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Motivating children towards music.

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West Linn, OR 97068
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How to motivate kids to take music lessons.

When Janie Huck asked me to talk about how to motivate kids to take music lessons, I was intrigued. I've always focussed on WHY music education, and all the arts, are BASIC education. Over and above the obvious: the act of creating something of beauty, food for the soul, self esteem and self confidence in accomplishment, community building, ability to work constructively with others.
There are also studies showing music education enhances other "academic" abilities. I have plenty of stats to back up these claims. For instance:

1. According to a recent study by neurologist Frank Wilson, when a musician plays or sings, he/she uses approximately 90% of the brain. Wilson could find no other activity that uses the brain to this extent. Conclusion: a child who is playing or singing on a regular basis is exercising the entire brain and stimulating general intelligence more than his/her counterpart who does not play or sing.

2. Findings from the University of California, Irvine revealed that young children who were given music training (piano) showed significant improvement in their spatial and temporal reasoning skills-skills needed for learning higher math and science. This did not happen with their peers who were given like amounts of computer training.

Also: Another study's findings support the conclusion that good pitch discrimination benefits learning to read by enhancing the second, phonemic stage of learning.

3. In Stanford University studies, psychologists found that "learning to control rhythm and tempo in group music-making helps students to perform other routine activities with more ease and efficiency."

4. Fred Hargadon, Dean of Admissions for Stanford University, in a 1983 interview said, "We look for students who have taken part in orchestra, symphonic band, chorus and drama. It shows a level of energy and an ability to organize time...that they can carry a full academic load and learn something else."

5. The Texas Music Educators Association released comparisons of the Texas All-State Music Groups and both Texas and national average SAT scores. In 1997, the All State students significantly blew away both averages in many instances by over 200 points.

OK. So music is definitely helpful in developing non-musical skills and abilities in people. How do we get them to take lessons?

One approach (used by at least one Cedaroak mom): no discussion. You're taking piano lessons, and if you "can't find time" to practice, other activities go first: soccer, enrichment classes, etc.

SUMMARY: Repeated exposure. Music experiences.

Motivation to take music lessons comes from repeated exposure to all kinds of music and music experience.

1) Music classes at school, kids concerts, arts festivals, Folklife in Seattle. Our COP Arts Festival. Zoo Concerts.

2) Have Professional musicians visit. High school students (more accessible, They are cool.) Choirs, concert band, jazz band, orchestra.

One teacher reported: "Last year, a high school choir gave all 200 kids a mini concert during a morning break. They sang "Over the Rainbow" and a medley from "Hunchback of Notre Dame." Our kids began to sing along on some of the songs. They gave the group a standing ovation! Many expressed the desire to continue singing during middle and high school."

It's a bonus if they talk about their own experience...what turned them on, periods of doubt, kept them going.

Frustration: that feeling you get just before you reach a major breakthrough."

3) Lots of playing both unpitched and pitched percussion instruments in school and at home, plus early introduction to recorder playing by ear! (Melodaphone)

4) Buy a piano NOW! Let them experiment. Their experimentation may lead to a desire to learn on a more formal basis.

5) Listening at home and elsewhere:

a) Classical Music involving movement and art work. Nutcracker.

b) Manhattan Transfer's "Tubby the Tuba"

c) Broadway Shows, especially those involving kids (Peter Pan, Sound of Music, Oliver)

d) Story Books with Musical Themes, preferably read with appropriate music in the background (Gustave, the Musical Mole and its sequel The Lost Music" are great.

-Windham Hill stories: Robin Williams, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, well known musicians: Leo Kottke, Bobby McFarren,

- Create your own.--you don't have to be a professional.

6) IN THE CAR: Turn off the T.V. and CD players and SING TOGETHER! Make up verses to a song (Old Macdonald had a ... dinasaur.) Builds community in the family, reduces squabbling, and is a lasting memory through adulthood.

National Childrens Folksong Repository

Don't be shy. You don't have to have a great voice. Frog or canary voice, create music within the family.

And if your kids quit after a few years, it's not necessarily a lost cause.

Mark {my husband] dropped out of piano and band to play basketball in high school. He has now over 25 guitar books/videos to his credit.