12 October, 2013

Music trains your brain

Every since I worked as an assistant music teacher for my piano teacher when I was in my last two years of school, my philosophy has been that, as a parent, I would never force my child to learn an instrument. And I guess that overflows to any sort of extra curricular activity. I saw too many piano students who just hated piano, but were forced to learn.

That has been put to the test in the last few years as I've had boys who've gotten to the age of potential instrument learners.
This is our son practising.

One boys has not shown any interest in learning an instrument (aside from a fleeting interest in guitar that has gone nowhere due to the lack of a guitar teacher). Nor has he shown any interest in choirs (and CAJ has some excellent choral teachers and divine choirs). We've never pushed him in this area, but he's shown an interest (and passion) for sports instead, so we've encouraged him and supported him in that.

Another boy was passionate about learning the piano early on, so we let him, yet pushed him whenever he wanted to quit. He's been learning for over three years now! He's also shown interest in joining the elementary choir, which he's finally been able to do this year.

The third boy who had a go at violin for a while when we were in Australia, but couldn't continue that in Japan due to the lack of an English-speaking teacher and never got up the enthusiasm for anything else, not even choir, until the opportunity to take up percussion this year. This, he has taken on with a great deal of enthusiasm and get-up-and-go. It is new for me, having someone practising thumping, but I'm glad he's able to pursue this.

I met a friend for ice-cream the other day. She is a flautist and, like me, has a piano-learning child. It was encouraging to share our common frustrations as musicians who know-how-to-practise and try to pass that on to our kids!

I also mentioned to her this blog post by another musician friend. It is exciting to see how my personality was shaped and potentially those of my children are being shaped, by learning instruments.

Positives of learning an instrument, according to research mentioned in the above blogpost, include:

  • improved reaction times
  • better ability to stay focused
  • heightened awareness of their own actions
  • spotting mistakes more quickly and accurately
Fourteen years into parenting and I still say that it is important that the passion (at least initially) to learn an instrument comes from the child themselves, though this is controversial and I've nearly ended up in arguments when I've expressed my opinion ill-advisedly on occasion. But the positives for those kids who do have the opportunity and passion to learn an instrument are exciting, to be sure.

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