Musical instruments

Confessions of a Music Teacher (or from the Cradle to the Concert Hall)

Babies and music

Anyone that has contact with children will tell you that young minds are quick and very receptive. From birth, a child begins to rapidly take in information and learns ways to express his or her needs with sounds (crying) movement of the arms or legs, and so on. It is my belief that every baby has an intelligence level that quickly begins to demonstrate why humans are the predominant species on this Planet.

Babies instinctively know their mother and form a strong bond with her and with Father too, and within a few months they soon recognize other members of their family. Many child psychologists agree that between birth and five years or age a baby will absorb a tremendous amount of information and this serves as a foundation stone for the building of their character in the years ahead.

Babies of a few months old have been taught to speak early, or respond to signs or pictures of everyday items such as colour, numbers, and animals; and one of the strongest experiences for a baby is the sound of music .

If they find a tune pleasing they will smile, wave their hands, make cooing noises and so on, and when they reach the toddler stage they love to dance and run in circles or clap their hands to music or visual games on television children programmes.

In no time they are starting to say a few words and even try to pronounce the name of a favourite character or an everyday saying such as 'hello' or 'bye bye' and quickly learn to say their own name, or an interpretation of it.

By 22 months of age they are up and running around and into everything exploring and learning, and generally surprising family members with their antics and sayings. By the time they are three –and certainly by four years of age –they have a very good grasp of coherent speech and a vocabulary that serves them well in early learning school or play school.

This is the time each child starts to show individual talent towards a subject and will, with proper care and attention of both Parents and Teacher, start to develop that particular talent.

Excepting those children that are exceptionally gifted in this World and fall into the 'child genius' category, most children are perfectly capable of learning to do most skills to a degree of efficiency that will give them satisfaction and confidence in achieving..

Music is such a field.

(It has been known for many years that children that learn to play music (this includes singing) will develop confidence in their ability to achieve, and help them to produce better results in other school subjects)

Young children and music

As a music teacher I have taught hundreds of children from aged five up to school leaving years as well as Adults, and find the youngsters are the most receptive because they have no prior knowledge of self expectancy or fears to absorb information in a natural manner.

By far, children are the most enjoyable group to teach. In school, they are in a daily learning mode that presents them with information they usually enjoy doing, and no matter if they are normal healthy children or physically or mentally disabled in some way, or even do not speak English, they find making music to be a wonderful and joyful experience.

The methods I have found that work best for me are based around simplicity of lesson presentation, plus two other vital ingredients; trust and respect. If the children trust you and you reciprocate and believe in their efforts to achieve, you have established a safe and pleasant environment in which to help them to enjoy and understand music and develop their natural skills.

There is no greater reward to any teacher than to see the look of joy on a child's face when he/she can play a piece of music they may have been having difficulty with after you have helped them to find the solution.

In between playing music children can be really fun! When they get to know you they can come out with the most innocent of statements or questions that want you to roar with laughter, but you don't want to break their little hearts by making them look foolish in front of the other kids, so you let them tell you their jokes or about how Uncle Arthur's cat got stuck in a drainpipe.

When supervising a band comprising of seven to eleven year olds there are certain things you must never do.

Let me explain;

Never under any circumstances, turn your attention away from them. If you do, there will be a rapid increase of disorderly noise as they all try to outdo each other 'blowing their heads off' that is, playing as loudly as they can. This is nerve racking not only to you, but frightening to younger children in the band.

You will have to cope with all sorts of problems intentional or unintentional, such as children crying because young Tommy sitting at the back of them with his trombone has poked somebody in the ribs with his slide, or some demon child has blasted a loud note in a girl's ear. Oh, and I forgot the little things like a kid with a beaming smile across his face coming up to you with his Cornet saying 'It won't work, Sir!' And you discover he has been unscrewing the valve tops and the piston valves inside the chambers are all loose.

Then you finally get them all quiet and tell them repeatedly what the music is called they are going to play. There is always someone talking or not paying attention, and when you count them in and the band starts playing there is (1) Someone sitting gawking at you with the instrument on his/her knees or (2) A kid is playing something entirely different from the rest of the band. You get he band underway again and suddenly one of the trombone players "accidentally" knocks over the music stand with his slide. All jolly pranks to keep you on your toes!

But on the big day of the Concert you are proud as punch when they all play great and the audience lets them know, with enthusiastic applause and foot stamping. Their little angelic faces grinning at you with pride as you mutter under your breath 'well done children -well done indeed!'

Bless them –I love kids and would not swap them for anything. I feel I am extremely lucky to have been able to teach music to children for the past forty years. The innocence and sincerity of them all has been my guiding light in my life, and although I know some of my friends say I am a 'Peter Pan' type of guy - you know what? Maybe I am.