and never seem to sound clear. Many things can cause this. When I teach preschooler I am always reminding them to take care of their voices. It's the only musical instrument that we're born with and we only get one. Too much yelling or loud singing can cause the vocal folds to thicken with growths such as cysts or nodules. These bumps on the chords are what gives the voice the raspy sound. To remove these growths from the chords the patient must seek voice therapy. If therapy doesn't work the chords must be removed by surgery. Imagine a surgeon operating on a child's small larynx. It's very delicate surgery.

Instead of voice lessons it is better to find a local choir or chorus where the child can be one of many singers making music together. Singing with other children using gentle singing techniques and child appropriate arrangements can foster good ear training and nurture a child's musical abilities without harming the voice. Some choirs such as The Children's Chorus of Maryland provide music training along with group singing. If money is tight be sure to check out your local churches and synagogues for choir training they provide.

I'll write more about the adolescent changing voice another time. For now I'd love to hear about your experiences with children's choirs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lullabies: Your Baby's First Musical Experience

Lullabies are usually your baby's first musical experience. Think about it. Maybe you were sung to when you were very young. There is no more intimate experience for a baby than being sung to while holding him close. Add a rocking chair and gentle rocking motion and you have the ultimate experience for baby and adult. It just doesn't get any better than this for babies or adults.

Now, what to sing. A lullaby can be any soothing song. It can be sung or hummed. Any kind of music can be used as long as it is performed quietly. I'd probably save the hard rock for another time, sometime when you'd like your child to wake up. What is your favorite quiet song? "You Are My Sunshine" works for many people. It may be a top 40 song just sung quietly. It might be a song sung to you when you were small.

Can't sing, you say? Chances are that you are a better singer than you think. Very few people are truly "tone deaf". What will it teach her if you choose not to sing because you're not good at it? The point of this activity is to set a mood and quiet the child for sleep. Secondly, it is a good time to stimulate your babies brain synapses relating to music and language. More about that later.

For a fun activity ask your parents or grandparents what lullabies they sang to you. I'm sure you'll hear some stories that you've never heard before. You might even ask them what lullabies were sung to them when they were small.

John Feierabend of Hartt School of Music researched lullabies and other children's songs by visiting nursing homes and having the residents talk about music from their youth. He came away with books of songs that he has passed on to parents and teachers.

Tell me about your favorite lullaby experience. Did your parents or grandparents sing to you at bedtime? Do you sing or play songs for your child? Please let me know. I'd love to hear your stories.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Melodically Challenged Parent

Many parents who are melodically challenged are reluctant to sing to their children. If you are one of these people I would encourage you to keep singing to your child. The children really don't care if you can sing on key or not. By singing to your child you're showing the child that you care about music and that you think that it's important.

Chances are that you are a better singer than you think. Many people are reluctant to sing because of a comment of a friend or music teacher. I shutter to think how many people have been turned off to singing by something said to them by another. The first year I taught no less than 5 fellow teachers begged me not to hold "try outs" for the choir because of their experiences in school. So many people have been scarred for life by not having been chosen for a choir or told to stand quietly and "mouth the words".

There is nothing better for a child to be rocked to sleep by a loving parent singing to them.

Monday, August 31, 2009


August 31, 2009

For years people have been asking me how I raised such musical children and for many years I've been thinking about this question. I've decided to start this blog to write down my ideas on this subject. Really, it's NOT rocket science.

Since I've been teaching preschool music for 15 years I also get questions about where to find piano and instrumental teachers and what to do after preschool music classes. I'll also be gathering some of this information. Of course I will begin with classes in the Baltimore area and after that, who knows?

My spelling and grammar can be quite ragged at times. Please let me know if I've made any mistakes that spell-checker doesn't catch and I'll be happy to correct them. I always say, "A creative mind is a messy mind. " and mine must be really creative since it's so messy.

Hm? Now to find a photo to put on the site. I just might need a new one.