When I started teaching drum set at several music schools back home in Denmark, I was mostly working with children between the ages of 11-14 years, and mostly boys!
From the beginning I always demanded that they’d have at least a small amount of homework. I would challenge them to learn new rhythms that sometimes would require a couple of weeks before they would understand how to correctly perform the examples. But what I always experienced was the joy, once they understood the material and the eagerness to move onto new examples, new rhythms, and new grooves to play on the drums.
I always treated the students equal in the sense that they were potential future musicians, not because I wanted them to follow in my footsteps, but because they all deserved to get the same kind of attention.
Okay, why this blog entry?
Because I’m seeing governments around the world cutting the funding and education in the arts, saying children needs to spend most of their time with learning to read and do math. While I agree they should all learn that, I strongly disagree with the move to get rid of the arts in schools at the rate many countries are doing these days (including my home country – Denmark, as well as the country I currently call my home, - United States of America).
There’s plenty of research to prove that children that learn to play an instrument will fare better in life later on. Below is a short list of links to articles on this, as well as examples of how school environment changed in a positive direction, once the principal introduced music into the school again. The first link is to one of the leading people in Denmark in music education for children, Inge Marstal, who at the time was a professor at my alma mater Vestjysk Conservatory. (Her website is in Danish, so you might need a translator!).
The main thing that all research is saying is that when children are working with music they gain in the following areas: Better at concentrating and focusing on specific tasks, a bigger motivation for learning, higher self esteem, bigger vocabulary, and better at social interactions. Oh, and one more thing, - the children have an over all better attendance in school.
When I started teaching I wasn’t so focused on this research, I just enjoyed the interaction with the kids, and was happy when I witnessed their small victories going through the lessons. I have so many episodes that come to mind, but I’ll share one with you that stands out: One of my students had a lot of problems with learning syncopations, dotted 8th-notes combined with 16th-notes, and we spent several weeks without any progress. First he would pretend he had understood the material and had practiced, and got really nervous when he found out it was easy to call his bluff! But when he realized it was okay to not understand the material and ask for help he would relax. Then one day he came to his lesson, with a big smile on his face, seemed several inches taller, and he was beaming with pride. Not only did he play the material flawlessly, but also with a big smile told me that he was beginning to do much better in math as well as reading and spelling. That day we celebrated!
So if you have children and are not sure you want them to take music lessons. Remember it’s not about them becoming musicians, it’s about getting better at whatever area they choose to enter into. Do the children a favor, introduce them to music education.
http://ingemarstal.com (In Danish)