What Every Child Should Know Before Beginning to Play a Musical Instrument

What Every Child Should Know Before Beginning to Play a Musical Instrument
Embarking on the journey of learning a musical instrument is a transformative experience for children, shaping not only their musical abilities but also fostering important cognitive and emotional skills. Most people choose piano or ukulele as the first instrument, as those are the most accessible for younger children and smaller hands. Before diving into instrumental training, though, it's crucial for children to develop a strong foundation in three key areas. Outlined by Dr. John Feierabend (America's leading early childhood music educator), these 3 elements are tunefulness, beatfulness, and artfulness. Let's explore how parents and educators can facilitate the development of these essential skills to ensure a successful musical journey for every child, especially at home.

Becoming Tuneful:

Tunefulness lays the groundwork for musical proficiency by honing a child's ability to perceive and produce accurate pitches. To foster tunefulness, parents can incorporate music into daily routines, from singing lullabies to exploring a variety of musical genres together. By engaging in activities that develop pitch discrimination and encourage vocal experimentation, children develop a strong foundation in melody, setting the stage for future instrumental learning. One important point to note is -- make sure young children are not given too difficult of a song to sing. The tune should be simple and follow a predictable pattern, at least until tunefulness is acquired. Caregivers can of course model more complex songs that children will learn to sing in the future! But when assessing tunefulness, make sure children have a simple melody to sing and have heard it enough times to be familiar with it in their "musical ear."

Becoming Beatful:

Steady Beat is the heartbeat of music, making beatfulness a critical skill for aspiring musicians. Children should feel comfortable moving to the pulse of music and maintaining a steady tempo before delving into instrumental training. Children cannot accruately develop rhythm skills without first having an internal sense of steady beat. Activities such as clapping, marching, and playing beat games help children internalize this and develop coordination. By incorporating movement and beat keeping into daily activities, parents and educators lay a solid rhythmic foundation for children, ensuring they're ready to tackle the challenges of instrumental learning with confidence.

Becoming Artful:

While technical proficiency is essential, true musicality lies in artfulness – the ability to infuse emotion, interpretation, and personal expression into music. Encouraging creativity through improvisation, composition, and interpretation empowers children to find their unique voice in music. With young children, this is best practiced by doing fingerplays, action songs, and moving to music for form and expression. By fostering a supportive environment where experimentation is encouraged and individuality is celebrated while also demonstrating that the music matches the expressive intent, parents and educators nurture children's confidence and authenticity in musical expression.

Before beginning to play a musical instrument, it's essential for children to develop these 3 foundational skills. By prioritizing these and providing opportunities for exploration and expression, parents and educators set children up for a lifetime of musical fulfillment and success. With intentional guidance and support, every child can unlock their musical potential and experience the joy of making music.

For practical ideas and resources to support your child's musical journey, join us in The Classical Collective Facebook group. There, you'll find a vibrant community of parents, educators, and musicians sharing valuable practical tips, activities, and resources to enrich your child's musical development. Join us and let's make beautiful music together!

The Struggles of Music Teachers: Unveiling the Urgency for Change

The Struggles of Music Teachers: Unveiling the Urgency for Change
The Struggles of Music Teachers: Unveiling the Urgency for Change

In the education world, music teachers find themselves facing urgent challenges that are pushing them to the brink. Recent sobering statistics reveal a concerning trend, shedding light on the fact that a significant number of music educators are seriously contemplating leaving the profession.

1. Overwhelmed and Underprepared:
The statistics indicate that a mere 19.8% of music teachers feel moderately well-prepared or very prepared for their job. This suggests a glaring gap in the training and support provided to these educators. Music is a complex art, and teachers require comprehensive preparation to navigate the intricacies of imparting musical knowledge pedagogically effectively.

2. Lack of Recognition and Value:
A staggering 44.7% of music teachers express feeling undervalued, with some stating that they are only perceived as a preparation time for other teachers. This lack of recognition not only undermines the dedication of these educators but also contributes to a demoralizing work environment. Appreciation and acknowledgment are essential elements in fostering a positive and thriving teaching community.

3. Unmanageable Workloads:
The workload of music teachers is revealed in the statistic that 41% of them teach between 301 to 500 students, and some teach as many as 700 students! Such a large number of students per teacher is undoubtedly overwhelming and can compromise the quality of education provided. It also raises questions about the feasibility of creating meaningful connections with each student, hindering the holistic development of aspiring musicians.

4. The Ominous Cloud of Burnout:
The cumulative effect of these challenges is reflected in the alarming statistic that 45.5% of music teachers have contemplated leaving the profession. The specter of burnout (or what some would call compassion fatigue) looms large over these educators, driven by a combination of inadequate preparation, lack of recognition, and unmanageable workloads on top of increased student needs and demands placed on teachers outside of their necessary duties.

The Call for Change:
In the face of these statistics, it is imperative for educational institutions, policymakers, and the community at large to heed the call for change. Investing in comprehensive training programs for music educators, fostering a culture of appreciation, and addressing unmanageable workloads are essential steps in ensuring the sustainability of the music education profession.

While as a society, we must recognize the invaluable role that music teachers play in shaping the next generation of musicians and nurturing a love for the arts, we do not see society taking any actual steps in a positive direction to address these issues, which means that music teachers need to make some potentially tough decisions.

Empowering Music Educators: A Call to Action
As we delve into the challenges music teachers face, it's crucial to recognize the resilience and potential within our dedicated community. While systemic changes are necessary and unlikely, there's also this opportunity for music educators to take charge of their own destinies, especially in a world where immediate societal shifts look to be lacking.

Being self-employed allows music teachers to play to their own strengths, avoid the downsides to public education, and specialize in niche areas, catering to specific interests or skill levels. Whether it's music theory, instrument-specific instruction, community ensembles, or composition, educators can carve out a unique space for themselves, attracting students seeking specialized expertise. This is a large part of what I do through my streamlined method as I work 1-1 with teachers to customize their business and create an exit strategy, much like I did for myself. This is key because it emphasizes the unique approach each teacher brings to their craft.
In our ever-changing world, continuous learning is key. Music educators can enhance their skills and stay relevant by exploring new techniques, staying updated on industry trends, and incorporating innovative teaching methods. Music teachers would also do well to take a business course, particularly one that is updated continually with the changing times and trends (I have a great one I can recommend – ask for more info!). This commitment to growth not only benefits educators but also enriches the learning experience for their students.

The path to freelance success for music teachers is a multifaceted journey that involves personal empowerment, collaboration, specialization, and a commitment to continuous learning while implementing strategies that work for building a business in our 21st century world. By seizing the opportunities offered by the digital era and actively participating in professional development, music educators can not only find fulfillment in their careers but also contribute to the transformation of the music education landscape for generations to come without dealing with the burnout of the system. It's time for music teachers to embrace their potential, both as independent professionals and as catalysts for positive change in the world of education!

Photo by Wes Hicks 

Music Education in a Changing Educational Landscape -- Are you Ready for It?

Music Education in a Changing Educational Landscape -- Are you Ready for It?
Music Education in a Shifting Educational Landscape

In recent years, the world has witnessed a significant shift in education models, with more families exploring alternative approaches to education such as homeschooling. As traditional classroom structures evolve, so too must the realm of music education. Many music teachers now find themselves in a unique position to tap into and create opportunities for students engaged in alternative education models where the opportunities may be decreasing in the traditional schooling model. Let's explore the changing landscape of education and discuss how music teachers can adapt to better serve the needs of these students.

The Rise of Alternative Education Models:
The rise of homeschooling, online learning, and other alternative education models has been fueled by various factors. Families are increasingly seeking personalized and flexible approaches that cater to their unique circumstances and preferences. We've seen a compound annual growth rate of 10% since 2016 for homeschooling alone, and this doesn't even include the other models! This shift has opened up new possibilities for students to explore their interests in depth, and music is no exception.

Adapting Music Education:
Music teachers play a crucial role in adapting to this changing educational landscape. Here are some key ideas for tapping into and creating opportunities for students engaged in alternative education models:
  1. Flexibility in Curriculum: Recognize the diverse needs and schedules of homeschooled, online, and hybrid students. Consider developing flexible music education curricula that can be tailored to individual learning styles and time constraints. This has been a key area of research, growth, and implementation for me over the past 5 years.
  2. Utilizing Technology: Embrace technology to connect with students in virtual spaces. Offering virtual ensemble experiences and collaborative projects allows students to engage with music from their own time and space constraints.
  3. Community Involvement: Foster a sense of community among students through online forums, virtual performances, and in-person collaborative events. This not only enhances the social aspect of music education but also provides a platform for students to showcase their talents, allowing them to thrive in a way that their alternative educational opportunities may not afford in other subject areas.
  4. Adaptive Teaching Methods: Recognize that alternative education students may have varied learning styles and preferences. Explore different teaching methods, incorporating visual aids, interactive activities, and project-based learning to keep students engaged.
  5. Supporting Parents as Educators: Acknowledge the role of parents in alternative education settings and provide resources to support their efforts. Consider workshops, online resources, and guides that empower parents to facilitate their child's musical journey. This is also a big area for growth in the near future!
A final note:
Bridging the Economic Gap: Address affordability concerns. Make music education accessible by offering cost-effective options, group lessons, or community-based programs. Ensure that financial constraints don't limit a student's access to the world of music. This has been an effort of mine over recent years too, with great success!

Ultimately, the changing landscape of education brings both challenges and opportunities for music teachers. By adapting teaching methods, embracing technology, and actively creating affordable opportunities, educators can ensure that students in alternative education models receive a rich and fulfilling musical education. As we navigate these changes, the harmonious future of music education lies in our ability to evolve alongside the shifting educational paradigms while bridging the economic gap for all aspiring musicians.

What ways have you changed and evolved what you do to meet this educational shift?