April 22, 2020

The Parent FREAK-OUT: If They’re Not Practicing, I’m Not Paying!

Did you know our Director Marty Fort has written an Amazon #1 best selling book “The Ultimate Guide to Music Lessons”? Here’s an excerpt to explain the "Parent FREAK-OUT". Enjoy and email us your feedback!

The “parent freak-out” usually occurs after a child has been in lessons for a couple of months. Parents are going about their busy lives when suddenly it hits them: “Hey, I have been paying for music lessons for quite some time now. Come in here and play something for me.

This is the equivalent of pulling a child onto a baseball field and saying, “I’m going to throw this ball at you, and I want you to hit a home run.” This is not how progress is exhibited when children are learning a new skill, whether it is music, sports, or reading. Instead, you should be willing to listen when a child offers to play or wants to show you something new they have learned.

I have played guitar for 35 years and have taught for 25 years. One of my biggest pet-peeves as an adult is when people put me on the spot and ask me to play something for them. If someone is a writer by profession, you wouldn’t put them on the spot and ask them to write something for you or ask a doctor you’ve just met to look at your injury or trouble an attorney friend to look at a contract of yours on a whim.

The parent freak-out comes from an honest place; parents want their investment to be put to good use. They’re paying for their child’s lessons, and they want to see that the tuition money they’re paying is worth it. It is important to remember that impromptu living room performances are not always a clear indication of a child’s progress.

Learning is an organic process, and the expression of learning should also be organic. By this I mean to say that a child should not be forced to play for anyone. Instead, be willing to listen when a child is proud of what they learned and want to show you.

You can also consider the upcoming recital as a perfect platform to see how your child is doing. I advise parents to wait for the recital to determine the development of their child’s skills. If the recital occurs, and you’re not happy with the results, then it’s time to visit the school, approach the teacher, and voice your concerns.

I often hear parents say, “If they’re not practicing, I’m not paying.” If you look back at my childhood, you would see that I didn’t practice much at all and just attended my lessons every week. From a math perspective, there are 48 lessons a year that each last 30 minutes. That is a total of 24 hours of lessons for music students. What is better for the child’s mind and development: 24 hours of lessons in a year or zero? The obvious answer is 24 hours.

To go further into my example, I took piano and violin as a child but hated group guitar. I didn’t practice an hour a day as my teachers instructed and would purposefully pop my guitar strings when my teacher wasn’t looking so I could go play outside. As an adult, however, things changed. I now play for my town’s New Year’s Eve festival, which has an attendance of 30,000 people. I have played around the U.S. and in Europe. I went on to pursue a Master’s degree in music and was a music professor for six years at the University of South Carolina Upstate and Midlands Technical College. If my parents hadn’t encouraged music in the home and allowed me to progress at my own pace, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

One of the most profound observations I have made is that whether the student is a child or an adult, just because they aren’t practicing today doesn’t mean they won’t begin to practice in three months, six months, or a year from now.

The same principle applies to artists in the music industry. In the past, musicians would release a couple of albums before they broke through as part of their musical development. It wasn’t until later in pop music history that corporations started to change this pattern and require that musicians have a hit early on in their careers. What has happened to the music industry as a result? In all honesty, it is struggling as a direct result because they are not developing their artists. Parents would do well to be patient and allow their children to musically develop as the great musical artists have before them.

I advise parents to seriously consider the concept of patient, steady development as it applies to improvement in music. Resist the temptation to ask your child to conduct a full-blown concert for you. To avoid the parent freak-out, observe the beginning of a music lesson with the mindset that your child will commit a minimum of six months to their instrument. Within six months, you should be able to see signs of improvement, and this will help alleviate your urge to panic.

Choosing a school with an open-door policy that allows parents to be in the loop is essential. I also recommend that parents turn off their phones, get out of their cars, and come inside and talk to their child’s teacher before, during, or after a lesson.

If your child’s lesson is from 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm, plan to come in five minutes before the lesson ends to listen to the child play, talk to the teacher, and use it as a time to wrap things up. These five minutes will not take away from the lesson, instead, they will be the best way to really know how your child is progressing.

Musical Ladder System® Achievements

The Columbia Arts Academy, Lexington School of Music, and Irmo Music Academy are the only music schools in the Midlands that give their students the opportunity to earn special color wristband bracelets (kids and teens love them!), trophies AND certificates for passing musical tests.

Do other schools offer trophies and certificates? A few. But none of them inspire their students with smiling faces by giving them full color, really cool “Musical Ladder” wristbands that they can show off to their friends.


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