An Open Letter to Parents of Piano Students
by Tim Topham
Dear Piano Parents,
Thanks for taking a moment out of your busy day to read this letter.
Its purpose is simple: to help you and your child get the most out of the investment you’ve made in music lessons and to set the stage for your child to develop a lifelong passion for their instrument.
There is a widening gulf emerging in all areas of education between traditional, assessment-based models of teaching involving examinations and rankings, and the need for our students to engage in creative, exploratory learning that will set them up for a future we can’t yet envision.
I continue to be saddened by the number of kids who I see quitting lessons prematurely and never touching their instrument again due to well-intentioned, but often misguided, pressure and advice from parents.
As a piano teacher, I find that just about every adult I meet, who learnt piano as a child but gave up in their teens, expresses sadness that they never continued lessons.
By drawing on my own experience and those of the teachers with whom I work every day around the world in my community, blog and podcast, I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to your child.
You’re committing a huge amount of time and money to this part of your child’s education. Wouldn’t it be a shame if it were wasted?
The Importance of Music Education
Before we go any further, let me first congratulate you on enrolling your child in piano lessons. It’s one of the best things that you can do for their growth and development in all areas of their life.
Music education not only provides an artistic outlet for your child, but research demonstrates learning a musical instrument helps students in other areas of study including memory, self-discipline, motivation and even literacy.
Learning a musical instrument changes the brain for the better.
“Music improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater or dance. The study found that kids who take music lessons ‘have better cognitive skills and school grades and are more conscientious, open and ambitious’.” – Music lessons were the best thing your parents ever did for you, according to science.
You’ve started on the path to helping your child enjoy an involvement in music. Now let me help you give your child the best chance of developing a lifelong relationship with music making.
The Cost of Lessons
Enrolling in music lessons is a huge commitment – in time, energy and money.
Let’s start with time. You may well need to take your child to and from lessons and concerts. Depending on your child’s teacher, you may be involved in lessons so that you can support your child during practice. You’ll commit time to attending recitals, concerts and all sorts of performances.
You’ll need to help your child find time in their schedule to practise. Sometimes, you’ll need to pester your child to practise. You’ll need lots of energy to keep them motivated as they embark on an activity that involves considerable but delayed gratification.
You’ll tear your hair out and get frustrated when they don’t practise. You’ll nag. You may need to wake them up early so they can practise before school and sometimes their practice might wake you up early on a Sunday morning.
And then there’s the financial cost. I know that many of you have made significant financial sacrifices in order to give your child this experience.
Firstly, there’s the instrument you need to purchase or rent – who knew how expensive a decent piano could be? And what about the lessons themselves? For the most part, music lessons aren’t cheap and, like anything else, the more you pay, the more qualified and experienced your teacher will be. Music lesson costs per year can easily run into the thousands of dollars for a child.
But don’t let this put you off; the benefits your child will gain from music lessons will far outweigh all the costs, as long as we keep a few things in mind.