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Get involved in your child’s music education

Tips for raising a musical child

tips to get involved in child's music education

If you have a child in public school, there’s a good chance that music is part of his school day. As someone who has been teaching music in elementary schools in the Hudson Valley for the last 10 years, I’d like to offer some tips for getting involved in your child’s music education at home:

Not musical? No problem!

You don’t have to be musical yourself to help your child develop musically.

“Music should be a part of the home environment even if, as parents, we don’t feel talented or schooled enough in music,” says Paul Scatenato, former director of fine arts for Hyde Park schools. “Parents can still expose their children to a wide variety of music. Just as we are told to read to our children every day, we should be singing to them.”

READ MORE: Is earlier better when it comes to music lessons?

Music is fun, but it’s also work

Like most things in life, music is more fun when you’re good at it. That’s why practice, both alone and with others, is necessary.

Take video games, for example. Playing is fun, but you still have to practice to reach each new level — and then it gets even more fun!

Commitment is also key, says Scatenato. “You’re going to set your child up for failure if you go into it saying, ‘We’re going to try it for a month.’ Be in it for the long haul.”

There is no one “easiest” instrument to play

The “easiest” instrument for your child to learn to play is the one he likes best and suits him physically and musically.

“If your child expresses interest in any musical instrument, and their attention span is there, then go with what they love,” says Mike Benninger, director of The New Windsor Music Academy and Fishkill Music Academy. “If they’re having fun with it, they’ll learn and enjoy it. If they’re not having fun, then it becomes more difficult to stick with it.”

Exposing your child to instruments before it’s time to choose — by attending concerts or watching clips of musicians on YouTube — will help him to make an informed decision.

However, keep in mind that not every instrument matches every child’s abilities. Most schools perform physical evaluations and aptitude tests before assigning instruments. Trust your music teacher to know that a child with a great ear for pitches and long arms might be very successful on trombone.

READ MORE: HV mom notices wonderful results from her child's music education

If you buy instead of rent, do your research.

“The quality of your musical instrument will either enable or deter you from truly expressing yourself both in sound and performance,” says Mark Mikolajeski, a music teacher in Pleasant Valley.

Mia Chong, an Arlington band director, agrees: “Just as you wouldn't purchase a car without doing your research or taking it for a test drive, you should consult an expert like a music teacher or professional musician before making a major purchase.”

Voice as instrument

There is one instrument every child possesses that doesn’t cost a thing and is fun to use: her voice! However, even if your child doesn’t have a natural singing voice, don’t assume she’s not musical. Children who can’t carry a tune can still have remarkable rhythmic or auditory abilities.

It’s not the time that counts, it’s how you use it.

“Quality of practice is a lot more important than quantity of practice,” says Renee Hughes, an Arlington music teacher. “There are students who can do in 15 minutes of practice time what other students can’t do in 30 minutes.”

Stay on top of your child’s music assignments to be sure he’s focusing on the required skills and songs.

Start early

Children still too young for school? Make singing, dancing and playing toy instruments part of your daily activities.

Listen to children’s music in the car, make up silly songs about brushing teeth or changing clothes, have a five-minute “dance party,” or sing lullabies as part of a bedtime routine.

Early childhood music programs are also a great local option. “Children are born musical people,” says Elizabeth Clifton, a teacher with Mid-Hudson Music Together. “Early childhood music classes give children and parents the experience of making music together in a playful environment, so they can take the fun home into their daily lives.”

READ MORE: Find the right after school activity HERE

Practicing is a life skill

There is some debate over whether music actually makes you ‘smarter,’ but there’s no question that practicing music is an excellent work habit.

Developing the habit of practicing helps children with their ability to self-regulate, notes willpower researcher Todd Heatherton in his book “The Power of Habit.”

Help your child stick to a set practice schedule, build on the previous day’s learning, and focus on the problem-solving aspect of music, and she will be able to tackle further challenges later in her education.

Music is like a sport

Music and sports are often pitted against each other, but they’re remarkably similar. They both need to be practiced individually, but performed in groups. They both build camaraderie, teamwork and social skills. And they both provide a powerful feeling of belonging that can do wonders for a child’s confidence.

Concerts are like championship games

Most kids only get to play in a handful of concerts a year, and spend weeks or months preparing for them. Therefore, they are extremely important. When you’re attending a concert, remember how much work went into it, and how excited the kids are. Give the performers your full attention and keep nurturing your family’s musical gifts.

Leanne Sowul lives with her family in Poughkeepsie.