I was asked by friends, readers, and other fellow parents about my experience in selecting music classes for my kids. After finishing my series about spending categories from Crown Financial Ministries Canada’s Percentage Guide, I am writing about my experience in choosing kids’ music classes. By the way, if you want to read the whole series on the spending categories, visit my blog at www.PrudentMoneyCoach.com, starting with February 2016. As for the process of choosing a music class, I would like to tell you about your options and methods of teaching music (piano/keyboard) that I was considering.
First of all, there are three options in taking music classes. These are
· semi-private, and
· group lessons.
Private and semi-private lessons may be conducted in music schools or at private homes. Semi-private lessons could consist of two to four students. As you can imagine, private lessons will cost more, but you get the teacher’s (hopefully) full attention during the whole lesson time.
Depending on your child’s personality and type, I would say that generally younger children do not enjoy private lessons (I was one of them). I also know that some teachers refuse to conduct private lessons for younger students. The reverse happens when a child is in a higher music grade. Teachers and music schools recommend only private classes. Group lessons are the cheapest of all three. My own children started music with group lesson because I was not sure how long their interest would last.
There may be many music teaching methods out there. When my kids were young, I only knew the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) because that was what I studied. A friend at church told me about the Yamaha method and bragged about how good it was for ear training. I was sold because I had (still have) bad music ear. In addition, the cost of the lesson was very attractive - ($15/hour) compare to private lesson ($25/half hour).
The Yamaha method emphasizes on ear training, rhythmic sense, and creativity. Both my children had wonderful teachers. Each developed differently even though they were taught using the same method. The packaged Yamaha lesson was attractive since it came with CDs and DVDs that the children could watch and listen to at home.
During class times, one of each child’s parents was supposed to sit in so the parent can be aware of what was taught and in turn, help the child practice at home. Even though I have a music background, I was happy to sit in the class and learn from the beginning. I found the method to be very effective. I knew what was taught in class, the length of time recommended as practice time, and how to lead my children to practice at home. Some students reported enjoying the music so much that parents did not have to ask them to practice. The students automatically practiced for their own enjoyment. How wonderful!
Having said all good things about the Yamaha method, I wish that there was more emphasize on technique. Because students start with keyboards, their tiny fingers do not have to assert as much pressure as if they start with pianos. However, this also leads to a tendency of students not applying proper finger posture on keyboards. When students graduate to pianos, many find their fingers weak, and to push the piano keys, many bend their fingers at the finger joints instead of pushing the keys with their fingertips. (Imagine your hands crawling like a spider with the legs spread outward and it only touches the surfaces with the tips of its legs.)
As I learned more about the Yamaha method, I realized that the RCM is more academic, while Yamaha emphasizes more on creativity. In the Yamaha method, not much time was spent training students to read notes (sight reading). However, students may be very good at recognizing notes (listening) and following rhythm.
Sometimes creativity is what draws a student to continue learning music. When we were shopping for a digital piano (long story for another post – why we chose digital instead of an acoustic piano), one salesperson told us that had it not been for a digital piano/keyboard and all its bells and whistles, he would have lost interest in studying music when he was young. He proceeded with demonstrating his piano playing skills (which were very good).
My point is, while RCM certification is sought after in many places (especially if you are considering a teaching career), you should pick a method that suits your child best. If you know the weakness of one method over the other, try to fill in the gap at home. Also remember that you do not have to stick to one method. My children studied the Yamaha method for 4 years, then switched to the RCM method. Their Yamaha teachers started with RCM and learned about Yamaha later in life. If a student loves music, it should not matter which method he/she studies first.
Although my experience was with choosing a piano/keyboard music class for my children, I think the thought process may be applied to other instruments as well. You should research different music options (if any) offered by your music school/ teacher.
I think it comes down to child’s interest and parents’ commitment. Children may be flaky (interest today, no interest tomorrow), but it is up to the parents to instill consistency. I have yet to meet students who happily practice music every day of their lives. I think it is reasonable for parents to set boundaries and expectations when a child expresses interest in studying music. Let’s say 3 months of music lesson and perhaps 3 months of renting an instrument (or borrowing). There is a financial commitment from parent’s side, and there should be a study commitment from the child’s side. If there is still interest after a prescribed time, the lesson continues. Parents should also ensure the child practices in between lessons so they get their money’s worth.
Whichever music method or class option you choose, and whichever musical instrument your child chooses, I think the principles are the same – financial and time commitment from parents, and study commitment from children. Get your money’s worth.
For more help with reducing your money-related stress, contact me at (six zero four) 728-5139 or Effie[at]PrudentMoneyCoach[dot]com. Take advantage of my free first assessment meeting to see if we are a good fit.