Archives for April 2015

How Parents can Change Their Family Tree Through Their Child’s Music Education

558856_175488069304085_1570677219_nWhat if everyone believed that there was no such thing as natural talent and inborn gifts?

Our world is obsessed with discovering innate abilities.  Our media — and subsequently our schools — have created a culture where most people believe that we all have fixed and inborn gifts, as opposed to skills that can be built and developed.  But what if children were taught that all of the greats from Beethoven to Einstein to Tiger Woods were (and are) just like us — ordinary people who were not born great, but instead achieved greatness over time?

It’s more intriguing to buy into the myth of inborn gifts and beliefs that certain people are wired certain ways.  This kind of talk is pervasive in our culture, and I believe it holds millions of children back from achieving greatness in their lives — especially once they enter school.  With the rise of standardization and conformity through standards-based testing, it is harder for schools to spend time ensuring no child becomes stuck in their perceived rank of intelligence and creative potential.

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Why Students Don’t Like School (and How Music Instruction Changes That)

Kinhaven 2014-269We have learned more about how the brain works in the last decade than ever before. Even with all the new knowledge we have about how children learn, our schools have been slow to adapt accordingly.  In my time as a teacher and administrator, I have often been amused to see school leaders and academic teachers scrambling to adjust their delivery of instruction to match what music teachers have been doing all along  — engaging all children regardless of ability level and exploiting their natural curiosity.

By the time instrumental music enters school curricula around the fourth or fifth grade, most students have been divided into “haves” and “have-nots” academically — or, if you will, “smart” kids and kids who need extra help and time on task with test prepping.  By middle school, students are aware of their academic “levels” and begin to either engage fully in — or turn off and run away from — their schoolwork.

But instrumental music instruction hits a “reset button” of sorts, and levels the playing field again — everyone starts at “level zero”, and teachers and administrators are often surprised at who ends up thriving in instrumental music.  It’s not always the students they considered to be the “smart ones”.

It’s through musical instrument instruction that schools have a beautiful opportunity to share music teachers’ best practices with the academic teachers.  Great music instruction teaches habits of the mind that are recipes for success in every other academic endeavor.  Here are some of those lessons:

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An End-of-Year Letter to New Music Parents

_A3O9969Dear Parents:

As our school year winds down, I would like to congratulate you on completing the first year of your child’s instrumental music study!  It’s amazing to think that only a few months ago, your child chose an instrument that  “spoke to” them, and opened the case for the first time.  We take this time to celebrate not only the hard work of your children, but also the mindsets that they have developed through their successes and their failures throughout their musical journey thus far.

It’s a fact that the majority of people who are literate in music learn it in a school setting, and we are extremely fortunate to provide music instruction through our school curricula.   If students were not part of our school music program, there is very little chance they would seek to develop their musical skills outside the school setting — and that would be detrimental to their human growth.

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Why the First 2 Months of Being a Music Parent are the Most Important

Kinhaven 2014-550I often observe that many parents hold some age-old assumption that musical talent is God-given or inherited, but let’s be clear:  everyone possesses musical talent to some degree.  I believe the high attrition rate of students between the first and second year of musical instrument study in school music programs is partly due to parents who are unsure of how to help their child develop their talents.

Regarding these beginner students who only have one lesson per week in school, the questions remain :

How can parents cultivate their child’s talent in its early stages?

How can their child gain a lot of progress in the small amount of time school offers music instruction?

The habits created during the first two months after a child receives their instrument have a lot to do with whether or not the child will continue playing beyond the first year of study.  Parents play a huge role during this 8 week “window”, and with minimal guidance their child can be set up for a lifetime of musical enjoyment and character development.

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