The MCMA receives hundreds of calls a year from parents who are interested in enrolling their children in music lessons for the first time, but they don’t know where to start. How old must their children be? How long will it take until they become proficient? Is music theory important? And the most commonly asked question—what are the benefits of my child learning music at all?
Research has found that learning music facilitates learning in other subject areas beyond music, such as math, science, and language. It also requires the use of multiple skill sets simultaneously, such as hand-eye coordination and spatial understanding. Studies have also shown that learning any type of instrument increases IQ and improves test scores, influences creative thinking and problem solving, and is an exposure to different cultures and music forms which ultimately fosters empathy.
Most importantly though, music makes kids happy. Not everyone can be a prodigy right off the bat, and while it does take time and dedication, it’s a tremendous benefit to get children in the stick-to-it determination mindset. While parents may hope that enrolling their child in a music program will make them a better student, the primary reason should be for the child to learn to love all aspects of music, to enjoy themselves, and to respect the process involved in achieving any level of proficiency on an instrument.
So where do you start, and when? Each student is unique, and each have their own special path to becoming musical. It is not uncommon for parents to start their children on instruments such as the piano or violin as young as 3 years old (sometimes younger!) to ensure that music becomes part of their lives from the get go. Programs such as Orff or Suzuki are structured to fit any level, particularly for young children just starting out. However, remember that it is never too early or too late to start, so don’t feel pressured to put a bow in their hands right away! There are also many wonderful group music and movement programs for preschoolers so they can begin learning the fundamentals of music while having fun doing so.
Did you know that many teachers will not take on young children for singing lessons? We get this question a lot—the reason that teachers decline children under the age of 10-12 is because their voices are constantly changing and developing before puberty. It isn’t that it would be damaging for them to start singing early on, rather they would have to continuously relearn technique, tone, and ear training with each new ‘voice’ they develop over time. Instead, teachers encourage parents to enrol children who love to sing and perform in choir or theatre class. That way, they can learn the basics of singing, while enjoying themselves with friends in a group setting.
Learning music theory is also a key aspect for becoming a well-rounded musician. Knowledge of key signatures, chords, harmony, and even music history fosters an appreciation for the full scope of music, as well as encourages students to compose and create their own music. And once you have the basics down, these rules translate to all instruments, and make picking up multiple disciplines easier than learning from scratch! Theory is also a requirement for those students pursuing music examinations and certification in such programs as the Royal Conservatory of Music and Conservatory Canada.
When the time is right, the next step is choosing the right teacher. The first priority for any new student is finding a quality teacher with a verified musical education background, sufficient training, and experience. All MCMA faculty have degrees in music, and some even have additional experience in childhood education. You can also go straight to the source: speak to other parents or music students and get their read on their teachers. Does the teacher have a high success rate with examinations? Do they make music fun or are they extremely disciplined? At the Conservatory, we always try to match students with the best teacher possible, and allow for a meeting prior to making any kind of commitment to make sure it’s a good fit for everyone.
Do you have any other questions about where to start? Always feel free to call us or email us any time with your questions or curiosities! There’s nothing we love more than connecting people to music, no matter your age or stage.