Research has proven that a music education can be beneficial to children. The benefits range from improved language development to enhanced brain function. From sharper math, critical thinking and leadership skills to increased IQ. As the Maxine Moore Music Academy gets ready to kick off a new semester, Director Rick Forbus recently answered a few questions parents may be asking themselves when thinking about music lessons for their kids.
How young is too young?
It does vary. Three and 4 (years old) is too young 99 percent of the time. I’ve had 5 year olds that have done really well, but some don’t. For the ones that don’t, I recommend letting them come back when they’re 6 or 7, instead of forcing them through. But I’ll give a 5 year old a try.
Should all kids start out learning piano?
I don’t necessarily think the piano has to be the first instrument, just like I don’t think you need to start on the acoustic guitar before the electric guitar. There are also practical considerations: Do you have room for a piano at your house?
So how do you decide what you should start your child on?
If the child has a passion for a particular instrument, I’d say go with that one, period. If they’re not happy doing what they’re doing they’re not going to do with it with as much zeal.
The guitar and the piano are the two polyphonic instruments where you can play single notes or several at the same time. Melodies against bass lines. Even if you are a saxophone player or a flute player, I think it’s a good idea to learn how to play a chordal instrument at some point in your life because it gives you a broader musical understanding.
Does gender play into choosing an instrument?
As far as personality goes, it’s been my experience that preteen and teenage boys typically lean more toward guitar. It’s like a car with a hood scoop sticking out of it. There’s just an allure there.
That being said there have been some days of the week when I’ve had all girl students. And we have plenty of boys learning to play the piano.
Do children need to know how to read before they start lessons?
I don’t think they have to. It’s a factor, though, and may make life easier. I’ll adjust my teaching methodology for any kid that comes through the door. Some are more auditory, some more visual. Some need method books, some don’t. Private lessons mean we adjust to the student so long as the results bear out that the student is learning
Kids these days are busy. What do you say to parents whose children are already engaged in lots of other activities?
I’d say, take them out of something and put them in music. It’s more important. The time factor is not nearly as extreme as people think. I recommend five task-oriented practices a week. That could last 15 to 30 minutes. If they focus and play without distraction, they can finish in much less time than that.
How do we know that music education is beneficial?
There are so many studies that bear that out. One of the most impressive is a TED lesson video from educator and researcher Dr. Anita Collins. (You can watch it here.) It describes refers to playing music as the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout, engaging pretty much every area of the brain at the same time.
There was also a study from a University of Toronto psychology professor (referenced in this PBS article) that showed weekly music lessons for only one school year actually increased the IQ scores of first graders. I could go on and on.
What else does music teach?
Musicians listen more closely than the average bear. They hear critically. I’ve also seen the way that it can change someone’s self esteem. They might be the only kid in their class capable of playing, and that’s an esteem-enhancing thing. I’ve seen kids who walk taller and take more attention to the way they present themselves after they’ve played music for just a few years.
But is it too hard?
There’s no question that music can be challenging and frustrating, and it’s not as immediately gratifying as things in kids’ worlds today. Everybody maybe CAN play music. But not everybody WILL play music. So if you meet a musician, the one assumption that’s safe to make about them is they have perseverance, dedication and they stay on task because they it’s not something you can do quickly. I wish that I could hit you with a magic wand and make you play, but it doesn’t work that way.
Well, since you asked, music is full of math. You get that at the very beginning. You start learning about time, counting, fractions. Later on, math breakdowns – scales, odd notes, chord progression – bring in harmonies, and the harmonies feed into auditory so they sound good to our ears.
And music triggers emotion. Some kinds of music make you calm, some make you want to slam your accelerator pedal down. Something so abstract ultimately creates a feeling. To me, that’s absolutely fascinating.
A graduate of Southwest Guitar Conservancy in San Antonio, Rick Forbus has made a living as a “legit musician” his entire life. He’s been a member of numerous local bands and has taught more than 30,000 guitar lessons.
Maxine Moore Music Academy: the basics
Christ Methodist Day School is honored to house the Maxine Moore Music Academy on our campus. It provides our students with easy access to private music lessons from highly qualified professionals. Here is some basic information. Visit the MMMA webpage for more.
• MMMA has a roster of teachers, and students can take lessons in guitar, bass guitar, piano, organ, voice, entry-level drums, flute, saxophone, clarinet, violin and viola. It also has teachers available for other instruments should parents want their children to learn the trombone, harp, cello or even the euphonium.
• The academy is open to the entire Memphis community. While CMDS students make up the bulk of its enrollment, MMMA also counts kids from other schools and adults among its enrollees.
• The lessons are scheduled by semester. Specific days and times are arranged between the student and teacher. (MMMA doesn’t schedule lessons on Mondays to avoid school holidays.) CMDS students have the option to schedule lessons within the school day if a mutually agreed upon time can be determined by the MMMA teacher, parents and CMDS teacher.
• The fall semester begins Sept. 6 and ends Jan. 6. There are no lessons during the weeks of Fall Break, Thanksgiving Break and during Christmas Break. The spring semester begins Jan. 10 and ends April 28. There are no lessons during the weeks of Spring Break and Easter Break.
• Both semesters include 14, 30-minute lessons for $371.
• MMMA also offers Rock 3:16, a one-hour class consisting of three to six students in complementary instruments. Contact Forbus for more information on Rock 3:16.