You're embarking on a big musical journey! As you get into the swing of Let's Play Music classes, especially if this is your first year, take a deep breath and focus on the long-term vision. You can get to your destination by focusing on the right goals and remembering what we're out to accomplish!
S: Sing While Playing: Your voice is your first instrument, and the easiest measure of how well you are audiating music (hearing music in your mind.) When you sing in class and while your child plays the piano, it helps him feel confident that singing is not an embarrassing thing to do; it's so fun he'll join in! Even if your long-term plans don't include voice, singing at this stage of training will make you and your child better musicians. So sing while you play bells or piano!
E: Encourage: Your child probably wants to be on time to class, and he likely wants to get his homework and practicing done every week. At such a tender age, he cannot hold up these commitments without your encouragement. Show him that you want him to succeed by making homework a special time together, helping him remember to practice, and prompting to get shoes on with plenty of time to get to class.
T: Together: Eventually, you hope your child will rush to the piano every day because he finds joy in playing, practicing, and challenging himself. But this is all very new and he doesn't have a history of success and pleasure with piano yet. Right now, he practices because he trusts you and your judgement that this is a worthwhile effort. He's giving it a try because he wants to bond with you. So sit with him during the first few practices each week, snuggle with him during class, sing with him, play duets, and let him feel that playing piano is something that brings you closer together. This will have more impact on his future perceptions of music lessons than the teacher's explanation about roots of chords!
A: Applaud: Remember when your child took his first steps? You cheered and clapped! He's trying things now that are tricky and sometimes scary. He wants to know that you love him even when the notes he plays sound slow and sticky. So applaud the successes, and even more importantly, applaud the efforts! "I loved hearing you play just now, because I could tell that you were struggling but did not give up, and I appreciate that! Way to go!"
G: Giggle: Children learn most effortlessly when things are fun and lighthearted (admit it: we adults learn best when we're excited and finding fun, too!). Seize the opportunities to giggle and make the arduous tasks into silly games.
O: Overcome Hard Things: When your child is confronted with challenging assignments, be prepared to list the many difficult challenges he has overcome: learning to walk, learning to brush his own teeth, going to school alone, skipping, riding a bike, etc. "Now that these things are so easy for you, it's probably hard for you to remember that they used to be really tricky! Playing today's chords is really hard, but I know you can overcome hard things when you want to... let's keep working on it and in a few weeks this will be so easy you will feel so proud to have stuck with it!'
A: Appreciate: Every child learns at a different pace, finds ease with different aspects of the music lesson, and masters the skills in his own way. Your child longs to know that he is doing okay in your eyes, especially if his performance looks slightly different from another student or sibling. Take time to appreciate how special your musician is and honor the experience he is having. "I love when you play your songs so beautifully- it makes me happy to see you learning so much and having fun, too! I want you to know that even when the songs don't sound great, I love you. I love you because you are YOU, and I would still love you even if you weren't a musician." His sense of security will enhance his learning, whereas fear or threats tied to his musical experience might taint his future interest.
L: Laugh: Your child's first music lessons need to be joyful! The attitude established in these 3 years is likely more important than the repertoire and theory amassed (although it will be impressive! and well-retained!). As you SET A GOAL to embark on the Let's Play Music journey, keep in mind that this 3-year journey is the beginning of a lifelong journey into musicianship. Help your child launch with joy and he'll have the steam to carry him for a lifetime.
-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher