A music education is an amazing and invaluable gift which can provide endless hours of pleasure and fulfillment throughout life. Whether playing an instrument just for fun, or singing in a choir, the ability to enjoy music as performer is a blessing unequaled by almost any other activity.
Yet, in our current culture, music is given a very low position in the education system, even lower than painting, football or acting in a play. It is truly the responsibility of parents to afford their children any meaningful exposure to music making. This holds especially true for piano lessons, which is only rarely included in the school music programs.
The investment in private music instruction is a benefit above and beyond the musical opportunities available at school, where traditionally, students may borrow an instrument or sing in a chorus and are given only the most rudimentary instruction. The ultimate goal is always a large ensemble performance - orchestra, band or chorus - in which each fledgling musician is buried amongst the others and for the sake of the concert, the music selected is actually targeted to the lowest common denominator. Solos are given only to those who seem to have uncanny ability or outside training, and the piano receives virtually no consideration.
Giving your child the best possible music education available and also keeping it affordable are the foremost goals of the Kikuchi Music Institute, and we strive to meet these goals in the five most important areas: great facilities, excellent instruction, comprehensive curricula, variety of programs, and very low rates. We will do our best to teach you or your child music with every lesson, even if there is minimal practice or preparation. However, with only a little effort on the part of the parents, all music students can progress and become accomplished musicians.
COSTS: The initial investment in music lessons often seems like a lot, but in fact is still just the first step. Acquiring an instrument and paying for beginning lessons will get the student started. Then there are fees for participating in ensembles, competitions, attending concerts and other activities. Eventually, the student is likely to begin secondary study on another instrument (more investment - longer lessons). Then there may come a time when it is necessary to upgrade the instrument (buying an acoustic piano to replace the electronic one). We should mention that gas for the car is a real cost as well.
STRUCTURE: The student's ability to succeed is completely dependent on the time for study and practice (written homework and study are important too!). Consider the following:
1) The parents MUST provide the student adequate structure in the routine of daily life so that there is time for practice and study. Time for homework, play, sports, chores, family time and music must ALL be managed well - not just one or some of these activities.
2) The parents MUST ensure that the student attends the weekly lessons promptly.
3) The parents MUST make sure the student sets aside time in the day for practice (this may require turning off the TV or monitoring other activities in the piano room so that the student is not distracted).
4) The parents SHOULD confirm that all homework and practicing has been completed for the week (there is written homework every week - and all assignments are written specifically by the KMI teacher in a notebook).
SUPPORT: All research shows that day-to-day involvement of the parents in the child's studies (including music) results in a much more successful and higher achieving student. Here are some key areas in which parents can help their children succeed with music lessons:
1) The parents MUST help the student with assignments if they are under age 7.
2) The parents SHOULD help the student with assignments as needed.
3) The parents SHOULD listen to the student's prepared pieces prior to the lesson, especially if requested by the student.
4) A parent SHOULD be present at lessons to be aware of how the student is progressing, and areas that require extra effort in practice or homework.
5) The parents SHOULD make sure that all assignments are completed each week (check off in the assignment book).
6) The parents SHOULD make sure the student brings all books to every lesson.
7) The parents COULD monitor the student's daily practice by being present or even instructing the student regarding specific tasks according to the assignment book.
8) The parents COULD create incentives to help motivate the student (see below).
9) The parents COULD listen to all the assigned pieces and technique on the night before a lesson to ensure that everything sounds good (no music education required).
10) The parents COULD request for special home recitals from the student (weekly).
BEHAVIOR: Even the best music students will experience ebbs and flows in their progress. Periods of insufficient progress can be due to a reduced interest in music, conflicts with other activities, difficulty with a specific task or concept, or other dynamics in the student's life not apparent to the teacher or parents. For the most part, the parent SHOULD first make clear that lessons will continue and that the student must make effort to improve. In most cases, these periods will pass and the student will resume normal progress and regain interest. Behavioral and work habit problems are most common in children under age 10, and parents SHOULD insist that the student continue lessons for at least two years regardless of protestations or other obstinate behavior. It is the nature of younger children to be "fickle" and quick to like or dislike things, often with very little information upon which to base these judgements. If after two years, the parents are no longer willing to continue investing the emotional, financial and personal time into trying to give their child a music education, withdrawal is an acceptable solution.
INCENTIVES: As with most things that are "good for you", despite hard work or distaste, it is often difficult to motivate children to undertake tasks without some sort of reward. In the studio, we try to build in the student the pride that results from a job well done, and rely primarily upon this as the greatest incentive and motivator. Many parents try their own incentives, including meals out, access to computer games, special food treats, gifts, time spent with friends or other family, etc. Many parents even use the denial or removal of these same things as punishment. How parents motivate their children to work harder is as varied as there are people in the world, and we will work with whatever the parents choose to implement. In the world of music, the roar of the applause has always been the grand prize for successful performance, and we begin the student's path toward that understanding with simple words of praise at the lesson and attendance of concerts and recitals. In most cases, this is really all that is required. Maybe some words of praise at home would help as well.
PAYMENTS: Tuition bills, instrument repairs, music books, and other fees are required regularly. Pay them promptly and without complaint, to demonstrate clearly to your children how important music is to them. If they feel it is not a priority to you, they will reflect that in their own practice habits and commitment.