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Personal plea to not overload your kids

Every day when I teach in the Summer, kids tend to come to their lessons full of energy and life. We have a great time making music together, and gaining understanding about how music works.

And then Fall happens.

Kids come to lessons after they’ve had to wake up really early to spend 10 hours cooped up behind a desk in a cinder block building. Days are getting shorter, and sometimes 6pm lessons feel like midnight. For many of them it’s a rough time. To make this about me, when they’re not happy, I’m not happy. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Learning music is a discipline, and as such, it requires hours and hours of hard work. Fun work, yes, but definitely hard work. I don’t have easy answers to the problem. By all means encourage your kids to work hard for what they want. But when there’s an opportunity for them to take a nap, go to a movie, go to a concert, or whatever it is they like to do that makes them who they are, please let them take it. Even if it means playing hooky from school. (There, I said it.)

Help them at home to let their music time be THEIR music time. It can be hard to make that happen on a schedule, but for some kids that’s what works. Piano time CAN’T be effective if the child’s mind is on the math homework they’re dreading because they don’t understand it. Or the soccer game tonight. Or the kid that’s mean to them at school.

Music time should be the time when all of that other stuff goes out the window. It’s a time to be reckless, wild, elegant, and exuberant. It’s a time to experiment. It’s a time to add beauty to the universe, even if it’s just in their own little hearts.

A college degree is less a guarantee of success now than at any time in the last 70 years. The best we can do to make sure the little people thrive long after we’re gone, is to make sure they know how to enjoy themselves, and how to be caring and loving toward themselves and the world around them. Music is something that will be there for them not just when things are going great, but also when they DON’T get that job or when that relationship DOESN’T work out.

Maybe I’ve gotten a little off topic. But I hope that this Fall, when the Sun is setting earlier and earlier, and the scorching heat of Summer becomes a distant memory, music will bring your kids (and me, and you) to LIFE. That a few extra minutes learning an F Minor scale or picking out a song by ear, might just be worth an incomplete homework assignment, or a missed soccer game. That there are better things in life than living up to others’ expectations.

Easy for me to say; I’m not a parent, right?! Maybe, but this is how I see it. Thanks for reading, and I’m looking forward to some great music making this Fall. Lessons resume next Tuesday, September 3. See ya then!

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