So Your Child Wants to Be a Rock Star? Here's Some Advice...

Filed under: Activities: Babies, Books for Kids, Cabin Fever

So, there's a drum kit in your basement, your child's best friend has dragged over an electric guitar and an amp, and your neighbours are shooting you dirty looks. Chances are, you're harboring a budding rock star. And you may have some questions.

"Most parents are petrified about their child wasting their life playing rock 'n roll -- I know mine were!" says John Crossingham, a member of the band Broken Social Scene. He's also a father, and the author of a new book geared toward older children and teens called Learn to Speak Music, which offers step-by-step instructions on how to form a band, write songs, perform live, and record and market an album. (With its groovy illustrations, parents will enjoy it, too.) ParentDish Canada recently talked to John about his own musical path, and about parenting the child who wants to grow up to be a rock star.

Q: When did you start playing music? Did you take lessons, or learn on your own?

A: I started playing music when I was about twelve. I began as a drummer and took lessons for about three years. After that point, natural instincts kind of took over. It's not to say that I didn't have more stuff to learn--I definitely did!--but I just began to feel more comfortable focusing on certain things in my own way. And fortunately, rock music lets you do that. I learned guitar and singing almost entirely from books, observation, and playing along with my favourite albums.
Q: What are the basics that any child needs to master before starting his or her own band, and making and recording music? What basic equipment is needed, or space, or talent?

A: There are so many ways to answer this question. I think the best way of looking at it is that your "basics" change as your needs and talents grow. Starting out, you don't really need much more than a single instrument and the most general understanding of its chords or beats. Find some similarly minded friends and away you go, you've got a band. As your aspirations grow, well, the things that you need to fulfill those aspirations grow as well. But it's really important not to let limited resources stop your imagination. That's just as important a skill in a band as any form of musicianship.

Q: For younger children (ie. toddler to pre-teen), can you recommend family activities that would lead them toward a love of music?

A: Exposure: to both a variety of music, and musical instruments. You don't need to be a connoisseur or buy a grand piano. Even a toy glockenspiel, which is what I've bought for my own two-year-old daughter, is great exposure. Just play music that you love often around the home, and don't force the issue. Like anything else, you can't make your child love music. But what is important is that they know that it exists and that it's an option.

Q: If children are interested in making and producing music, what should parents know? How can we help? Do you have an cautions about the process?

A: I would say that first off, instill in them some balance. Music is an amazing creative endeavor, and it nurtures so many positive things in a person. But you also want them to know there's more to life than jamming to records. My folks always impressed on me the importance of reading, learning about history, etc. So I always had stuff to fall back on. Parenting a kid through a musical life is no different than an athletic one. You drive them to practice, you might treat them to a live game and what not, but you prepare them for the fact that only a handful of kids grow up to play in the majors. You groom them for a well-rounded life and see where it takes them. But make no mistake, music is as important as math, English, chemistry, history, or anything else. It is a shame that so many people see it as trite or disposable. It's anything but.

Learn to Speak Music: A Guide to Creating, Performing, and Promoting Your Songs, by John Crossingham, with illustrations by Jeff Kulak, is published by OwlKids, and is available online and in bookstores.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.