Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Music Requests

I was pondering this last night, and was spurred to post after reading Suze's blog this morning. I need a bit of advice--both on how I should perceive reality and what actions I should take.

Tall order? Possibly. Allow me to 'splain:

We have been aware that CJ has a love for music since shortly after he was born. I sang to him quite a bit in the early months, but he didn't have a great love for lullabies. He liked it much better when I sang Mahna Mahna or Mr. Blue Sky. As a toddler, he loved to watch us play Guitar Hero and we got him his own toy guitar to "play". I lost count of how many batteries I've gone through from his incessant playing of his Ocean Wonders aquarium, and I recall one night, spent in a hotel room in Burlington, when Tom and I had to hum the aquarium songs to lull CJ to sleep. For almost a year, his bedtime story was singing--all the songs from a book of lyrics and pictures that had come with a CD. The CD was lost a long time ago, but he knows the songs.

Before he was 2, he was singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. By 3, he'd figured out that Baa Baa Black Sheep and his ABCs were the same tune, and he could play it on a toy xylophone (one octave, each key a different color). He would sing on the ride home from daycare, asking us which song he should sing. He had a catalog of at least thirty songs, full words and melody, by 4. Some of those songs were tough--I've Been Working on the Railroad, The Green Grass Grew All Around, and the Ants Go Marching. He had the sixth from My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean down pat. He didn't belt out the songs or scream them--he sang strongly, on pitch, in tune, and with proper emphasis and phrasing.

I've shared some songs that he likes based on what he hears from around the house and in the car. He has a few childrens music CDs, but he has a strong preference for songs with guitars, especially acoustic guitar. He likes Rolling Stones, Beatles, and Grateful Dead--he even dances like a true little Deadhead!

Now that he's home with Tom, Tom is encouraging the music play. He brought out the old Casio I got in high school and has been teaching CJ to play on it. Over the last few days, CJ has learned to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and scales. Yesterday, he learned do-re-mi (which he sings with perfect pitch while he plays it).

Here's where the help comes in:
1) Do I gush too much about his seeming talent for music, or is this normal for 4 1/2? I'm pretty impressed, but I impress easily when it comes to this kid. I used to sing, but could never play an instrument so I'm always taken with those who can.

2) Since this is play, I don't want to impose any firm structure or expectations. This is about his discovery and his love. I don't want to make him learn to play a song or follow some technique. But, I don't want a lack of structure to harm him later--for example, I am a terrible touch typist because I tauight myself to type when I was a kid, and I have never been able to make the right connections in my brain to overcome the bad habits I taught myself. His brain is making connections at lightning speed. Should I be concerned that a lack of discipline could harm future ability?

3) At what point do I consider lessons? I never had music lessons, so I don't know how early is too early, or how late is too late. How do I encourage him to develop his talent without killing his passion? How do I keep it from becoming a chore? I'm thinking that we should look into getting him piano lessons when he starts kindergarten next year--am I on the right track?

4) He has such a broad interest and a variety of toy (and kid sized instruments)--drums, xylophone, keyboard, guitar, maracas, noise makers, his voice--where do I start? How many lessons do I entertain? Of course, I could ask, and I have asked him what he would like to play. He either answers with a list of everything, or gives me a different instrument. Sometimes, he says no. I know his decision making capability is limited--how much of this is his choice, how much is mine, and when do the scales start to tip?


Mrs. Allroro said...

I think I remember hearing that Kindermusik is good. Mom, correct me if I'm wrong, but there's a couple at GBC--the mommy has a piano doctorate and the daddy is a serious musician, too--and they put their kid in Kindermusik before he was four, maybe 2. (I know they put their kid in this wonderful music program, I just don't remember if it was Kindermusik. How helpful is that.)

Mrs. Allroro said...

I think he would like lessons or classes, by the way. Preschoolers LOVE to learn new things.

Mrs. Allroro said...

Sorry. This is a lot of premature publishing of comments.

You could try to get him in a choir, like a church choir. Sometimes they have a hard time keeping volunteers in preschool choirs. Sometimes they're awesome, though.

Suze said...

Becca, I don't read your blog enough!
anyway, I have an advanced degree in music and plenty of experience teaching private lessons, and fwiw, here's what I think: Don't push CJ into lessons. The right time to start private piano lessons is when your child is interested and can ready. This is usually age 7 or so, but smart motivated kids can start as early as 5. I was in Kindergarten when I started. A lot of strings programs start much earlier, but those are pre-reading group sessions (and they can be competitive). Kindermusic or group music lessons are a really good thing to do at this age. The socialization is important, and MOST importantly from a musical standpoint, you'll be developing his ear and capacity for listening and sense of rhythm. The reading can come later. I've had lots of parents ask me to teach their genius (supposedly) 4yo and I always say now because they are not ready.

And don't worry about him learning things "wrong" at this point. It's all about experimenting and learning and frankly, some of hte best composers out there are/were self-taught and didn't do things the conventional way anyhow.