Student Stories: How to Support Your Child's Music Education (Even If You Aren't Musically Educated)
Kathy and Steve have been part of our community for over 17 years, with all seven of their children having taken lessons at Orpheus Academy!
While Kathy and Steve aren’t musicians themselves, they've been able to encourage their children’s musical development and provide unique forms of motivation. We spoke with Kathy and her youngest son, Nicholas, about how their family supports one another.
Kathy, considering you don’t play music yourself, what originally motivated you to get your children involved in learning music?
I always wanted to learn to play music but never had the opportunity while growing up. I don’t even know how to read music.
Many years ago, my sister-in-law suggested that it would be good for my son, who was five at the time, to take piano lessons. I jumped on the suggestion for several reasons. One being that my son enjoyed playing on our small keyboard and seemed to have an ear for music. Also, I wanted all my children to have the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument and read music since I never had the chance.
Nicholas, what motivated you to start learning and playing music? Were you inspired by your siblings?
I was motivated to start learning and playing music because all my older siblings before me played music and it seemed really fun. I also listened to music a lot.
Kathy, how many kids do you have and how old are they? Do they all still play music? Which instruments do they play?
I have seven children—ages 28, 25, 24, 22, 19, 16 and 12. They all took lessons from Wendy or another teacher at Orpheus Academy. In fact, my oldest children started with Wendy several years before she and Klondike started Orpheus Academy of Music. My kids really liked her (as well as my husband and me) so we decided to continue with her as their teacher and just make the drive to Far West Blvd when Orpheus Academy of Music opened.
My oldest children took piano lessons but when it came time for my now 22 year old son to take lessons, Wendy asked him if he wanted to try another instrument. He was super excited about the idea and chose to take classical guitar lessons. My 19 year old daughter chose to take violin lessons and the youngest two wanted to learn to play the piano.
All of my children started lessons at either age 4 or 5 (most at 5) and all continued until the end of their freshman, sophomore or during their junior year of high school. Several of my kids still like to play. My oldest child still plays a lot and every time he comes over to our house, he’ll play a number of songs. Some of my other children play occasionally. My 19 year old daughter plays the violin at church with a college group and occasionally just for fun. She was able to apply her musical knowledge to the ukulele and easily learned how to play it. My 16 year old daughter plays the piano a lot and joined her high school symphony ensemble. The youngest is still taking piano lessons at Orpheus.
Nicholas, how have your siblings supported you in your musical journey?
My siblings have supported me in my musical journey by providing me an example in which I should strive to reach.
Kathy, how do you support each of your kids’ individual musical journeys? Do they require different approaches?
I try to support my kids’ musical journeys by encouraging them, actively listening to their practice and praising their efforts and improvements. I had to support my children sometimes in different ways and with varied approaches. They all, at times, didn’t want to practice or felt like giving up 'cause it was too hard or that they were tired of it. That’s when I realized that I needed to be more attentive and involved with their practice, especially in their younger years.
With some of them, I asked them to show me how to play a piece or to teach me notes. When a child realizes they’re smarter in some areas than their mom, a sense of pride seems to take over and he/she wants to learn more. Actively watching and praising their progress is a huge motivator.
There were times some of my kids gave me a greater challenge in getting them to practice. With them, I had to establish more of a structured schedule of practice time. With some of the others, I just had to remind them at some time of the day to do their practice. Just as each child is different, they all required different approaches to encouraging them on their musical journeys.
I also have to sometimes juggle other extra-curricular activities that my kids want to be involved in with piano lessons. It can be challenging especially with sports but we have always made it work. Musical knowledge is something that a person will enjoy their entire life no matter the age. A good foundation that I can provide them now, although it involves a lot of challenge and effort on my part, is a gift that I can give my children that will last them a lifetime and give them much joy and happiness.
Nicholas, do you apply what you learn in music lessons to other parts of your life?
My lessons translate to my life by teaching me to have a routine and stick to it.
Kathy, what have you learned through the process of helping your children learn music?
I have learned through the process of helping my children learn music that I must be patient with them. Like all of us, we have good days and bad, days when we’re lazy and days when we’re fired up to learn. Music lessons have taught me to be more patient, more encouraging and also how to direct and motivate my children in music lessons as well as life.
I truly enjoy hearing the music my kids play and I let them know that. It really is a big motivator and gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Advice for Other Parents
Kathy, do you have any advice for other parents in supporting their children’s music education?
My advice to parents in supporting your kids in music education is that patience and encouragement go a long way. There will be many days when your child wants to quit or do something else. I think it’s good to try other things too but don’t give up on the music lessons. Keep encouraging them and ride out the bad days because in the end, your child will thank you (mine did).
It’s so wonderful to hear my children perform. On the rare occasions that my kids try to perform together, we have so much fun and our house is filled with laughter and lots of music!