I believe that music has the power to heal, change and inspire. There is something magical about the power of music in drawing people towards it like how bugs are drawn to light. For this reason, I believe that every child should be given the exposure and opportunity to learn and appreciate different kinds of music as antidote to different kinds of minds!
How do we do that? Before you start checking out all the music schools in town, I would recommend these for you to adopt in your family:
1. Be interested in music yourself!
A family that has no music at all available to the children as well as adults is like living in a vacuum! But in today’s world of mp3’s and mp4’s, the YouTube generation has never been better equipped to access the world of music! But what kind of music? Start with the music you like. Light classics perhaps, or jazz or traditional music. Play music at home and in the car. Go for concerts and recitals – there are free ones and inexpensive ones available – check out kakiseni.com for local performances. I enjoy classical music very much, and I would bring the kids for concerts and performances at the MPO and other local concert halls. Although they kind of enjoyed them, they were not inspired enough to want to take up classical music. So I also brought them to various singer-songwriters’ recitals in KL, the most memorable was Shelley Leong, Maria Digby and recently, Grason Chance, Joe Brooks, Yuna and Taylor Swift (Singapore concert). These seem to have greater impact on my girls as they are into song-writing now, especially Amrita, who is aspiring to make a career out of it.
2. Be interested in the music your kids like.
I know this can be a tough one, especially when their musical taste can be quite a challenge for you to appreciate! But do try to understand why the like them and what makes them excited about the music. You will then begin to understand your child better! Our Sam always goes for unconventional types of music. At three I taught he the piano. But she preferred to compose her own music. At six she asked for a violin. But after many expensive lessons, she said she doesn’t like the music they teach, which was mainly classical. Then she wanted to learn the electric guitar. Got her that too during her intensive swimming training stint in Seremban where she lived with her grandparents, away from us. That didn’t work out and she moved back home. Lessons stopped. Then she discovered hip hop music and to our dismay, RAP music! She was blasting Eminem day in and day out much to my chagrin! But I believe everything happens for a reason. And one day, the answer came in the form of hip hop dancing. Sam was smitten and the rest is history now! She made a declaration that hip hop is her thing and this is what she is going to do for the rest of her life! And dancing has certainly changed her life, and that in turn, changed ours!
This can be a tough one. It is even tougher when you are a music teacher yourself. I am quite particular about getting the right teacher for the child. A teacher can make or break a student so do not just get any teacher you can find or the cheapest in town! One extremely annoying thing I have found with music schools here is that when you tell them you want to learn piano or guitar or drums, they will immediately tell you the available slots they have. But we are not interested in “slots”. We want to know what kinds of teachers they have and whether they will be well-suited to the learning styles of our children! Our son Arian came out of his first drum class almost in tears. When his teacher walked out of the room, we immediately knew why. He was an unsmiling, un talking, aloof kind of teacher who teaches like a robot and expect his students to be like one! Immediately we asked to switch teachers requesting for a more child-friendly one. Thank goodness his new teacher knows how to make him feel comfortable and motivated to learn!
4. Support them all the way!
Learning an instrument takes lots of practice and they feel most motivated when the music they are playing is relevant to their interest. With the right teacher to motivate them, they will put in hours of practice on their own. But for younger children, you may need to motivate them with encouragement and enjoyment of their playing. When the child is ready, they will want to go all the way in their music. Just like how Sam feels now about all the musical instruments she is learning – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, ukulele, violin, vocals and drums! Let them learn on their own first – the YouTube can be very helpful – and when thy feel ready to learn deeper, you can then search for the right teacher. Our kids teach one another too! Arian teachers his sisters drumming, and they in turn teach him the guitar. The sharing of knowledge and skills amongst siblings and friends is vital in sustaining their interest in playing and performing. Amrita started an Open Mic as a platform for teenagers to share their music with one another. That is a wonderful way to share what you have learnt at music class!
Talent is made, not born. Everyone can enjoy music. Take the journey now!