I swear it was 100 years ago when I was in fifth grade band. Yet it seems like yesterday I played in my first band concert. If you played an instrument, I bet you can still hear that version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It was probably screechy, too, but eventually we all got better!
This year our family will have our first fifth grader, and that means our son has a decision to make. Band or orchestra? While we might be new to this age of schooling, my husband and I are not new to music. We both came from families that nurtured musicians and some even play professionally today. So from both personal experience and from observing those relatives, here is how we plan to handle this new activity.
Let Your Kids Lead
If you played an instrument, too, try not to push them to play the same one you did or the one you always wished you would have (you know, it’s never too late for you to learn, too). They are going to want to quit at some point, probably multiple times, and this decision needs to belong to them.
Do Your Homework
Research the groups. Band is going to a mixture of mostly basic wind instruments: flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, french horn, tuba, and percussion (drums). Orchestra is your group of string instruments: violin, viola, cello, and string bass. Some school programs may have other instruments outside of this basic list. Sort through audio clips of different instruments in popular music and let your kids hear what some of these instruments sound like.
They Can Start Learning Now
Even if you child doesn’t have an instrument picked out yet, there is plenty they can start learning right now. Learning music is like learning a new language. Reading music on a staff and recognizing those notes will give them a bit of a head start. Learn to read music here or buy some flash cards. As a teenager, I taught piano lessons and some of the first few lessons are just learning what music looks like. Oddly enough, music has a bit of math involved. There is lots to learn here.
Make Sure You Both Understand the Commitment
Learning is going to take time. Your child needs to understand they aren’t going to be able to play their favorite TV or video game theme song right away. That is going to take lots of practice, probably daily practice. But when they figure out how to play something they recognize, they are going to LOVE it. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to bribe your kids when it comes to practice time.
Consider a Private Instructor
This is not necessary, but helpful. Finding someone that fits your kids personality will make or break their love for their instrument. You can find instructors at local music studios and rental places. Check out your local church or ask your child’s music teacher if they know of other students in their community teaching lessons.
Listen, and Listen Again
Listen and praise them for everything they share with you. Every line, every scale no matter how many times you have already heard them. If I remember anything from the years I spent learning music it was that my family supported me.
This is going to be hard and fun for both of you, but learning and gaining a musical talent is rewarding. It takes discipline and endurance. It can bring a sense of community for you student, and it can take them quite a ways in their education. Take your time choosing, and don’t forget to practice!