What’s Happening with Music in Your Child’s Life?

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of susanraguse Susan Raguse 6 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #1103
    Profile photo of Deb Fellows
    Deb Fellows
    Keymaster

    I was a bit leery when I was presented with the new approach to music that Leland Public School started this fall for middle school through high school students. In a nutshell, it involved dropping traditional band and choir classes and in their stead substituting classes in music/theater, guitar and individual instrument exploration. Ours is a small school and so budget was a consideration. But when you listen to the music teachers talk about the new program, you realize that their goals have little do to with saving money.

    Their goal is to offer kids ways to succeed and find joy in music and to connect with some musical entity that they can take on with them in life. They’ve chosen to focus on just two instruments, the guitar and the piano. For many, this part of the program will mean learning both and then being able to focus on one or the other. Other kids have chosen the music/theater class which offers a chance to sing, dance and act. And for those who want to continue on in an instrument of their choice, there is the opportunity to work at their own pace, have a say in choosing the music they play and teaming up in duets and quartets to perform and compete.

    As you can imagine, there was a fair amount of skepticism and concern when band and choir were dropped. This feels so free form, chaotic, and really, the opposite of musical discipline. I don’t know how other families are feeling about it, but seven weeks into the year, I give it really high marks for generating self-motivated musicians.

    My kids have all had piano lessons and they were interested, but I had to really push them to practice at all. They all joined the band in 6th grade and became proficient at another instrument and enjoyed, I think, their time in band. But last night as I looked around the house, I realized that this new approach to music is somehow creating an organic interest in music to bubble up in our midst.

    Our third son, a 7th grader named Austin, had gone to a friend’s house and practiced their guitars for a few hours after school, which in and of itself is a unique experience. But he then came home, sat in the living room and continued to teach himself the song “Deliah” (he wanted I’m Yours but the chords were beyond him) using the Internet, his class book and the guitar we’ve had for years that no one has played. He didn’t want to stop to go to bed; he actually asked if he could keep playing in bed.

    My oldest son’s saxophone that rarely came home from school in the past, now sits next to the piano where he regularly pulls it out and practices. Last night he told me he’s learning a challenging, classical duet, involving saxophone and piano. His music teacher, Jeremy Evans, is setting him up with the piano player from the Methodist church down the block and they hope to perform together at the church and maybe elsewhere. And my second son, a 9th grader, told me it was a fabulous day because he had three hours of music/theatre getting ready for a Halloween concert in which he is performing a duet and several other songs, as well as dancing.

    It’s hard to know whether this approach to music will achieve its goals—I suspect it still won’t make music for everyone. And I still have just a little sadness in giving up that full band, orchestra or choir experience. But this is one of the purest forms of empowering kids to learn, giving them the tools and letting them make decisions about where to go from there, that I’ve encountered. And this new music world seems to be flourishing, at least in my house.

    What’s up with music in your child’s school or life? Do you have someone in a traditional band or a garage band? Have your kids participated in solo ensemble? Do you recommend any great private instructors? How about music camps in the summer?

  • #1108
    Profile photo of susanraguse
    Susan Raguse
    Participant

    Deb,

    The last of our three children graduated from Leland HS this past June. Both and my husband I have played violin since we were children and our careers are music oriented. Our children all began music studies at an early age and continued through high school. Leland did not have an orchestra (as did our former school in IL) when we moved to northern MI in 1996, so our oldest played string bass in the TSO Youth Symphony. Our daughter played both violin and flute. She played flute in band for one year in HS, but the band program was so awful that she refused to sign up again. She also played violin in my advanced violin repertoire group and in her flute teacher’s advanced flute choir. Our youngest son played piano from the age of 5 through high school.

    Although most of the Leland music programs were pretty awful, there were some highlights. First was Joy Taylor, who taught fourth grade for many years. Joy had a piano in her class room — she played and had her students sing every day. She organized a group of student volunteers that regularly rehearsed at school and performed for the residents at the hospital in Northport and the Lamplighters. Joy’s group was amazing and our kids loved being in it.
    She tried to continue the group after she retired, but things didn’t work out. It would be worth calling her and asking her about the group.

    Dwayne Gardner, who retired from being the music and band teacher several years ago, produced elementary school concerts that were just awful. But, he did an amazing job with the high school kids. His jazz band and swing choir were great — clearly his niche.

    Dwayne’s replacement, Jennie Fenton, came from a marching band background. Leland is definitely not marching band or pep band material. Jennie was not the right fit for Leland and although she worked hard, she was denied tenure and let go.

    The other bright spot has been the musical productions produced by Jeremy Evans over the past several years. He works well with the students and the musicals have continuously been a big hit with the students and community.
    I was glad to hear he is taking the music program forward with guitar and piano.

    Music programs always seem to struggle in the public school budget. Music and art are often the first targets for budget cuts, but are essential in the development of every child. Both areas allow the child to explore their unique talents, to feel comfortable with whom they are. There have been numerous studies done on the benefits of music on brain development. The discipline of practicing day after day, year after year leads to a well balanced adult who understands commitment and personal responsibility, as well as problem solving skills. Best of all, music inspires and defines us. It is a permanent part of our soul.

    I have taught violin on a private basis for almost 25 years. Some of the families I have worked with have been wealthy, others have been living on a very limited income. However, all of the parents who have brought their children to me for lessons have one thing in common — they feel that music is an integral part of their child’s education. They are committed to practicing with their child(ren) every day and recognize how important a music environment is. Their children grow up to be successful musicians and professionals. Some of my students have found music to be their true passion and make it their profession.

    I have had many parents tell me that “I wish my parents had never let me quit playing the piano/violin,clarinet,trumpet, etc.” Not once has a parent expressed pleasure that their OWN parents actually let them quit playing an instrument. These parents are committed to their children’s success in music and their children stick with their music studies.

    Even though I live in Leelanau County, I maintain my music studio in TC. My students come from GT County, Leelanau, Benzie, and a few others. I have found it is best to be centered in TC, given the geographic spread of the northern MI population.

    Ever since moving north, I have felt that the TC area needed a community music center. Interlochen is west of TC and focuses on advanced students only, many of them from areas outside the US. The local music teachers are scattered about the Grand Traverse area and although we know each other, we don’t often get to actually work side by side.

    About four years ago, I started working with another local music teacher, Chris Williams, to develop a music home for local teachers and students. We are in the process of finishing up the final details on our project and should be opening our doors to the community within the next two weeks. We bought an old building on East Eighth Street near the library, gutted it, brought it up to commercial code, and will be teaching there. We expect other local music teachers to join us. If you’d like to read more about our project, we have our web page under construction at: traversemusic.com You can also ask Jodi about her experience as a music parent.

    Thanks for starting this thread regarding music lessons. I look forward to future posts by you and others.

  • #1107
    Profile photo of kate
    Kate
    Participant

    Crooked Tree Arts Center offers free– yes, free– youth strings programs once a week after school. Noah picked up the cello this year, which he just loves….mostly because he thinks his instructor, Robert Dudd, is “cool.” In Harbor Springs, things are pretty traditional on the music program front, but I have to say, I think what you all have going on in Leland is way, way ahead of the curve! The idea of opening up the world of music for students as individuals– well, it sounds like the proof is in the playing at your house.

  • #1106
    Profile photo of Deb Fellows
    Deb Fellows
    Keymaster

    While my boys have tended to be pretty straight forward music students, I have one really unique music child. My 10-year-old daughter plays the drums like a pro, plays the guitar like Joan Baez and picks out music on the piano that flows through chord patterns like a new-age artist. She loves music. She loves creating music. But she can’t read music. She all but loses interest when we put her in lessons. She took drum lessons for almost a year and she almost stopped playing “her” music all together. The teacher was great, she liked him a lot. But she was learning very basic patterns and she ends up frustrated or losing interest. And yet, we went to an open mike night where someone had a large floor drum and she ended up literally jamming with this guy on his drum, meeting him toe to toe the whole way. She creates beautiful guitar songs with such an ear for chords and flow. And now she’s asked for a violin for Christmas.

    My keenest interest is that she maintain her love of music. But I’m worried that if she doesn’t learn to read music or get some direction, she may end up frustrated and drop music. What are some of the best approaches for a child like Liv? Are there teachers who are willing to approach a learner like her in a different way, maybe meeting her at the “create music” level and weave the notes in somehow? A tall task, I’m sure.

    You’re right Susan, that music at a small school is really challenging. We are so very lucky that Jeremy decided to take a shot at running the whole kit and kaboodle and we’ll all learn together whether this new approach works short term and long term. And I love the idea of the music center!

    And Kate, I’m so jealous you have a cello player! What a gorgeous sound to have floating through your house.

  • #1105
    Profile photo of susanraguse
    Susan Raguse
    Participant

    One of the biggest responsibilities of a teacher is to figure out how each child learns and how best to work with that child’s individual learning style. It is actually easier to learn to play by ear first and then learn to read music later, than it is to read music first and work on ear training later. We learn to speak in our “mother tongue” before we learn how to write our alphabet and read words and sentences.

    I would encourage you to take your daughter to observe music lessons taught by a variety of teachers. As a parent, you can learn a lot about how a teacher interacts with another student and how your child would or would not learn from that teacher. Your child’s response to a particular teacher will be another helpful bit of information.

    Your daughter may just not be ready to read music yet. The important thing is to encourage her to create music the way she likes to express herself. It may take some time before she decides to settle on one (or even two) instrument(s). Make sure she is exposed to many different types of music. She’ll find her niche and will eventually learn to read with careful guidance from the right teacher.

    Traverse Community Music is having an Open House and Musical Petting Zoo on Saturday, November 22nd, from 2:00 to 5:00. The event is open to the general public, with the focus on families. Children will be able to see and play violin, viola, cello, piano, flute, guitar, and several other instruments. Music teachers will be available to answer questions, demonstrate how to play, etc. Feel free to drop in and you are always welcome to come observe a private or group violin lesson. Teaching methods at TCM include Suzuki, traditional, and improvisation.

    For anyone else interested, the address of TCM is: 629 E. Eighth St in TC, near the library. Access is via the alley between Franklin St. & Railroad Ave. — look for the red carriage house next to our driveway. Phone: 932-2227.

    Keep the music flowing!

  • #1104
    Profile photo of forshop
    forshop
    Participant

    I would encourage you to take your daughter to observe music lessons taught by a variety of teachers. As a parent, you can learn a lot about how a teacher interacts with another student and how your child would or would not learn from that teacher. Your child’s response to a particular teacher will be another helpful bit of information.

    Your daughter may just not be ready to read music yet. The important thing is to encourage her to create music the way she likes to express herself. It may take some time before she decides to settle on one (or even two) instrument(s). Make sure she is exposed to many different types of music. She’ll find her niche and will eventually learn to read with careful guidance from the right teacher.

    http://forshop.us

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