A Few Truths Parents Must Understand When Their Child Begins Playing a Musical Instrument – By Anthony Mazzocchi

That said, learning an instrument requires skills and traits that children may not have experienced yet — and that parents haven’t thought (or known how) to teach.  That’s the beauty of instrumental music instruction, especially as part of school curricula.  However, it’s important that parents are prepared for that moment when their child plays their first notes … and they don’t sound all that great.

Here are 3 things parents need to be prepared to understand about their child learning a musical instrument:

There will not be as much immediate gratification as your child is used to…and that’s okay.  Our children live in an immediate gratification world.  Everything is at their fingertips — they press a button and something happens immediately.  Although we all have chosen immediate gratification over delayed gratification (and vice versa) at some point our lives, our younger generation is not presented these choices often enough.  If our children pick up an instrument for the first time and can’t make a sound, they are liable to stigmatize themselves as “non-talented” or incapable of becoming successful at music — and want to quit immediately.

But that’s not the truth.

I believe that intelligence is not the primary predictor of success. It is the ability to persevere in hardship, persist and learn after failure, and have a resilient spirit in the face of obstacles. If we can help our children stay focused on creating beautiful sounds on a musical instrument (even when that goal is farther away than they would like it to be), they will develop grit that will serve them well throughout their life.

It’s crucial that we help our children understand the concept of delayed gratification, and musical instrument instruction is perfect for this.  Some musical concepts require weeks of practice before children feel that incredible satisfaction from a successful performance. In a world filled with streaming Internet and fast food, learning an instrument helps “slow life down” a bit — and that’s something that parents should not take for granted.

Practicing will become difficult if it is not part of a daily routine.  If children leave school understanding the importance of having daily routines and how good habits are formed, teachers and parents will have done a great job.  Music practice is something that must be incorporated into a daily routine along with homework and brushing teeth.  Experts say it takes approximately 21 days to create a habit (as long as it happens for 21 days straight), so it’s important for a practice routine to be incorporated into a child’s day immediately upon receiving their instrument.  Creating this routine is one of the reasons why the first two months of being a music parent are so important.  Start with 5 minutes of playing a day and see where it takes your child.

Your child is talented, and all children are capable of becoming musically competent.  Plenty of studies have been done to disprove the theory of inherited talents and innate gifts.  Parents can impact their family’s “gene pool” and change their family tree if they so choose.  There is no evidence that exists to prove that musical talent is inherent, but it is also true that everyone doesn’t always have the resources and tools to become great musicians.  If music is offered in school curricula, and parents help their child practice at home in small ways, all children can have a true opportunity to realize their talents — both musical and other.  It’s unfortunate that studies in neuroscience were not as advanced when we were kids — too many current day parents thought they weren’t “talented” when, in fact, they just needed more time with their craft and some minimal support.

Understanding these truths should be liberating for parents and their children, and take some stress off the first few weeks of learning a musical instrument.   To become skilled at a musical instrument — and to become great at anything — one needs to struggle a little, so allow your child to do just that.  They need to sound bad before they sound good; they need to work on things just beyond what they are capable of in order to get better and smarter, and that means they need to delay gratification a bit and embrace struggle in order to grow as musicians and as human beings.

There will be some hard days, but there will be far more amazing moments and beautiful music making down the road after what may seem like some initial frustration.  Parents should treasure the fact that music is offered through school, and that it offers their children ways of learning that no other subject can.

Parents who make a long-term commitment to music instruction gives children the tools to succeed in music — and therefore in life — and is one of the greatest gifts they can give this year.

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The 9 Common Lessons of Music Education That Translate into Success

(The following article is an excerpt from Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, printed with permission from the author. The book is a compilation of 32 profiles of CEOs and business professionals who played music as a child or adolescent and view that experience as a defining one in preparing them for success in their business endeavors.)

These are alarming times for the plight of music education funding. Economic downturns are an immediate sign of crisis for those programs that have perennially been at or near the education budgetary chopping block. Non-profit organizations that try to fill that resource gap often rely on the benevolence of those impacted by an ailing economy. Perhaps a new understanding of the transcendent lessons of a music education can lead to a reshuffling of education priorities.

Consider a conversation that I had a couple of years ago with Ellis Marsalis, Jr., modern jazz pioneer, music educator, and the father of the first family of jazz in New Orleans and beyond. “To me there’s nothing wrong with somebody who has played a musical instrument and is not going to do it for a living becoming the CEO of a major corporation, and there’s a ton of that,” said Marsalis. “I met a guy at Merrill Lynch who’s a clarinet player. One of the best pianists we had, a young lady at NOCCA when I was teaching there – She’s a banker in New Jersey” (NOCCA refers to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, an advanced program for young prodigies of music and the arts for high school-aged youths in New Orleans).

Ellis Marsalis, Jr. understood that regardless of whether the ultimate vocation of the students that came under his tutelage (including his children) turned out to be trumpet, saxophone, trombone, percussion, or banking and financial services, music education could comprise an integral component of the foundation for their success. As he explained, it’s only one element, but an important one in a well-rounded education that prepares a student for a diversified world and uncertain times.

Researching the Business Correlation of Music Education
For a period of 18 months I discussed this subject with 32 CEO’s and business leaders from around the country (and a few from beyond). The task was to identify successful people from a cross-section of business who were influenced by music education as a child or adolescent and who view that experience as a defining one in preparing them for success in their business endeavors. I asked them to reflect and to articulate the lessons learned, attributes developed, and insights gained from their music experience that were highly correlative to success in the business world, “FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM,” so to speak. Here are the nine common lessons articulated by the research participants.

1. Confidence and Self-Esteem (Stepping Up to the Mic)
One of the most common benefits of music expressed by our research subjects was the development of confidence and self-esteem. Consistently, I heard our contributors speak of the positive effect that performing in front of an audience, mastering a new musical piece, or simply connecting with other musicians in an ensemble had on building their ability to believe in themselves and perform under pressure.
 

“Courage is realizing your fear and going ahead and doing what you should do. So for me, realizing that I had stage fright, the confidence builder was that I did it. I was supposed to get up and do a solo, and I actually finished. That built the confidence. Something that I was terrified to do, I could prepare to do it and do it well, despite being afraid.

“As a surgeon there are lots of times when you make your incision, and it’s a lot more challenging than you thought it would be…That experience helped me in terms of training me that when you get a little nervous, to use that energy to perfect your performance rather than fall apart.”

  H. Steven Sims, M.D. Director, Chicago Institute for Voice Care
Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center
Vocalist, Pianist, Trombonist, & Bassoonist

 

2. Collaboration and Teamwork (I’m in the Band)
There’s a certain give and take that comes from playing in a band where you have to assess the strengths, weaknesses, and personalities of the members of the team. Fitting the complex pieces of that puzzle in a way that makes the music come together is quite an art. Those skills translate well to business endeavors or projects that involve teamwork and collaboration.

“In five minutes, I’m going to walk into a room to talk about a multi-million dollar RFP (Request for Proposal). I’m going to go in there with an idea or two or three or four, and I’m going to sit down with other senior people in the firm. As if we were a jazz combo, we’re going to just start riffing off of one another, and we’re going to find a rhythm – a creative, strategic rhythm. And then we’re going to come out with some really good ideas.

“I don’t want to belabor the parallel, but when you have people who speak the same language, musical language or intellectual language, people who have similar skill sets and traits and talents, and you bring them together with a common purpose, good things often happen.”

 Bob Knott
Executive Vice-President
Edelman Group
(Global Independent Public Relations Firm)
Guitarist, Music Critic

 

3. Leadership (Conducting Your Symphony of Employees)
The application of the competencies of teamwork and collaboration takes on new meaning from the perspective of a leader. A conductor must understand the strengths of all of the musicians, understanding how their skills fit into the big picture of the orchestra. That conductor must then communicate a compelling vision, motivating the players to either step into the spotlight or to subjugate their own needs for the benefit of the whole, depending upon the circumstance.

“Naturally, every singer has all the skills to be an entrepreneur. When you’re an entrepreneur, you see a niche and an opportunity in  everything. Once you learn to channel energy and direct power when you’re in front of people and you’re singing, it’s something you never forget. You can’t be a singer unless you are a leader.”
 

Genevieve Thiers
Founder/CEO Sittercity.com (America’s Leading Online Caregiver Matching Service)
Opera Singer

 

4. Salesmanship and Branding (Give the Fans What They Want)
Musicians and bands have to put together songs, performances, or identities that their fans (or potential fans) will find compelling. While greater musical proficiency will improve your chances of success, it’s no guarantee. Repeatedly, participants spoke of how that constant campaign of engaging their fans and packaging their music in a way that creates loyalty served them well in business.

“To this day, it [music] is the driving sense of self that I have. I still think of myself as a musician with a day job, not a Silicon Valley marketing executive. Being successful is not about being the best musician. There’s somebody singing in a bar that’s a better piano player than Billy Joel or Elton John.

“You learn that and apply that to business as well. You can have the absolute best technology or the best product or service, but it comes down to brand awareness and getting noticed in the marketplace.”

 Greg Estes
Vice-President of Marketing, Mozes, Inc.,
(Mobile marketing technology company)
Keyboard Player, Songwriter

 

5. Creativity & Innovation (Improvising From the Charts)
Unless we think of creativity as a muscle that gets stronger with exercise or withers with inactivity, we’ll never reach our creative potential. People involved in music come to the workplace with toned and fit creativity muscles.

“One of the things that musicians and artists tend to do is explore other people’s art and other people’s way of doing things. I think we’re looking for inspiration. I think we look at a level that non-musicians don’t.

“Most non-musicians more easily stay in their rut. Musicians tend to find ways out of the rut, because that’s what gives us joy – learning the new thing.”

 Dan Burrus
CEO & Founder, Burrus Research, Technology Forecaster, Best-Selling Author ofTechnotrends
Guitarist

 

6. Risk Acceptance (Let’s Just “Jam”)
Before one can get to a place where creativity and innovation are possible, learning to trust the process that discards familiar, safe systems is a prerequisite. We must walk out on that musical limb and have “jam” sessions. We’ll just see what happens and assess the results afterwards. Musicians understand that the greatest innovations often come when you leave the harbor of predictable outcomes and sail into the sea of uncertainty.

“The insurance business is purely risk taking…You go in knowing there are going to be risks involved. Any time you play music, there are risks involved. You can have equipment failure. You can have rain. Somebody can get sick. Guitar strings break.

“Then there’s the personal risk. There are going to be better people in the audience, and I’m going to be nervous. I’m going to forget my part. Or I’ve got to sing this really high part, and I hope that I can hit that note this late in the evening. There’s a whole range of risk that you take in a band that’s highly correlative to business.”

 Lloyd Yavener
Vice-President of Marketing, Underwriting, and Claims
Clements International (Leading Insurer of Expatriate Markets)
Drummer/Guitarist

 

7. Discipline and Fundamentals (Learning the “Scales” of Your Profession)
The discipline that musicians must possess to develop their craft to the point that they are even ready to share their talents on any significant level is often underappreciated. How many times had Joe Pass played a scale on the guitar, put chords and bass lines together in interesting combinations, or simply run through fingering techniques to stay sharp and limber? I don’t know the answer, but when I hear
his recordings, contemplating those questions is mind-boggling.

“I can’t even imagine what I would have done with my time during those years if I hadn’t had marching band and drum and bugle corps. I really felt like I had no direction otherwise. What it gave to me was something to focus on, something to commit to, and it really pushed me to grow in ways I would have never been able to grow.

“It teaches you to be accountable to something other than yourself. It teaches you to commit. It’s a great character builder.”

 Monica Ricci
Catalyst Organizing
Professional Organizer, Speaker, Author
Drummer & Percussionist

 

8. Individuality (Make Your Own Kind of Music)
Any form of expression, especially music, is an exercise in self-discovery. Determining what makes you unique is perhaps the most important aspect of personal development. Music and the arts help people find their unique “voice” in life rather than just going through the motions. There is perhaps no greater gift we can give our children than those tools of introspection.

Also, in a global business world where access to information, technology, and resources is getting easier, differentiation is essential.

“Listening to, performing, discovering, feeling, and expressing music is almost like nature itself unfolding inside of you. To deny people that world of discovery seems to be bordering on criminal.”

 S. Neil Vineberg, President, Vineberg Communications,
Guitarist (recording and performing credits
include Whitney Houston, Carlos Santana,
& Narada Michael Walden)

 

9. Passion (Play it With Feeling)
Hand in hand with finding your unique talents is the discovery of your passions. We have too many people on the planet who are square pegs trying to fit into round holes. They have jobs and no purpose, a living but not a life, and they are avoiding the pursuits that they are uniquely qualified to offer to the world due to fear or complacency.

Yet nothing great was ever achieved without passion.

“When it comes to success in business, the first place that people fall down and fail is by refusing to own up to their actual dream. Rock bands teach us that the actual dream is to be world-famous. To play huge arenas and change people’s lives.

“When people come to business, I wish more of them would say that. Your goal is to change the face of the world through what you do. If more people came to the table like 16 year-old rock musicians, they would find a lot more success and a lot more happiness in the success they find.”

 Mark Truman, Executive Director & Founder,
Omniac Education
College entrance consulting, tutoring, and test preparation
Guitarist/Vocalist

by Craig Cortello

Link to Original Article on Business Musician’s Blog

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