Music Tip #4: My Letter to Parents With Young Children Studying Music
My mind has so much to tell you. Every bit of information is worth it. All is remembering back to what I was like as a kid and how it relates to me today, a girl of 29 years and 6 months as I write this.
I Get It
I understand why you want your kids to succeed. Studying music is said to advance one's scientific abilities, test taking, social skills, memory, math levels, and anything you could possibly want.
Piano lessons, or any lessons for that matter, are expensive. You want your kids to be better off than you were. To have skills you may have or may wish you picked up when your brain was young, fresh and quicker to learn.
Please, if you want your kids to learn music and have a passion for it, do not force it on them as a field of study. Do not make them practice music. Do not involve rules whatsoever.
The very reason I enjoy music right now and have the goal of scoring more film music for the rest of my life in addition to filmmaking is...and get ready for it...it is that shocking...
My parents never made me do it.
My parents made me do everything else, as did teachers. Do your homework. Why are you getting this grade? Why aren't you studying? I once did a protest in which I refused to do well on tests or homework, purposely getting the wrong answers like in Mean Girls. My very pleasant school principal had a talk with me similar to, "You are a very smart young lady. Why are you getting a C? Why aren't you trying?" I felt no reason to try using my brain when the matieral in front of me was unnecesary to my well being and future. My teacher had noticed I mentally faded out, turning in lousy work if ever, enough not to fail a class but barely enough to do beyond average. I didn't care. Whatsoever! My brain had no cause to care about the boring schoolwork that would never affect my life as a tween. I was kind of right at the time and still don't think it affected my life in any way other than my principal and teachers being concerned, which I didn't care about either and had no affect on me, really.
Later on, my family used to bother me about grades. I barely went to high school and basically sum it up as "I never went to high school" as I did college credits in exchange for high school credits, attending my area's nearest community college and using that to graduate from high school. All I did at high school one year was Spanish, computers and cooking class, which are incidentally classes I feel all heavily impacted my grand life scheme career choices. Nobody made me take those. I chose to take them and excel in them. Although, I still had a few rules and my guidance counselors on my case making sure I got good grades. A slipup would have meant not having my special get out of jail, I mean school, free pass.
I hated school with a passion so much, I didn't want to be there. I did anything to get out of there, if it meant going to college and graduating as early as possible however I could instead to get out of the little kid, rules all the time environment elementary to high school enforces.
Music Was A Rule Free Zone
What music did for me from the moment I started very young studying it was provide me with a rule free imaginary place in which I could do anything I wanted. Nobody told me I could not do something. My private tutors and amazing music teachers always enforced the ideal: with learning, there are no limits in music. As long as you have skills, and you are learning to acquire those skills, as long as you play according to the mathematial equations like 6/8 or 3/4 in the writing, you can do anything.
My parents were not strict on me practicing my music. They did not care whether I practiced because it didn't affect my grades so much. Music class at middle to junior high school is all about attendance. Go to class, don't cause trouble and you are guaranteed at least a B-. My own music teachers didn't really care if I practiced. As long as I had no C's, my parents didn't care. Yes, I did every now and then get a junior high-high school C, rarely, but I did. NOTE: I didn't enroll in band in high school due to band class being held in the afternoon and my being there by force reduced to 2 1/2 hours in the morning.
Therefore, I did practice. A lot! And I went a step further. I practiced writing music on my own for THE FUN OF IT! The horror! Tired of using my notebooks to learn how to compose in my free time, I went to a Barnes & Noble one day when I had a weekend off in St. Louis with my parents and bought a music, probably age 12, and got a really cute sheet music hard bound notebook. I messed up a lot. This was in the days before computer programs corrected your sheet music writing. I now am super lazy and rely on computers too much, haha. However, I did it. I learned how to compose on my own, sort of. I had one music teacher who was really into teaching kids music theory they didn't care about for the sake of him probably not feeling like he was talking to himself. I paid attention, excited to learn. And, I used his wisdom in all my mistakes.
I used to practice playing themes I enjoyed and figuring them out on my goofy Casio keyboard. Titanic. Love Story. Harry Potter, back when the first movie came out. I did it for fun because nobody was around policing my every move and thought.
I left my homework at school because I felt the correct term was schoolwork. You do it before school starts, between classes, lunch and any class time you're done with whatever it is ahead of the next class. At times, I'd take my math homework home because, secretly, I kind of liked math. And, I did my math homework. But right after that, before I watched a million movies on TV, if I wasn't talking to anyone, I holed myself up in this mini office with my headphones and laptop recording my awful Casio keyboard stuff, or I was busy learning how to compose. I also learned about layering sound on my ridiculous Windows 2000 computer, a tactic I still use now with film scores and film score style cover song music I actually release. Editing down to a split second to make a song more perfected, without AutoTune. All of this stuff. And, I did it on my own!
Often, my braces got in the way of me being a great flute player. I might not have been so awesome due to that. I for sure though enjoyed taking my flute to my dad's workplace a few afternoons and trying to impress the very confused-slash-intrigued staff there about why some corny little girl who is as silly as they make them could play movie themes on her flute.
If there is any one thing I am grateful my family did, it is that my parents bought me instruments and music classes. Additonally, they paid for flute cleanings and things that went along with it. My gratitude read back out to myself now reading this makes me question if I myself really wrote that. I'm not those do gooder types of student council kids grown up, at all. I am thankful that my parents let me do whatever I wanted, or I would not have developed any music skills I have today. The same can be said of my love of computers and web design. My parents never made me do it. I wanted to do it. I found my interests in the world and from an early age, followed my heart, burying myself in them.
Being Good At Something Made Me Feel Amazing
Compare this with any other skill my parents or teachers wanted me to have. I sucked at sports because I didn't care about them. The only sports I enjoyed were figure or roller skating. I'd have loved to have been an ice speed skater. I'm actually good at skating and, to this day, love leg exercises and any moment I can do it. The rink was too far away for me to pursue that one. I hated most of my classes. History was OK, kind of interesting. Journalism was fun in a way but never free feeling like my other classes. Everything was too constricted by rules. I sort of liked math apart from the year I took geometry, and I loved science becuase there was always only one right answer. In truth, my fall back option was to be a plastic surgeon because it combines art and science, but I felt and do feel today it was too boring to pursue and my dad is a doctor. Sitting through boring doctor conference lectures when I could pursue film and music is not worth living to me.
I wished they had awards for web design for kids then or CDBaby to self release my music when I was 12 to 15. I wasn't good at anything kids win trophies for. I hated the spelling bee I was forced into when every other kid in my class sat out and I was a fluke contestant. I hated getting good grades because, as I said, it wouldn't make a difference. Why care? I didn't want to be friends with the 4.0+ students, whose peer group all got A+'s or did AP everything loaded with too many hours of coursework.
I was this girl who didn't stand out. And, when I learned music on my own terms, and I was really good at it more than the kids who flat out practiced flute all day long for the saske of getting an A+ in band class, I was proud of myself. Really confident! I am, today also, when I partake in activities I know I am really good at.
Challenges Must Happen to Learn
What all of my classes had in common back when I went to regular school like a regular tween/teen was, as much as classes might have had room for imagination, I was rarely challenged. My mind felt like it wasn't being used. My brain was supposed to soak in facts, spit them out and lerase over my hard drive learning new facts only to spit them out again on homework and tests. I could not wonder about things. My brain did not have to function in questioning.
Don't Get Mad If It Doesn't Work OUt
When my parents and teachers stuffed me into skills or career choices, or I imitated what worked for others as everyone suggested it or I thought it would help me out, I felt depressed. Don't be upset. Your child might like other things. We are luckily all different in where our interests lie. Being yourself is the best thing anyone can do. Your child is amazing. Do not make him or her into anyone other than who he or she is meant to be.
A lot of parents blew up when I did stuff better than their kids. I mean, please! Your kids are humans. Do not expect them to be good at everything or like everything. Don't you want them to be happy? A child's misery translates into adult misery. Once negative precedents set in, it's hard to stop down that path in and after college. Pretty soon, you hate your life because you cannot do what you want, or like me, your path isn't leading you where you should be directly fast enough – and with negativity standing in your way. Take it from someone like myself who did that. Do not do this to your kids. Your kids' happiness is worth the most in life.