Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Follow-up on my child's piano lesson

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Question
Hi,

May I give you an update on my child’s piano lesson? We talked to the teacher, who said “I really think your son has the gift and talent. He has good ears and can work things out by hearing. His natural ability is high. He enjoys singing and marching together with me as well. He has the potential. That is why I do not want to give up working with him.

However, he has not always been showing a willingness to respond. On a good day, he would be asking me what we are going to do for the lesson and would happily follow through. But when he's feeling tired, unhappy or bored, he would express anger, rejection. I don't not think he is not mature enough. Primary students are very suitable to have music lessons. From my observation, he might be seeking attention and love. That's what I think.”


On my part, let me give you further info. Last week, the day when he rejected the lesson, it was the first time when we changed the timetable after the summer holiday. So on Wed afternoon, after he finished school, we brought him straight to the teacher. Looking back, it seemed not a good idea as he must have been tired, so he rejected the lesson.

So now I think perhaps my son does enjoy learning the piano, but we as parents should be better at the timetable and understanding his feeling. That’s why I told the teacher that we will move the lesson to Sat afternoon, at around 4pm, and for 30 minutes only. FYI, on Sat morning, we’ll take him to a choir class, which ends at 11 am.

Could you pls let me know what you think?

Regards,

Answer
Hello again Liam,

My rule has always been to give my pupils the first week of a new term to get themselves back into the school routine, then we restart their lessons the following week.  This is particularly important in September at the start of the academic year, when they're coping with a new class, a new timetable and often a new school into the bargain, but in my experience they benefit from a week's practice after the Easter or Christmas holidays.  So I'm not surprised that your son didn't feel like a piano lesson when he was only halfway through his first week in a brand new school year - poor little mite, he must have been exhausted.  I also believe that everyone's entitled to the occasional "off" lesson - they're upset by something that happened at school, or they're excited by a change in the weather (if it's a windy day you won't get any sense out of them!), or they just don't feel like playing today, in which case we spend the lesson doing aural instead.  Provided it's occasional, there's no harm done and I expect things to be back to normal the following week.

That being said, your son's only six years old and his lessons (and everyone else's regardless of age, come to that) should generally be FUN - if they're not something's badly wrong.  Does he actively look forward to his lessons, and say so?  Does he bubble over with enthusiasm after his lesson and tell you what he's learned and what he's got to do for next week? (I hope, by the way, that you don't stay and watch the lesson - he can't be unafraid to try something new, and make mistakes in trying, if you're looking over his shoulder.)  Does he wander over to the piano of his own volition and try ideas out which have nothing to do with practising?  If he's engrossed in a task (eg colouring), does he sing under his breath almost without thinking?  Is he incapable of hearing music with a strong beat without dancing?  If he doesn't, then he's not enjoying his lessons - he's tolerating them because you're giving him no choice in the matter.  You already know that I wouldn't accept a pupil under those circumstances.  
 
The poor little boy has more than enough lessons and classes in his life already from school (and, incidentally, I'm getting the strong impression that you're home-schooling him).  He needs room to explore music, life and the universe in his own way and at his own pace without turning every aspect of his life into a lesson - let him enjoy singing by himself without immediately enrolling him in a choir class, for heaven's sake, or you'll put him off singing (and music) altogether.  You'll be destroying all his curiosity and pleasure in learning for its own sake by putting him under far too much pressure to conform to your preconception of him, and that way disaster lies.  (I wasn't exaggerating for effect when I warned about nervous breakdowns or suicide - I knew Terence Judd.)  

Have you tried asking your son what he wants?  Will you listen and act on what he tells you?

Hope this helps.  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Clare Redfarn

Expertise

All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.

Experience

57 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 42 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 45 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 20 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Organizations
Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

Publications
I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

Education/Credentials
MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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