What Music Teachers Want Parents to Know

by Helen Tipton, Violinist and Orchestra Teacher in Spartanburg School District 7

5. “I wish they knew how much evidence there is that music improves literacy”.  Yep folks, the evidence is there, and lots of it.  “We are finding that musical training can alter the nervous system to create a better learner...”-Dr Nina Kraus, Northwestern University 2014.    The world’s most brilliant minds were once musicians: Albert Einstein- scientist (piano and violin), Bill Gates- Microsoft (Trombone), Steve Wozniak-Apple(Guitar), Condoleezza Rice-Former Secretary of State (Piano),  Gandhi (Concertina),  and Benjamin Franklin -Inventor (Violin, Harp, and Guitar).


4. ”All instruments are not created equally.”  It’s hard to know where to start if you have very little experience in music yourself, but trust us when we say this:  The unnecessary frustration from a terribly crafted instrument will truly discourage your child.  Trust your local music store, they want your child to be successful as much as you do.  


3.  “I wish parents wouldn’t allow their child to quit after the first year.”  Learning an instrument really is a long-game kind of activity.  Every child faces frustration and it’s normal for dips in enthusiasm, but music offers a real opportunity to teach perseverance.  Not “our wi-fi is slow, dad!” perseverance, but the real kind that will come in handy in another decade or so.


2. “Practicing is the way to perfect muscle memory.  A little bit goes a long way, and consistency is the key.”  It’s easy to fall back on the old ‘practice makes perfect’ adage, but in reality music will never be perfect.  In this age of “Growth Mindset”, I really appreciate my colleague’s revision of the old saying.


1. “Parents make the difference!  You don’t have to know anything about music, just ensure they practice, show up to concerts, and cheer for your child.”  Your approval and admiration makes all of the perseverance worth it.  Try to keep comments positive and supportive.  As an adult I listened to a tape recording (before digital, kids) of myself practicing and could not believe how terribly average I sounded.  It totally contradicted what I remembered.  According to my mother, I was the best violinist she’d ever heard.   Actually, I remember feeling quite sure that I was awesome (thanks mom) and kept working hard to get to the next level.  Thank goodness I had that support, it made the difference.


Tackling parenthood and all of its moving parts is rarely easy, but adding music into children’s lives is so worth it.  Hopefully this list helps you on your journey.


Helen Tipton serves on the Board of Directors for the Spartanburg Philharmonic and is Chair of the Spartanburg Philharmonic’s Education Committee. Helen and her team blog here once a month on Music Education to help other Music Educators, parents and students. Missed a blog? Simply click on the “Music Education Series” tag on the right column of our main blog page. Contributing Music Educators include Maggie Haggerty, Shelby Dickey, Janet Kuntz, Kelsey Grant and Jenny Shanks Nichols.