“The early years of piano, and guitar allowed me to have a head start in music. When I became serious, this greatly benefited my progress. In other words: every lesson is an investment in your child’s musical future.”
The date is November 1982. An eight-year-old boy is taking a Suzuki guitar class in Columbia, SC. The teacher works hard to teach fun and educational songs but ultimately the student is more interested in what his friends are doing outside on a sunny day.
Impatient and immature, and similar to a scene out of Where the Wild Things Are, as the teacher has his back to the student the little boy takes his right hand and squeezes the strings as hard as he can. He breaks his guitar strings and says, “uh oh, my guitar is broken, I need to go outside” and bolts for the door.
Thankfully I can say in the 7 years that we’ve operated the school, we’ve never had a child behave that way. So why do I tell you this story? Because I know that many of you are asking yourselves, “Is my child practicing enough?” “I’m paying for lessons so they should be practicing an hour a day so that I get my money’s worth!”
Allow me to introduce you to the 8-year-old guitar student who behaved like a little monster that day in November of 1982. His name is Marty Fort and he is my friend. I realize that my view in this article will conflict with many of you, but I would ask that you look at Marty’s musical achievements before passing judgment regarding students and practicing: Marty holds an Undergrad and a Masters in Guitar Performance and currently has the largest teaching school in the State of South Carolina. He has come a long way from breaking guitar strings to get out of lessons.
After teaching for 15 years and working with over 1,000 students, I honestly believe that every student is different. That’s the attitude we live by at Musicology and its part of the reason why we’re able to help so many students. As a result, some students will practice an hour a day, but many won’t and they should not be given up on.
What if my parents had given up on me? My parents enrolled me in piano and guitar from age 6-9 and at age 9 I said “I NEED A BREAK!”. They didn’t listen. What if my parents had given up on me? My parents enrolled me in piano and guitar from age 6-9 and at age 9 I said “I NEED A BREAK!” They didn’t listen.At age 10, I saw the music video to “Paradise City” by Guns N Roses said, “That’s what I want to do!” I started to apply myself in lessons and I never looked back.
The early years of piano, and guitar allowed me to have a head start in music. When I became serious, this greatly benefited my progress. In other words: every lesson is an investment in your child’s musical future. Every recital is a monumental achievement that they may not appreciate for years. It’s like vegetables. I still don’t like to eat broccoli, but my wife Nena doesn’t make cookies every night!
I know that a lot of your children don’t like to practice, so I ask you to consider the following: Don’t measure practice in hours. Measure it in “what” they will play for you. Go for quality not quantity. If they will play one-60 second piece every week or so, to show you that they’re learning, you’re doing the right thing. Students need their musical broccoli (lessons) whether they use it now or in the future. Just because your child isn’t practicing today, doesn’t mean they will not practice someday.We have seen remarkable transformations with students who go from 0 to 60 because they get inspired by a concert or movie, just as I did.
Pictured on the cover is my Student Carter and this is his first year playing. As his guitar teacher, my only goal with him is that he plays a song for me once a week five times a day. I don’t’ sweat the hour per day, I just want to see him LOVE music, love guitar and progress bit by bit. This is the formula to success, so that when he is mature enough, he will have all of the right early training place. But no matter the level of your child’s practice, if they’re not breaking their instrument and running out of their lesson, I assure you, they’re doing ok!
Written By Eric Brown Instructor @ Musicology School of Music
Teacher of the Month
1. What are the things you like most about teaching? I love getting to be a positive influence in my students' lives. To be a good musician, it requires dedication and patience. These skills will help in every aspect of life, not just music.
2. How do you inspire students to practice more? I try to stress that they are capable of anything. Many times, I'll play something that the student thinks is cool or hard and I let them know that with training through practice, they are fully capable of playing anything that I or any other musician has the ability to play.
3. What part do you feel that the recital experience plays in a students’ development? Recitals and concerts are huge for two reasons. First off, it gives the students confidence. The more you get up and play in front of a crowd, the easier it becomes. The better you get at it, the more confident you become and, again, that confidence can help in many aspects of life. Secondly, it exposes the students' weaknesses. You can mess up a lot in the practice room and it doesn't really matter. When you mess up with a lot of people watching and listening, it really inspires you to try harder next time.
4. What is you favorite type of music? I love jazz and funk. I love horns; saxophones, trumpets, trombones, flute, etc. they add so much depth, punch, and sensitivity to music.
Student of the Month
1.What instruments do you play? Piano and Violin
2. How long have you taken lessons? 6 years
3. Who are your favorite musical artists? Lindsey Stirling, James Horner, Coldplay
4. What are you other hobbies, besides music? Art, Horseback ridding, and Reading.
5.Favorite Food? Pizza
6. What is the coolest thing you’ve learned in your lessons in the past three months? Improvisation for my church Youth Band
7. Do you have any performances coming up? I play every Wednesday Night, at Wall Highway Baptist Church.
Musicology School of Music teaches over 500 students a week from the Huntsville / Madison area.