It happens time and time again, I have a student thriving in piano lessons and then out of the blue - WHAM! - they want to quit.
About every music student, parent to teacher relationships go through a “honeymoon phase” where the excitement and progress is so present and tangible it fuels everyone forward easily. But once the glow is over without fail students find themselves in slumps of frustration or “boredom”.
Subsequently, parents have to endure the endless fighting about practicing the piano. And day after day, week after week of that parents wave the white flag. I've had ENOUGH! The child quits, and lessons end, with maybe a half hearted, "maybe we'll try again in a few months".
It’s a tragic heartbreaking time for me and I’ll tell you why:
That child, that very, very capable child has lost their opportunity to speak the LANGUAGE of music.
What frustrates me as a teacher is I see that parents don’t see music on par with other academics - science, math, english, history - music is an “elective” and something "that’ll make them more well rounded”.
STOP THINKING THIS WAY!!!!
Music IS a language! It is a fundamental part of the human experience.
Not giving your child the opportunity to take part in that is robbing them from a very essential human experience. Giving your child the gift to understand the language of music is unlocking an entire world of possibilities and experiences to them. I could talk ALL day about the benefits of music. Music benefits on the brain, academic success, communication skills, studying habits, organizational skills, relationship skills, not to mention the emotional/therapeutic benefits of music. BUT that’s for another post...
The message I want to get across to you today is that your child doesn’t quit because of them. They quit because of YOU.
I have students come into my studio who have innate musicality on the piano. They excel at music and everything comes naturally to them. On the other hand, I have students who, at the beginning, struggle even to keep a steady beat.
I used to think that natural talent was more likely to result in successful students, but I realized after teaching long enough that natural talent had little to do with it.
Staying committed to learning has a lot less to do with your innate abilities at the piano and WAY MORE to do with your support team at home.
If my gifted student doesn’t have support at home than they will quit in 1-2 years no matter how good they are. While my struggling student, who has a supportive parent, will excel and grow to become confident in the language of music. Excelling way beyond their imagination, their parents or my sometimes even my own.
They stick with the piano because they have SUPPORT.
So why do students REALLY quit piano? Because they aren’t getting support at home. Because the special relationship between parent, teacher and student is not present.
THE KEY to success, like any educational success, means that the student, teacher AND the parent must work harmoniously together. For some strange reason this clicks with other subjects but many parents seem to forget this applies to music lessons as well. Your support at home is CRUCIAL! You cannot just drop them off at lessons and think the job ends there.
I love to explain the relationship with the diagram below. Unless there is support coming from both ends the magic doesn't happen, the students can't become the star they're meant to be. And I TRULY believe every child can become that piano star!
Learning the language of music is just like learning how to read the English language (or any other foreign language). Naturally, you know how crucial it is for your child to learn how to read. So you read to them every night before bed, you help them with their homework assignments, you impress upon them the importance of reading and how it will open up new worlds to them!
Understanding the language of music takes the same level of commitment and dedication.
You need to immerse yourself into it even if you’re not a musician yourself.
You need to be supportive and excited and stress the importance of learning music. You really need to believe!
So what does a supportive parent look like?
Supportive Parents ....
1. Help their child keep a Consistent Scheduled Piano Practice Time - at least six days a week. I cannot stress enough how important it is that it's the SAME TIME everyday. Scheduled practice time = SUCCESS.
2. Listen in on practice sessions at home and help when needed
3. Listen in on piano lessons and take mental or physical notes
4. Encourage child to perform for their family or friends
5. Showers child with applause and pride when they succeed in their musical studies
6. Showers child with encouragement and pep talks when things get hard and reminds them of the importance of pushing ourselves to greatness
7. Understands what REAL practice looks like
8. Encourage music exploration by listening to new music together (not just piano) like my monthly studio playlists!
9. Doesn’t let their child QUIT even when they seem to be begging you!!
The reason WHY you don’t let them quit is because your child WILL ALWAYS hit educational brick walls where they want to quit. Not just in piano.
In every subject at school they will come to that brick wall and want to throw their hands in the air in exasperation. BUT you wouldn’t let them just quit math, or quit science, or quit learning!! That’s preposterous - you wouldn’t be doing your job as a parent if you did.
SAME rule applies to music. It isn’t just a fluffy elective. It is a crucial part of the human experience and they will THANK YOU for pushing them forward, just as they will thank you for pushing them to graduate high school or pursue higher education. It will enrich their lives in ways that even they themselves don’t understand yet.
So when your child comes to that brick wall. Which they will! They always come back to that brick wall of frustration. When things get “too hard”, "boring" and/or whatever else that brick wall might be. Remind them, this too shall pass. That they can and they will learn what they need to get pass this learning hurtle (especially if they communicate with their teachers and learn successful practicing skills).
Remind them that they are capable and intelligent! They can do hard things.
Keep pushing your child to be the best they can be and someday (not too far away) they will thank you dearly for not giving up on them! They will be an adult enjoying an evening at home filing their homes with music, they will have the musical background to appreciate a live opera or symphonic performance, they will have the ability to make music with others through collaboration, they will have an entire world of music opened to them - they simply need open a score sit at the piano and READ.
This is a gift! And a gift worth fighting for. Don’t give up on those little growing minds! Don’t give up on those amazing little hands. They want to learn, they want to grow. They just need your SUPPORT and guidance at home.