How Do You Know if it’s Time to Change Music Teachers?

Thinking about changing music teachers? Why? I’m not saying you shouldn’t, just wanting you to be sure you have thought this through.

Your child’s relationship with his music teacher is unique. Think of it this way. Your child spends time, one-on-one, with this teacher almost every week. Often, a special bond is formed between your child and her music teacher. Music teachers can have a great impact on a child’s life. Don’t break this bond without a good reason. Don’t change teachers just because it’s the thing to do. Think this through carefully.

Reasons to Look for a new Music Teacher

Obviously, any hint of abuse, bullying, inappropriate behavior, or anger issues on the part of the teacher should signal that you leave immediately.

That should never be tolerated. But if you aren’t at the lessons, how will you know? Does your child leave the lessons in tears repeatedly? Maybe your child will say something. Perhaps another parent will pass on a warning. Maybe your child will suddenly begin to hate going to lessons. If that happens, talk, ask, find out what has happened.

A teacher who is constantly unprofessional in her teaching might indicate that it is time for a change.

Perhaps she is always late. Maybe the studio always looks like a disaster recently struck. Or the teacher is always distracted during the lessons. Maybe the teacher just never really pays attention to the student. Of course, any of us can have a bad day, but if this behavior is continual, it might be time to consider a different teacher.

If either you or the music teacher moves, it might be in your best interest to find another teacher closer to you.

A good teacher is worth traveling for, but there are limits, especially when your children are younger. (And if your children suffer with motion-sickness!) Our violin teacher moved four times while my girls were studying with her; each move was a little bit further away from us. Because we homeschooled, we had some flexibility in our schedule so we could schedule lessons to avoid the worst of the traffic. But if the teacher had moved any further away, or only taught during rush-hour traffic times, we would have had to look for someone different. (I am glad we didn’t! She was a wonderful teacher for my girls!) You have to decide what is best for your family.

A major personality clash between your child and his teacher might signal that it is time for a different teacher.

You want your child to benefit from his music lessons, to progress, to enjoy them. If every lesson turns out to be a battle of the wills, maybe you need to find a different teacher who can work better with your child.

Sometimes your child may need a different approach to the lessons. Not all children learn the same way.

Not all teachers teach the same way. If your child is struggling to progress and learn from this teacher, and the teacher is not willing to adapt and try to work with your child, perhaps it is time to find someone who will be a better “fit” for your child. (Assuming your child is practicing and following instructions!)

Your student has progressed to the limit of the teacher’s abilities.

Not all music teachers are prepared to work with advanced music students. Some work best with younger students. A wise teacher will recognize her limitations and advise you to find a more accomplished teacher. There will also be teachers who will not see this, and you (or your child) will have to figure this out.

Before you change teachers, evaluate.

                Except for situations of abuse, take time to seriously evaluate your current music teacher before you come to a final decision to change teachers. And look for your child’s input as well.

  • In the current situation, what do you feel is wrong, or missing?
  • What do you want to see changed, or different, with a new teacher?
  • By changing music teachers, what are you hoping to accomplish?

I thought this article gave a good approach to this idea.

How to Leave Your Music Teacher (or, “Breaking up is Hard to Do”)

Be considerate

Don’t just not show up for the next lesson. Don’t leave a voicemail telling her you aren’t returning for lessons. Your music teacher has scheduled a time for your child. She has made her budget including your child’s lesson fees. Be considerate of her time and efforts. Give her some advance notice of your decision.

Be professional

Handle this yourself, in a face-to-face meeting. Don’t have your child hand the teacher a note at the end of a lesson. Don’t send an email. Talk to the teacher yourself, explain your decision and reasoning. And set an end-date, a date for the last lesson. If you are on a monthly or semester payment plan, finish out the contract, if possible. Of course, if the situation is at all abusive, leave immediately.

Show your appreciation

I hope you and your child have a good relationship with your music teacher, and will regret, on a personal level, leaving for another teacher. This current teacher has invested a lot of time and effort in your child. Demonstrate your appreciation with a gift. Maybe the only reason your child is leaving this teacher is because she is going off to college. A gift is still appropriate.   

To Summarize:

  • Sometimes you need to change music teachers. But think through your reasoning carefully.
  • Evaluate why you think you need to change teachers, and what you hope will be different with a new teacher.
  • Show your former teacher respect and appreciation as you leave.

You might want to check out this post about finding a music teacher.

How Hard Should You Push Your Child?

How hard should you push your child to excel in music? Or, for that matter, in anything? Can we push them too much, too hard? We all want our kids to be great, to do great things, but at what cost? How much should we push them?

There is no right answer! There are too many variables involved! But most of us need to be pushed at some point. Pushed to continue, prodded to practice, nudged to strive for perfection.

How hard should you push your child?

It depends. Depends on a number of things.

  • How old is your child?
  • What is your child like? What kind of temperament does he have?
  • How do she respond to “pushing?”
  • What is the relationship like between you and your child?
  • What are your child’s goals? (Not your goals for them!)
  • How serious are they about what they are doing? Is this a passion of theirs, or just another interest?
  • Do you “prod and nudge,” or are you “pushing and shoving?”
  • Are you looking at things from a realistic perspective?

All these factors play into how hard we should push them to excel.

Can You Nudge a Child Towards Greatness?

All of us are different.

Each of us has different goals, desires, learning styles, interests, passions, etc. What works for one child might totally backfire with a different child. Some children are much more self-motivated than others. Others take longer to develop that self-motivation. So we may need to gently push them in that direction. But at the same time, we don’t want to push them to the point of rebellion. The joys of being a parent. I often thought that each child should be born with their own unique instruction book. Life would be so much easier that way.

Always encourage your child to do their best.

Not just in music, but in everything in life. Urge them to be the best they can be, and always strive to improve.

Always support them and their efforts.

And then encourage them to exceed their current abilities, to progress, to move forward.

Help them to love what they do.

Practicing is not always fun. Practice can get boring. Maybe your child is working on a piece they don’t like at all. Or maybe they think their current music is too hard, or too easy. But none of those are reasons to give up or quit. Encourage them to keep on. Push them to continue, to get past the current “season” of dislike, the current plateau. At some point they will thank you.

But don’t push them so hard that they start to hate their music, their lessons, their instrument.

Don’t push them to the point that they resent playing. Recognize that they may have other interests as well. Give them time to be kids. Yes, you can require them to practice and go to lessons, that’s a given. Make music a part of their life, but don’t make music their entire life unless that is what they want.

Self-Motivation is the Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal is for them to become self-motivated to practice and do well. Unfortunately, most of us are not born with that; we have to learn it, have it “drilled” into us.

LIFE LESSON ALERT: Self-motivation applies to all of life!

If any of us are going to be successful at anything, we must become self-motivated. Learn to go beyond the bare minimum required. Exceed expectations. Don’t be afraid to push your child in that direction. Some day they will thank you.

You might also enjoy this post – Realistic Expectations

Classical Music – The Greatest Hits of the Last 400 Years

How do you introduce your child to the world of classical music? How do you expose them to the greatest hits of the last 400 years? Or maybe you are planning a joint discovery of this music – you and your child together. I have some great ideas for you!

Start with some recordings

Recordings May Tell the Story of the Music

An easy way to start this introduction to the world of classical music is to play some of it at home. There are some great recordings produced specifically for children to introduce them to classical music. When my kids were young we found some of the recordings from Classical Kids. My girls loved the one based on the story of the Magic Flute. (Mozart’s Magic Fantasy: A Journey through the ‘Magic Flute’) Classical Kids offers a recording about Beethoven (Beethoven Lives Upstairs), another about Vivaldi (Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery), and several others. These are all stories about composers and their music, using lots of music.

Add Some Silly Words

We also enjoyed a series of recordings called Beethoven’s Wig featuring Richard Perlmutter. These were a lot of fun – the artists took famous themes from classical music and wrote silly words for the themes. We originally found them in our library. I have recently purchased some of these for my grandchildren. The title song, Beethoven’s Wig, uses the theme from his 5th Symphony. The words go on to talk about how big his wig is, how heavy it is when he takes a walk, etc. We just had the audio recordings, but now there are animated videos as well.

Introductions to the Instruments

Your child might also enjoy Tchaikovsky’s Peter and the Wolf (with narration). This is a good introduction to the different instruments of the orchestra. Selected instruments represent different characters in the story. Another piece, also featuring different instruments of the orchestra, is Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens. Instead of a story, this piece has a short poem (written by Ogden Nash) for each section of the music. Younger children might not get the humor in the poetry, but older kids will.

One other suggestion here – find recordings featuring the instrument your child is learning. Listening is a great key to learning. This can also be a great inspiration for a young student – imagine the possibilities!

Go to a Concert

Another way to add classical music to a child’s life experience is to go to a concert. Live performances are amazing! The experience of the music is so different from recordings. And you can introduce your child to concert etiquette as well. When to applaud, when not to applaud. What the conductor does. The extra duties of the first chair violinist.

Start Local

Go to some local concerts. Maybe your child knows someone in the local high school music program – a neighbor, a babysitter, someone from church. Go to one of their concerts.

Is there a college near you? Check out their concert schedules. Choose a concert your child might enjoy. A night of Renaissance or Baroque music might not appeal to them, but a concert of movie music might.

Maybe there is a community band, orchestra, or choir in your area. Attend a concert. Support their work. And at the same time, you are introducing your child to some new music and some new musicians.  

Look for Free Options!

Concerts by major symphonies can be expensive! So look for free options. (Or reduced prices.) Chicago offers free outdoor symphony concerts throughout the summer.I enjoy going to some of those! And go beyond thinking of just symphonies. Look for free recitals or small ensemble performances. Again, the Chicago Cultural Center offers free concerts every week throughout the year. (Sorry about the Chicago plugs – but that’s where I live, so that’s what I know. Just examples.)

Reduced Price Options

Some symphonies offer Saturday afternoon matinee performances designed specifically for families with children. The timing is good, the prices may be lower, and the music is often programmed with children in mind.

Programs for Families

Look for concerts with music programmed that will appeal to children. Peter and the Wolf, and Carnival of the Animals are great options. Also, A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Benjamin Britten). Maybe there is a concert of some of John Williams’ movie music. Or how about a movie showing with a live symphony providing the music for the movie?

Ballet, Anyone?

What about taking your child to the ballet? The dancers are graceful and lovely, the costumes are pretty, the story unfolds before you, and the music is usually fantastic. Not every child will find ballet fascinating, but yours might. Consider The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, or Swan Lake. There are also ballet presentations of Peter Pan and Cinderella. Do a little bit of prep work, and your child may fall in love with ballet. Study the story, listen to a little of the music in advance. That way your child will able to follow along as the ballet unfolds.

How about Opera?

I know, everyone is not a fan of opera. But maybe it’s because we haven’t given it a chance. Opera is really like a play – only the words are sung instead of spoken. And the opera stereotype is that everyone always dies at the end. But that’s not always the case. You just have to choose the right opera. Again, go over the story in advance. Even when the opera is performed in English it is not always easy to understand all the words. Knowing the storyline helps to understand what is happening during the performance. And, as always, use discretion for age-appropriateness. If you can’t get to a live opera performance, find one online and watch it. Your local PBS station might occasionally broadcast operas. Here is a list of good introductory operas:

                        The Magic Flute (Mozart)

                        The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)

                        Cinderella (La Cenerentola – Rossini, or Cendrillon – Massenet)

                        Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck)

                        Amahl and the Night Visitors (Gian Carlo Menotti)

                        Where the Wild Things Are (Oliver Knussen)

                        The Adventures of Pinocchio (Jonathan Dove)

                        Moby Dick (Jake Heggie)

                        All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 (Peter Rothstein)

Musicals

Most of us know about and enjoy musicals. Maybe you even participated in your high school musical productions Introduce them to your child! Of course, your child is probably familiar with many of the movie musicals already – Moana, Aladdin, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, etc. But what about some of the old classics? Fiddler on the Roof, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Newsies, Oliver, Singin’ in the Rain, The Music Man. For older children you could include West Side Story, Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked. The list can get quite long! What musical is your local high school producing this year? Go check it out!

Let’s summarize – Introduce your child to a new world of music!

  • Check out some new recordings
  • Listen to a live concert
  • Watch the beauty of a ballet
  • Witness the drama of an opera
  • Enjoy the fun of a musical

Do you have a favorite opera, musical, or ballet? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Introduce your Child to the World of Classical Music