For this month’s resource review, I decided to focus on a resource for parents.  It is important to keep in mind our piano parents as we make decisions for our studio.  How can we support & educate them to make piano lessons a positive experience for the whole family?

I don’t normally check the copyright date when I choose a book to read. However, in the second paragraph of this resource I just had to take a look at what was going on.

And, the phrase that got me wondering exactly when this book was written?

“Music is all around us – on the TV, radio and phonograph.”

Hmm. Phonograph isn’t a word I have commonly seen in books for a very long time.

A Parent’s Guide to Piano Lessons

Published in 1976, “A Parent’s Guide to Piano Lessons” by James W. Bastien covers many of the questions that parents had (or should have had) when considering whether piano lessons where right for their child.

What can a book written over 40 years ago teach us today?

Surprisingly a lot.

Consider the following quotes.  (Anything enclosed in [   ] is my words.)

In regards to music education in the school system:

‘Unfortunately, economic considerations lead to inconsistent application of music & art programs & these two special areas are often eliminated because they are considered “frills”.’ (p. 16)

Beginner students:

‘Much of what your child will be able to accomplish in music will be based on a solid foundation in beginning fundamentals.’ (p. 20)

Whether a piano is needed for lessons:

‘… you must have a piano for your child’s practice.  It will not suffice for your child to have to practice at a neighbour’s or relative’s home, on in a school or church room.  Don’t make the mistake of beginning lessons until you have a piano at home!’ (p. 25)

Involvement of parents:

‘Your responsibility as a parent does not end once lessons begin, even though it’s your child who is taking lessons, not you.  Especially in the beginning, your help is needed to get piano study started in a organized manner [by setting a regular practice schedule at home] so that your child will form correct habits which will equip him to continue more on his own.’ (p. 35)

‘Don’t inform the teacher that your child can skip the basics & play “real music” (Bach, Chopin, etc.).  It takes time for the beginner to absorb fundamentals.’ (p. 38)

For parents that do not have a musical background … ‘By helping your child practice from the beginning, you will learn basic music information which is easy to comprehend, even if you know nothing about music.’ (p. 49)

Practicing during the week

‘Regarding practice time, it is not necessarily quantity that counts, but quality.’ (p. 45)

‘…your child may not share your long-range view [of regular practice leading to growth later on] … So in a sense, at this stage in his life, he is doing you a favor by practicing.  For a favor, there should be a reward … However you reward your child [whether its through praise, special activity, counts toward allowance, etc.], do it in a way that lets him know that you care about his musical accomplishments, & that you appreciate his efforts.’ (p. 50)

Participating in recitals, festivals & exams

‘… Children or parents who insist on performing [or exams] against the teacher’s advice can cause themselves unnecessary grief.’ (p. 52)

‘The recital or contest [or exam] piece cannot be “crammed” the night before the event.’ (p. 53)

Timeless Advice

Do the above quotes remind you of many of the questions or concerns we deal with now?  I know it did for me.  In some ways, it was a little like reading Facebook posts from the variety of piano teacher groups I follow.

As I get ready to overhaul my studio website, I will be pulling quotes from “A Parent’s Guide to Piano Lessons” to augment the information that I provide potential clients & answer the most frequent questions I get asked.

I would highly recommend this resource, even if only for your own reference.  I have found it immensely helpful in my studio to keep in mind the parent perspective as I make changes to policy or handling situations that come up.

My only caveat is the section on electronic pianos is understandably outdated.  Like all other technology, the quality of these instruments has grown substantially.  However, I was impressed that it was even listed as a viable option.

A Little Context

A few months ago, one of my students informed that she likes ‘oldies’ music … “You know, from the 90’s & early 2000’s”.  I laughed so hard I almost started crying.

To give you a little context on when this book was published, below is a playlist of some of my personal favourite songs from the same year. (I like to think my student might like these ‘super-oldies’ just as much.)

P.S. The trumpet & sax players were the best in “Play That Funky Music”!  Plus, I added an homage to Beethoven for the last video.

Hope you enjoy listening as you finish out your week.  Have a great weekend!

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