What mental requirements are necessary before the child should start playing an instrument?
When speaking of mental requirements, I am not referring to a mentally challenged or impaired child. I am speaking of the average child with the usual mental capacity. To succeed at any musical instrument, the student must be able to understand the importance of regular practice. Practicing regularly to some might mean “practice when you feel like it” or “when it is convenient”. This is the type of student that will most likely tire quickly of the discipline required for advancement on a brass instrument. I have never found practicing to be either fun or enjoyable, yet I do it every day. This dedication is also referred to as “paying your dues”. If I don’t practice, I don’t improve. If I don’t improve, I’m not satisfied with myself.
Would it be best to start now or wait till later in their development?
This is one of the most difficult questions to be answered for each child is different. One observation I would like to share with you is the issue of the parent’s aspirations and the aspirations of the child. A very good example of parent’s wishes over powering the child’s desire is the argument for and against the very young children competing in pre-teen beauty contests. I will not voice my opinion as to the values of these contests for I have no interest or experience in this area. What I have seen on increasing occasions, are parents entering their children in contests where the parent is trying to live the experience through their child and forgetting that the child may not be interested in the experience. A very good place to see this happening is on Youtube.com. The number of very young children being exploited by their own parents is staggering. The sheer dangers of posting videos of your child on line for everyone to see are extremely questionable in the least. I am puzzled why videos such as this one have been posted on a world wide site. I have no issue with recording your child for a family history or even for sharing with family members, but what benefit is gained by posting videos such as this?
If your reason to start your child at a very young age is to be able to show your friends what a very talented young person he or she is, by all means, invite your friends to your house and let them demonstrate their talents, but please do not do what hundreds of parents are doing every day by posting videos of their children to the world.
What advantage would be achieved by starting the student at a very early age?
I live in Branson, Missouri, known for years as the “Live Music Capitol of the World”. We have over one-hundred shows going on at any time during our peak seasons and many of the entertainers are very young. Several of the shows feature entire families and included in their shows are children all the way down to the age of two. Audiences are amazed at the talent of these miniature people as they mount the stage, and sing and dance at unbelievable levels of musicianship. Audiences are impressed to the point that they many times think their young child could be the next star on stage and begin to fantasize on their child’s possibilities in the future. Unfortunately the parent does not realize that same tiny person has known nothing but entertainers around them their whole life (two years) and in many cases knows nothing else but showbiz. The same thing happens on television most evenings as younger and younger children are paraded in front of the cameras every night.
Personally, I feel that for most children, the time to begin playing a brass instrument is when the band directors visit the schools and explain what the local band program is all about. In some cases this happens around the fourth or fifth grade level. By this time the child is beginning to understand what is required for success in any area and will be mature enough to understand the necessity of regular practice and will be willing to work towards success.
What are the expectations of the parent when starting a young child on an instrument?
Before you decide to start your child on an instrument, ask yourself these questions-
- Is my child interested in starting to play an instrument or am I interested in having them play an instrument?
- Is my child interested in music or do they have more interest in another activity?
- Will my child have enough interest in music to continue with the required time studying?
- Will my child enjoy the experience and want to continue?
- Am I willing to support my child in the added activities which accompany their musical activities?
Even though I have asked many questions and offered many suggestions as to the importance of deciding on an instrument for your child, one point I would like to make in closing is this- “Even if it doesn’t work out, it is not life threatening”. Even if your child does not decide to play an instrument, the world of music is available to all and the beauty of music can be appreciated by a nonplaying musician as well as the most gifted.
You may find this site also helpful when selection your child’s first musical instrument- Selecting an instrument to study Parts 1-4