How to Inspire a Love of Music in Children
Cabin Fever wants to know: how do you inspire musical genius in children? Okay, we'll settle for deep appreciation and enjoyment. And a pain-free way to manage piano practice. So, we talked to an expert. Nicole Dueck writes and performs music for children. She's also a teacher. Her latest CD is called Lucky Dog, and it features finger-snapping classics mixed with original songs. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Q: How would you describe your work?
A: I instruct music classes for ages 0-12. With the younger ones (0-4), I introduce them to music via my guitar and voice. To basic rhythm. Volume control. Body movement.
As they age (4-7), I introduce the seeds of songwriting by having them talk about how different music can make you feel differently. How using themes can create atmosphere. And how using melody and cadence can enhance those factors.
From there, I begin lessons on how to listen to music. How to decide if you like or don't like a song, and why. Finding the groove and creating your own. We write songs together and learn how to co-create democratically.
My goal is to give every child the opportunity to have a relationship with music.
Q: I'm a parent who hopes her children will learn to play an instrument (or instruments) and that they will enjoy the process of learning, too. Where to begin?
A: All children are different and so are the methods for teaching them. Begin by exploring how your child learns. There are three ways to do this.
Aural: Encourage awareness of music and sound. In life there is rhythm, beginning with the heartbeat. Listen to that. Dance to the rattling of the clothes drier. Sing to your windshield wiper drums.
Tangible: Make instruments available. Fill a box with shakers, bells, pots, pans, harmonica, whistle, kazoo. Put your children in charge of creating sound. Here they will learn cause and effect.
Spatial: Take your children to hear live music. A native drumming festival, a classical concert, a chill coffee house show. Let them know that being a musician is a real job, and that the people playing have worked hard to become good at their instruments.
All of these explorations will lead you to the next step: starting to focus on one instrument.
Q: How do I choose (or help my children choose) which instrument to play?
A: Let's say my five-year-old daughter tells me she desperately wants to play the harp. First, I would think: great! She's discovered an attraction to an instrument all on her own! Then I'd acknowledge that getting her a harp and a harp teacher is out of the question because she's five, and I couldn't possibly purchase an instrument that would break her confidence and my bank account. So ... How can I jump on her desire to learn an instrument and be realistic about it?
The answer is straightforward. A child's first experience with learning an instrument should be about building confidence. Find an instrument that gives a quick return on investment. I recommend the piano (or keyboard) because there is little physical pain involved, and it's visually simple to navigate. A child can hum a melody and in a short time play that melody on the keyboard.
Q: How do I find the right teacher for my children?
A: Remember the teacher you hire is working for you and your child. Talk to a few. Let them know how you think your child learns best. You don't have to commit to a teacher if your child is unhappy.
Q: Let's talk practicing. I hate nagging. How do I inspire my children to practice their instrument?
A: I tell prospective students that my goal is to get them to walk by the piano or guitar and feel a compulsion to play it. I want them to start by learning something familiar and gratifying, so that their confidence puts them at the bench, not an obnoxious kitchen timer.
Nicole Dueck's CD for children, Lucky Dog, is available for purchase online at www.firetheimagination.ca.