A Bygone Era Most children today spend a great deal of their time watching television or playing video games, and they have adjusted to, perhaps even expect, quick-paced action and immediate results. [...] we need to clarify to both parents and students what music lessons offer.
Should Music Lessons Be By Lesley Sisterhen McAllister f the many philosophical Some teachers bristle at the idea that questions that music music should be “fun.” It is, after all, a teachers face on a regular serious art, requiring discipline and basis, one of the most fun- hard work. Part of the goal of music damental is the purpose of lessons should be learning how to taking music lessons. Teachers must learn—how to focus and practice for consider the function of their calling long periods of time, even without in order to serve their students and immediate gratification. their field in the most effective way. At Other teachers build a whole teach- times, the reasons that students are ing philosophy around enabling stu- enrolled in music lessons do not align dents to have fun while playing music. Lesley with the teacher’s thinking. They have their students play in Sisterhen One of the reasons that parents or ensembles or duets with the idea that McAllister is assis- students often cite is that they enjoy it is more fun to collaborate with other tant professor of music and want to take lessons for musicians than to practice alone. Or piano and director “fun.” Parents may say things like, they teach their students to improvise, of piano pedagogy “We want our child to enjoy her les- which often seems more like a creative at Baylor University sons!” Or, “It is more important for game for students rather than hard in Waco, Texas, our child to have fun with it than to work. Offering regular group classes, where she teaches courses in piano be able to play perfectly.” We also hear such as theory or musicianship classes, pedagogy and class piano and similar requests from students: “Can I may also provide an informal atmos- directs the Piano Laboratory play this just for fun?” Often, teachers phere, especially when the classes Program for community piano stu- translate this question as “Can I just include games or other entertaining dents. play through this without actually activities. These teachers may put on practicing it or learning all the notes?” theme recitals or blend recitals with 16 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2010 parties so students associate perform- to teach the way we have been taught, especially if they do not intend their ance activities with relaxation and and if we do not change our expecta- children to become professional musi- recreation. All of these ideas work tions of students, we will begin to see cians. because they provide a stimulating more and more students dropping out Parents also want their child to con- experience, as well as a comfortable of lessons. Our very livelihood tinue with music lessons. So many par- environment in which students can depends on changing our conception ents tell the same story that it begins enjoy themselves while learning. But of music lessons. to sound like a prototype: they took no matter what tactics a teacher What is it that needs to change? We lessons for years and quit for some rea- designs, there remains an underlying need, first of all, to stimulate students son, usually in high school. Perhaps question: Is enjoyment for its own sake in ways that will connect with other they did not like to practice, or their the final goal of music lessons? sources of enjoyment in their lives. teacher was unkind, or their parents Play is the active verb when talking The use of technology is one of the could no longer afford lessons. No about making music; for insta
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