Your Child's Music Education
Kato Music Studio
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With children, parental involvement is the best insurance of success. If a child knows the parent is interested in what he does, he is more willing to shoulder daily responsibilities.

Parent information meetings will be held periodically in order to inform parents about upcoming programs, deadlines and schedules, and to enable parents to share tips and tricks which they have found to be effective in supporting their children's practicing habits.

Communication between students, teacher, and parents is absolutely essential. The combined efforts of student, parent, and teacher will produce superior results.

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Children who do not experience music at home inevitably perform much more poorly in music than those who constantly go to concerts, actively listen to and discuss music with their parents. Expose your child to a wide range of enriching musical styles. Attend musical concerts. Take an interest in just sitting with your child and listening and/or discussing the music on classical and jazz radio stations. Let your child know that music is important.

 

Problems To Avoid
Failure to establish strong practice habits can be devastating! Children do not "naturally" know how to practice. They need to be instructed in proper practicing habits, and that discipline needs to be reinforced through positive support at home. It is essential to establish an organized system for encouraging piano practice at home.

When a child has not been instructed in proper practicing techniques from the very beginning, she will invariably fall into an erratic practice habit. The child will see her peers improving, playing more confidently, participating in music festivals and other musical activities, while she is still struggling. This can be devastating to the child's self-esteem and attitude towards piano studies.

Students, and especially parents need to realize when something is wrong with the method (or lack of), instead of blaming the student. It is important to start off one's piano studies in correctly in order not to start down this negative path. Please see Support For Practicing At Home

Here are some methods from parents that have found success in supporting their child's practicing regimen at home:

Set a regular time to practice.

TIP#1: One family set a clock alarm to go off every day at a certain time. When the girl (a six-year-old) hears the clock alarm, she knows it is time to go practice. SUCCESS: This regular, daily schedule eliminated arguments or excuses such as, "I'm tired" or "I don't feel like practicing right now". The girl began coming in to lessons well-prepared, and with questions of her own about spots where she was having trouble in the music.

Institute a reward system for diligent practice habits.

TIP#2: Another family shared this successful idea: If their child (a nine-year-old) practices a half-hour a day, every day, six days out of the week, then the girl gets a small treat at the end of the week. At the end of the month, if she has gotten four consistent small treats, she gets a bigger treat. SUCCESS: After this girl successfully presented five memorized piano pieces at the 2003 National Piano Playing Auditions, she thanked her parents for helping her to stay on track!

Make sure the student knows what is expected of him or her. Sign a parent/child contract and stick to it.

TIP#3: The family of two boys (ages five and ten) tied their boys' allowance and other rewards to the attention that they pay to applying themselves to piano lessons and their practicing at home. SUCCESS: The boys know which behavior gets rewarded, they have a definite goal to work towards, and so they stay motivated. With definite goals and motivation to pay attention and to practice, the boys' comprehension, technique, musicality, and ability over all increased greatly -- and they developed a well-deserved sense of pride in their accomplishments as well!

CONCLUSION: I encourage you to work with your child to find the practicing recipe which works for him or her. Be patient, and focus on successes rather than failures!

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To keep the situation at home from devolving into a cycle of nagging and bickering about practicing habits, I will have students and parents sign a contract. If the child fails to live up to his contract for the week, he knows he will have to face consequences which the child and parents have agreed upon from the outset.

Conversely, the child also knows that if he lives up to his contract every week on a consistent basis, he will receive recognition, praise, the satisfaction of playing well, and the possibility of being able participate (and excel) in events such as the Southwestern Youth Music Festival, Certificate of Merit. He may even earn the honor of playing at the Annual Music Teacher's Association State Convention!

Concrete weekly and monthly goals keep students (of all ages!) on track, and makes their practice routine much more rewarding.

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Students at Kato Music Studio are asked about their long-term goals. If they are unsure, the students are exposed to the wide range of possibilities, and discussions are had until the student formulates his or her own agenda. What would the point be of studying for a year (or years) and not making any progress?

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Positive reinforcement is another essential ingredient to your child's success. Sometimes parents -- even with the best of intentions -- can undermine their children's progress. Comments in front of the child such as "Well, is she finally making progress yet?" can be devastating to child who may be trying their hardest and still struggling to master a musical skill. When there are concerns (such as a child's piano practice habits) please contact me at any time by phone privately, (out of earshot of the child). I will always be willing to discuss your child's progress or difficulties.

Make sure your child does not overhear your negative comments to others about the child's performance, such as: "She is slow", "He does not sound good or plays poorly", "She is lazy", "His sister plays better than he does".

Instead, let the child know that learning to play piano and learning musical concepts are not easy. It takes consistent and steady practicing to master a new piece. The fact that your child is taking music lessons already makes him/her special over his/her friends who are not. It is important to give your child a special recognition and praise for studying music.

Do not compare one child's performance against another child. Especially among siblings who are studying the same instrument. In addition to the fact that everyone has his/her learning curve, everyone has their own cognitive style. Some can learn by having concepts explained to them. Others need to learn by doing, and they need a lot of repetition.

Remember that everyone, even the highly motivated and dedicated student, goes through a period of not practicing and they get in a slump. When this happens, do not put too much pressure. A bad period will pass quickly enough. Focus on the positive things to get them over the slump: Let the teacher know that your child is going through a rough time and not wanting to practice. We may need to put the current piece aside and start on a new piece that may be more exciting to the student, the current piece may be too difficult, or it may be too easy.

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