by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
I’d like to start this blog with a big hashtag, along with the word “hypocrite. I’ve been teaching kids ages 6 and older how to play guitar for 13 years. Today, a handful of them are virtuosos, and one of them got so good by age 17 that I hired her for my band. I’m a decent player, but a good music teacher. And I know how to inspire kids to want to play their hearts out.
But my own children, you ask? The ones who are 3 and 4.5 and love to toy around with multiple guitars, drum sets, and other shakable and non-shakable instruments in my home?
They’ve never taken a music class.
Usually when I tell this to other moms, the first question out of their mouth — naturally! — is “why?” After all, I’ve taught “mommy & me” music classes to crawlers and 2-year-olds, and those little ones have thoroughly enjoyed the experiences (I’m judging mostly by how happy they seem). I’ve also taught 4-year-olds how to strum ukuleles, and every year, I teach a free class at each of my sons’ preschools.
The benefits of early music lessons are numerous: kids who take music lessons tend to perform better academically, and have better patience and self esteem, too.
In addition, most of the little kids I know who take early music lessons in their Pre-K years seem to get a lot out of the experience.
Given all this, shouldn’t it be an obvious decision to enroll my little ones in a music class, especially since I can reinforce the lessons they learn at home?
Perhaps. But not yet.
For one, music classes for young toddlers aren’t instrument-specific. Most classes just expose them to different kinds of instruments, and have singalong type games. My kids already get these types of games and songs in gym class, and on occasion in preschool.
I didn’t have music classes myself, other than a weekly music class that everyone took at my elementary school. Neither did a lot of talented musicians — at least not until they were potty trained or in grade school. By then, their brains were better able to absorb more information, and they cultivated a true desire to learn.
Interestingly, you don’t need music lessons to be interested in music. For me, the opposite is true: after being denied as a child, I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could when I turned 18 and wanted to play guitar (to be like all cool kids). Of course, I wish my parents took some initiative and insisted I learn some kind of instrument when I was 8 or 9 (and I definitely will enroll my kids in some kind of music lesson or program before then).
Then there’s the cost. Classes are expensive. My kids are restless, too. If I want my kids to expend energy, I feel like I get more bang for my buck by enrolling them in something physical, like swimming or soccer. It lets them get their kicks out so they aren’t climbing on me when I want to do story time and put them to bed.
I’m definitely planning on trying piano lessons, or perhaps guitar or drums, when my older son turns 5. And I definitely thinks he likes watching other musicians perform (as does my soon-to-be-3-year-old). Playing music changed my life, and I hope my kids follow in my footsteps.
However, if you, like me, don’t enroll your kid in a toddler music class, no need to feel badly. They’re not missing too much. As long as you do something with your preschoolers— whether that’s going to the museum or playing in the back yard — you’re on the right track.
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.