Whitney's Music Studio

in Shallowater, Texas and Lubbock, Texas area

(806) 832-0531





Give the Gift of Music

Music Can Enrich Almost Any Child's Life

By Joanne McFadden

"I really cannot remember when I didn't want to play," says musician Jordan Baugh of Burnt Hills. Watching and listening to him, you'd probably guess that he is at least a senior in high school. The truth is, he's only a freshman, and he has been an accompanist since sixth grade when he started playing the piano for his school's chorus. How did Jordan's parents foster their son's love of music?

"We always had music in the home," Jordan's mother, Roxanne, says. Jordan's father, Dave, plays the guitar and the family would sing along when the children were younger. Jordan would sit next to his grandmother at her piano, watching her play and listening to the music. Soon, he began bugging his father to get him a piano, and he began formal lessons in second grade.

But Jordan didn't stop there. He would sit near the organ during church services and observe the organist intently. "He was waiting for his legs to grow so he could reach the pedals," Roxanne says. At age 12, Jordan began taking organ lessons. Now he plays for church services occasionally and has played for a gathering of over 800 people.

Even if you don't have a musical prodigy on your hands, you can still certainly encourage a love of music in your child. Music - whether you play for fun or professionally - has wonderful benefits. Jordan says that music helps him to focus and to relax.

Musical training can start in infancy. Andrea Soberman, director of Musical Munchkins, with classes in Goshen, Cornwall, Fishkill and Kingston, oversees a music program for children ages 6 months to 5 years. "Why we start children so young is because this age is such a strong imprint age," Soberman says. "Everything that they're absorbing is imprinting on their souls, minds and bodies. We can leave such a strong feeling of warmth, pleasure and joyfulness through music. This truly will carry with them through the rest of their lives and make a strong, indelible impression."

Lessons are an adult-child experience up to age 3, while 3- to 5-year olds attend group lessons without a parent or caregiver. The group lessons cover things like pitch, meter, and rhythm, but the concepts are all taught through play. "The underpinnings are very serious and well thought out, but the perception on the child's part is that he's playing," Soberman says. "This is very important in looking for a good music program for children. Play has to be a big part of it - that's how they learn."

Musical Munchkins instructors are required to have not only a music background, but an early-childhood background as well. "It's really important that the instructors are able to relate to young children in a sensible, caring and humorous way, as well as, their music skills," Soberman said. Parents can see how an instructor relates to a child by simply observing the interaction between instructor and student.

The Yamaha Music School starts children at age 4. "The best time, we feel, is between the age of four and five because the human ear is at a peak sensitivity at that time so we can utilize the student's abilities through ear training," says Cheryl Wherry, director of Vincitore's Yamaha Music School in Poughkeepsie and Fishkill. In 50-minute group lessons, children learn keyboard skills and basic musicianship such as harmony training, composition, theme and variations as they progress through the program.

"Lessons are very active, almost an hour long," Wherry says. Vincitore's encourages parents to keep a positive attitude when it comes to practicing. Parents should not expect their child to sit at the keyboard and practice for 30 minutes. In addition to traditional practice, practicing might included singing in the car, doing rhythm activities or doing motions with a dance - activities designed to keep a child's interest and attention. For encouraging practice, Vincitore's offers ideas that include positive reinforcement, sticker books, charts, awards and parents doing activities with their child. Sometimes, said Wherry, parents need to accept that it's okay for a child not to practice every day - that it may be better to let it go sometimes rather than pushing the issue and turning a child away from music.

Piano instructor Sue Cole of Clifton Park says that parents need to realize that the majority of children will not be disciplined enough to practice on their own. "They need to be reminded and encouraged," Cole says. "It is interesting that parents will often accompany their children to sports team practice and stay to watch the entire timer. However, when it comes to practicing on an instrument, they tell the child to do it and pay no further attention. If parents would listen and help during practice time, the success level would increase dramatically for the students."

Other tips for encouraging practice include dividing practice sessions into short segments and asking the music instructor to assign pieces that the student really likes to play. These pieces, combined with the necessary music, will stimulate a child's interest in practicing.

Cole considers second or third grade the optimum time for starting a child in piano lessons. "The child's reading skills and coordination skills are more developed and it makes learning easier," she says.

Although the optimal introductory age varies, most instructors stress the importance of letting the vehicle your child chooses for his musical expression be his or her choice, not yours. Andra McKown remembers starting her oldest son, Martin, in music lessons. "I had signed Martin up to do Suzuki piano. He didn't want to do piano, he wanted to do violin, but I felt like the piano was the basic instrument to learn all instruments, so I wanted him to have this," she says. When she mentioned this in passing to the Suzuki instructor after signing him up for piano lessons, the instructor all but screamed at McKown: "She said that his first introduction to music should be something he wants. She stressed that he should be happy and that his first introduction to music should be something he's interested in."

Martin took lessons from Suzuki for three years in Pittsburgh before moving to New York. He is now a second-year violinist in his elementary school's orchestra. Martin's younger brother, Connor, takes piano lessons. "I think their mission is to play together," McKown says.

Finding the right music instructor for your child is one of the most important jobs for parents. "You have to have the right rapport with the teacher," Roxanne Baugh says.




"Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song." Psalms 95:2

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music." Psalms 98:4