When I first entered undergraduate music school in the early 1990’s, the tides were turning as to opinions on when was an appropriate time to put kids into formal music lessons. As a parent or grandparent you may have asked this same question.
Twenty-five years ago when a new student wanted to sign up for voice lessons many teachers would not accept them for voice study until they had reached the mid-teen years/early high school age. This practice is still common today with older generations of voice teachers. We would often suggest that they should take on piano first even though the mother had just said “well, she just sings all the time, we can’t get her to stop so we thought lessons might be a good idea.”
As a newly degreed musician who began teaching like so many of my colleagues (to pay the bills), I welcomed ANY new student that wanted to study voice lessons and I trusted that hopefully I would just “know what to do.” And so young students began to come to me for voice lessons because so many of the teachers had turned them away. As I began teaching this young batch of eager little musicians I found that they were very teachable, they loved having fun and parents loved seeing them having fun and all in all everyone involved was having FUN!!….and this began my teaching career of specializing in teaching music to young musicians. It took a few years for me to get into a groove, learning the ins and outs of working the kids of the 1990’s when YouTube and the internet were in their infancy. Now I’m moving through 2023 with hundreds of kids (and parents) and tens of thousands of music lessons under my belt.
Science and the brain
Our knowledge and understanding of music and the brain over the past 25 years has helped us to learn and accept the fact that kids should be involved with the study of music as much as possible from infancy to adulthood and beyond. Music enriches our health, our happiness and benefits our lives in so many positive ways that we would being doing a dis-service in 2023 to say a child was “too young to study music“. They may be too young for certain instruments and they may be too young for advanced study for example in voice training but we know now that we’re never too young (or too old) to study music in its many vast and adaptable forms.
So what really are we teaching in these formative years from ages 7 – 12?
The answer to that is all of the foundational aspects of musical success and how to be successful in life. Music is SO complex! To really study an instrument; to really become good at making music takes years and decades. Musicians are NEVER done learning music. We live for perfecting one thing and then move on to another song or another level of difficulty. This is what drives us; we are never satisfied with stagnancy.
We’re laying the building blocks of the foundation of musical education. What we’re teaching is so complex that our most successful students are often those we start teaching around these ages. They are excited, they are easily motivated and inspired, as a rule they absorb the complexities of music easily and willingly. They are easily transitioned to new kinds of music and new songs and new concepts. It’s easy for us to teach routines and schedules and time management. We teach them solid musical foundations in many areas like rhythm, notes, music history and terms and signs. We begin teaching the mathematics of music; addition, patterns, themes. We’re teaching them how to be students of music; how to respect the activity of learning music and to appreciate the process of hard work. We’re building self-esteem, motivation, self discipline and confidence little by little each week.
We’re teaching them how to accept constructive criticism as part of the growth process. We’re teaching them focus and how to face fears and push through challenges and to never give up. When the brain and body are at maximum frustration or maximum disappointment we teach them to “start again”…..over and over we say “it’s ok, you’re getting it,….start again”. And we’re teaching them that music is a life long learning activity that you can choose to study and improve at for years to come. All of these qualities make good and successful performers and musicians and ALL of these qualities spill over into the rest of their lives.
I work with students for the long haul, 5-10 successive years of lessons is my average. I weave the fabric of music into their lives, week after week, year after year. My students have gone on to become lawyers, doctors, NASA scientists, German opera singers, teachers, composers doctors of music, rock stars in China, pharmacists, social workers, speech pathologists, and Broadway singers just to name a few. The formative years for a child between the ages of 7 – 12 are a great time to introduce your child to the life changing and amazing benefits of music classes and lessons.
Heather Korn is a master teaching artist with a career of over 25 years teaching music students full time and preparing students for professional careers in music and the arts. She owns and operates Music Works Academy in Beatrice, Nebraska.
Want to get our newsletters, blog post and enrollment information? Sign up for our mailing list here: