Melissa Rooney Blogging

Melissa Rooney Blogging

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." – Mahatma Gandhi

Children, Music, and Vegetables…

Halloween Cellists

Last month, my 13YO son and his good friend performed guitar and sang at the Centerfest Arts Festival (held by the Durham Arts Council in Durham, NC), just a 3-minute drive from where we live. I’ve uploaded a compilation of their performance at the following link, proud mom that I am:

You can feel the personal satisfaction they get from the music they are making together. What’s more, their cognitive abilities have benefited immensely from the instruments and music they’ve learned over the last eight years, their reading of words and music have reinforced one another, and they have learned both patience and resilience with themselves and with others (something that is painfully absent in the lives of young people today). Producing Music also relaxes the body and spirit and reinforces presence of mind; and we all know how hard that is to accomplish as adults these days.

I hated practicing piano when I was a kid, but I am now convinced that learning music is as important to development as eating vegetables. If you have the resources, including getting awkward and asking about scholarships from local musicians/teachers, determine the instrument your child most enjoys and start lessons (group or individual) when they can sit still for 5 minutes. I promise neither of you will regret it.

With regard to the practicalities:

Lessons generally cost about $1 per minute (at least in Durham, NC, which is larger than your average city).

Young kids should start with 10- or 15-minute lessons and build up from there.

As for figuring out which instrument your child most enjoys… Listen to a variety of music, at least while you’re in the car, and point out which instruments are playing. Your child will soon tell you which one they like the most. It is usually only 1 or 2. Then get them this instrument, so they can try it out (i.e., play with it). I know this sounds expensive, but music and toy stores often carry pretty darned cheap instruments that can still hold a tune; and if they aren’t on the shelves, the store can often advise and order them for you. Our first guitar was a used kids’ guitar that I bought on Ebay for $20 and later realized was sold by Toys R Us. (We ended up giving that guitar to another child, and I imagine it made its way to a fourth.)  Of course, these instruments are relatively mediocre in sound, but who cares when the musician is 5 and turning pegs like buttons on a Wii controller? The important thing is that they can hold their tune for at least a couple hours at a time. (You can learn how to re-tune ’em just by searching Youtube for ‘How to tune [instrument name]’. If the child plays around with that instrument voluntarily, though maybe at your suggestion, continually in the coming weeks, then begin looking for an instructor.

My two favorite music stores, Guitars USA and High Strung, can advise by phone and ship straight to your door. When they don’t have what I need, I generally go to my nearest Guitar Center. These stores aren’t just for guitars and stringed instruments, they can assist you with instruments and music lessons of any kind and/or can connect you with another business that can serve your child’s choice of instruments.

To see more music videos from when the boys were younger, click the photo below. I really think they demonstrate just how important it is that all people experience music early in their lives.

Note: In case you missed them above, here are a few good links to objective information regarding the benefits of learning a musical instrument on development, education, intelligence, and well-being:

Updated by on 21 October 2017.



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