Interview with parenting expert Noël Janis-Norton: Calmer, Easier, Happier Music Practice
March 25, 2010 at 7:22 PM
How do you motivate your child to practice? For that matter, how do you motivate your child to do anything at all?
So I took the opportunity to chat with Noël: specifically about children and music practice, and her new CD. (BTW if you get the CD, you'll find me in there, talking about using her techniques for teaching!)
Noël: There are two main reasons why children resist practicing. The first is that they know, from past experience, that there is a chance that their resistance will pay off. For example, they may waste so much time complaining that there ends up being less time available for practicing. And sometimes they can come up with a good enough excuse so that they manage to get out of practicing altogether.
Laurie: Do you have anything to add?
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 25, 2010 at 10:36 PM
This sounds great! Thanks for the interview and the heads up about the CD. I especially like that she addresses the idea of how long you may have to supervise your kids' music practice. My daughter still doesn't like to practice without me there, listening.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 26, 2010 at 12:30 AM
I'm not a parent and what she says seems great to me but just a detail: what if the kid really don't like music... Let's say the kid is crazy about something else... There is what the parent loves and what the kids love... This isn't always immaturity. The kid still is a different person with a different soul and feelings...
The idea that the parent will make the music fun or not for the kid is true to a certain extent, until a certain limit where it's really the kid who hates it! Not all kids are meant to love music as not all kids are meant to like school, soccer, ballet whatever...
Just my two cents about what isn't often discussed : what if the kid really hates it...
Thanks for this great interview!
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on March 26, 2010 at 3:21 AM
Laurie and Noel, thanks again for a great, helpfu interview. I have written a letter to parents of new students describing the ways that they can nurture their kids' playing. I even posted it in my blog of 7/9/2009 and asked for feedback. Many of the points covered in this interview are covered in my letter, but there are also new things that would be helpful to both the parents and the teacher. I'm especially glad that you reminded me how to give praise (being specific). I am going to save this interview for myself and my students' parents.
From al ku
Posted on March 26, 2010 at 10:55 AM
anne marie, i think that is a grea question of yours. at least to some extent it pertains to our situation where my kid does not necessarily hate it, but i know in comparison with all the activities in the world that she would like to pursue on her own will, violin is not even top 10. brand it as childish or childlike, but that is the truth. so, i am interested to see what the gurus have to say about that...just how good is violin or music for you when you don't particularly care for it...
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 26, 2010 at 7:42 PM
Anne-Marie, I agree with you that it is a concern if the kid really loves something else and the parents are just pushing him or her to do music because that is what they love.
But I think that some families are in the situation where it is not clear what the kid loves. The kid may not (appear to) love anything, or may appear to love only things like shopping, junky TV shows, and/or video/computer games, which the parent may believe is not a very balanced "diet" of pursuits if that is all the kid wants to spend his/her time on. In that case, the parent may want to introduce music as another pursuit.
I find myself in this position at times, and I agonize over that. I don't want to push my kids to play the violin just because I do. But I also see it as my role to provide guidance and quality control and not just let the internet and popular culture raise my kids. Kind of like not letting kids eat potato chips and twinkies all day because that's what they say they "love" to eat, but instead also serving fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 26, 2010 at 11:04 PM
I agree it can be touchy... ; )
From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 26, 2010 at 11:45 PM
I agree that the decision whether or not a child will pursue an instrument is difficult. One of my children plays an instrument, and the other does not. When it came down to it, I felt right about letting my daughter quit to pursue her other very valid pursuits and talents. I also feel right about making my son continue doing some music! There's a fine line between structure and rigidity; it's not always easy to find the balance.
From sharelle taylor
Posted on March 27, 2010 at 7:23 AM
"i know in comparison with all the activities in the world that she would like to pursue on her own will, violin is not even top 10"
Your child is really special, Al, and so are you for establishing and maintaining such positive participation.
In our family, it was swimming squad (hey, this is Australia), and the kids were told that they would do 2 squads a week until they were 13 years old. then they could decide to pull out. We figured that by then, the positive routine of activity would have been established, as well as the desired skills of physical fitness, endurance, and achieving a personal best. So maybe think back to what it was that you wanted your kids to gain by doing music in the first place, and use their achievement of that to help determine how long it stays.
We had 100% success with swimming - eldest only ever did 2/week squad, 2nd born added competitive swimming and club as well, but both my kids dropped violin within the first year due to the tedium of practise. My daughter later said that she ould love to play the violin, she just didn't want to learn to play it.
This despite a positive role model from me madly practising every chance I could get, and to the best of my ability, sharing and reinforcing their participation more so than their achievement.
Anne marie - I'm yet to meet a child who actively hates music. It may not be their passion or their main pleasure, but every child I have ever met has had enjoyment from the right musical experience. I really believe, that like giving a child the chance to read and write, they should have the opportunity to learn an instrument. It is then up to each family to determine how that pans out.
From al ku
Posted on March 27, 2010 at 10:41 AM
haha sharelle,,,my kid would have loved to be your kid! her number one dream activity is,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,SWIMMING~! :) she just loves water no matter how cold it is! perhaps it is god's game to mismatch kids and households and sit back and enjoy the show:)
my older one just started high school (4 yrs of that then college since in australia it is form 12 system right?) and the topic of what to do as a career has been discussed lately. my younger one, sitting in the back of the car absorbing info like a sponge, would ask:
what should i do?
i dunno, what do you want to do? how about a food network cooking competition judge:) ? you seem to be pretty good with cooking lingos lately, having watched those shows non stop.
that will be nice! i am not sure. may be a teacher, may be a wild life rescue person, may be a chef,,,
okay then. but you know things just don't fall onto your lap and you have to work hard to get where you want right?
you want me to be a violinist?
it is up to you. to be honest honest, i don't think you would enjoy being that disciplined and focused. you are a softie, vanilla flavored. but i must admit, once in a while, your playing brings tears to my eyes. you may not sound that good yet, but what you can do on the violin makes me proud. you should remember to be proud of yourself for putting in the hard work. guess what? between listening to you vs listening to vengerov, baaa, i would take you any time! i really really mean it.
you want me to be a golfer?
it is up to you. i just hope you find something that you are so excited about that you can't wait to get up in the morning. that will be a dream come true to me. that will truly bring tears to my eyes. then i can kick back and watch some tv, feeling like my job is done.
if you don't want me to be either, then why am i (i think she wanted to say,,,why YOU make me) spending time and taking things so seriously?
well, through those activities you learn a lot, to be careful, to be confident, and when you grow up you can use what you have learned to apply to other things, like things you really like. i know you enjoy swimming, but would you take swimming seriously and train for it everyday to get better? i am talking about joining a team, perhaps getting up early to swim before school? i mean, for anything, if you want to be good at it, you just have to take it seriously and work hard. think about it. there is no easy way out :)!
so gurus, please tell me what i could have said better. i wish i can be more helpful and make life choices easier for her instead of being preachy (work hard, take things seriously, don't waste time, loosen the bow after use). i am not capable! but i am proud to announce that among all the asian parents that i know of, i am one of the more lenient ones. everything is negotiable, haha.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 28, 2010 at 3:37 PM
"perhaps it is god's game to mismatch kids and households and sit back and enjoy the show:)"
perhaps it is god's game to also mismatch kids interests and eras and sit back and enjoy the show:)
How would I have liked to be born somewhere in Europe at the golden tone era in a musical family working my b... off and giving my life for what I really believe in and love (would have prefered this over knowing the internet and electronics era many times!!! and would have eaten boiled cabbage and potatoes 3 times a day to play well!!! Really...)
But no sense always asking what would I have do in such x situation... many people would have been successful in another context and there is not much to do about this! ; )
From susan knightly
Posted on March 28, 2010 at 5:14 PM
This has been a fascinating topic in our household for over 10 years. Our 16 yr. violinist daughter works 5 hrs per day building repertoire and technique. She asked for a violin at 2.5 yrs. and we kept her asking for over a year and a half. There were lots of concerts always, great soloists and orchestras at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fischer, Tanglewood, etc. But practice for the first few years was always play. We would set out stuffed animals in the stairs as audience members, costumes galore for pretending and goal setting. Even during summer vacation mornings, space was there to practice shored up by anticipation for a day of exploring beaches or forests. We encouraged the whole family; Dad would play along with a harmonic, Uncles with guitars, Mom on piano, cousins on percussion toys, whenever extended family got together. Our daughter was lucky to have music everyday in a NYC public school from kindergarten on and performances every other month at least. But she has always lead the charge and we have worked hard to keep up and support with lessons, music festival participation, and the best instruments and bows we could manage.
Her real practice crisis came after 3 years in a European conservatory with a leading pedagogue at the age of 15. Things clicked with her teacher which kept her working 8 hour days. Dad kept the home fires fueled in NYC, while mom accompanied her in the EU. She would have to be dragged out for a break to run or get to a museum. She said she wanted undistracted time for study but after 3 yrs, she wisely requested we head back to New York for a year of 'normal high school' before continuing conservatory. " I know what my future will look like, now I need to be stimulated by people my own age."
The relationships she's made keep her working, especially with young acoustic groups in venues in New York's, Park Slope Brooklyn, an incubator for some amazing new music from classically trained musicians. She works with energy, focus and curiosity. She gets to her teacher somewhere in the world frequently and will spend the summer traveling throughout Europe in festivals. She manages her practice time with social and academic time, not an easy task but great for building her management skills.
The hardest part of parenting a musical child through years of practice is maintaining balance; physical, social, and emotional wellness. We have felt that the work in terms of practice was to be flexible, inventive and emotionally supportive in a very competitive field. We have envisioned our job as bushwhacking to a calm, secure place for our hard working daughter, where her relationship with her instrument, practice and music can flourish because a sane 'reality checked' place is sometimes just a step back and a breath away.
Thanks so much for the continued support of your Blog Laurie.
From Peter Kent
Posted on March 29, 2010 at 4:36 PM
Some not-so-subtle differences in mustering enthusiasm from a private teacher vs. public school, is the peer pressure, GPA, extravagant field trips, and misery-loves-company aspect of public school ( or private school ) that can be exerted therein. If you know your orchestra is going to State Evaluation Festival followed by a trip to Disneyworld, chances are the incentive to prepare is greater than preparing for a massive, overly long recital where the only folks in the audience will be your peers' parents......who'll all have smug comments about your playing. And if a great grade in orchestra will put you on the high honors list, there's more grist for practice....also: If you can audition past the kids that's shelling out big bucks for private lessons while you just take from the school orchestra director, it's another feather for your chapeau.
Parental support may be greater from a mom that has to start the car, wait 45 minutes and lay out $50 bucks for a private lesson..so the edge in this respect goes to private instruction.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 29, 2010 at 10:40 PM
Anne-Marie, in another era, you would have also had to have been born male.
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Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles wraps up her coverage of the 2013 Starling-DeLay Symposium on Violin Studies, held at The Juilliard School in New York.
Laurie Niles is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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