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Encouraging the Gift of Music

Encouraging the Gift of Music

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy: But most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”  Plato

I wish I had been more “instrumental” in the lives of my children. I realized too late the lost opportunity to encourage my children to learn a musical instrument in their younger days,

My parents mandated it of me. I earned up to a grade five level in piano, and in elementary school, I learned some simple tunes on a recorder. I confess, I fought it all the way and when I became a teen they allowed me to stop. Thrilled to be released from it, I did not cultivate it and I seem to have lost it all. I’ve heard folks say, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” I feel I personify that statement.

Since I didn’t like it, I didn’t encourage my boys to the level I could have. They have sporadically engaged in lessons, but there was never a real dedication to it.

Now I see a void. I wish they had an instrument to enjoy. They are both starting to dabble at learning the guitar, but I wish I had given them a better head start. The encouragement was (and is) up to me because the influences to learn music are waning in our culture. Many K-12 schools are dropping music classes.  In many Christian colleges, music departments have experienced severely diminished enrollment. In response, some have dropped a music degree major or converted it into a broader offering called “worship” (or other similar title).

The church has real need of more trained musicians. The days of the Salvation Army band playing on the corner are dwindling. In general, churches have fewer choirs, less soloists, less choral groups, and so on.  Many churches are hurting to find folks to play in their services. The offertory special music is becoming rare (some churches actually do the announcements or other business aspects of the church during the offering, taking the stewardship of giving out of the worship realm.

Learning music helps the church, but more importantly to me, it helps the child. It teaches responsibility, stick-to-itiveness, and coordination. It grants a sense of achievement and can build social connections. It gives a person a gift they can share with others, it can be a source of relaxation, and a means to express emotions.

I did things wrong, but that doesn’t stop me from making a few suggestions about how to do things right.

1) Do your research finding the teacher. It is good if the teacher and your child connect in a positive way.

2) Let your child chose the instrument. Expose them to music in a visual way. Tune in a concert on television, go to a band performance, and so on. Ask them what they found interesting.

3) Talk with your child about the needed practice requirements and let them choose where those hours will exist in their week. This will make the schedule theirs, not yours, and likely cause them to own it to a higher degree.

4) Plan showcases to display their achievements. The music teacher may have an annual or semi-annual recital, but you can arrange others as well. Perhaps your church has opportunities. But don’t spring performances on your child like some might be prone to do at a family gathering. Tell them ahead of time so they can use it as a practice incentive and goal.

5) Let them work towards playing a song they like—something they have heard on the radio or in church.

6) Let them teach you or show you what they are learning.

7) Affirm them—especially if you sense they are getting frustrated or bored.

8) Remind them music is a gift to treasure and multiply.

“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast, I will sing and make music.” Psalm 57:7 (NIV)

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

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