Parents, teachers, and open minds needed

A young person setting out to learn a musical instrument will need three things: a skillful teacher, a dedicated parent, and an open mind.

Skilled teaching. The skilled teacher knows the path up the mountain, so to speak, and every musician who has mastered their instrument has had at least one skilled teacher to show them the way. Music instruction that is haphazard is worse than none at all because it leads young learners half way up the mountain in a snowstorm without a compass or map. If your child's music teacher is not skilled, shop around and find one who is.

Parents needed. Most kids lack the ability to get to the top of Mt. Music on their own. They lack the ability to plan for the long term, to organize and execute the daily tasks needed, and to stay on course in the face of setbacks. That's where parents come in. Parents, possessing the longer range vision that comes with age, provide the planning, organizing, and persistence that their children haven't developed yet. The importance of parents (and other parental stand-ins) in educating their children cannot be overstated. It's often a thankless job, but what you do as a parent will determine whether or not your child succeeds at music. If you're not sure how to help your child succeed at music, please let me know. I have plenty of suggestions. You can also see the FAQ page for suggestions on practicing.

Open minds. As the classroom poster says, "A mind is like a parachute. It only works when open." One of the biggest barriers to success that teachers face is the closed mind. The closed mind sabotages the wonderful potential of so many young people, cutting them off from a lifetime of possibilities. A closed mind avoids challenges, gives up easily, sees no point in effort, has no use for feedback, and feels threatened by the success of others. A closed mind soon gives up on music, usually with the excuse "It's too hard."

The open mind, however, loves challenges, persists in the face of setbacks, sees effort as the path to mastery, learns from criticism, and celebrates the success of others. Music provides one of the best environments for an open mind to flourish because it connects people to each other and to cultures, societies, and histories, and it is virtually infinite in possibilities.

Peer pressure. The biggest barrier to keeping an open mind for many young people is simply peer pressure. Students want to conform to what they think their peers are thinking, and no one wants to stick their neck out. Playing a musical instrument involves risk. You might make a mistake, a really obvious mistake, in front of your peers, which is the ultimate embarrassment for many young people. By learning to play a musical instrument, you run the risk of making mistakes, of not looking cool in front of your peers. The closed mind is afraid to make mistakes, especially while other people are looking. All it takes is for one closed mind to make a negative comment about the band to infect the impressionable minds around them. Don't let the closed mind reduce your child's possibilities in life. Do everything you can to fight peer pressure and closed mindedness.