How do you get kids inspired by Music? Well, the first thing to bear in mind is that no two children are the same. What fires one child’s imagination might leave the next cold.
Too many teachers and parents set out to inspire children, but that inspirational moment can be so arbitrary, so unpredictable, that one can only really create the conditions in which children could be inspired. If you’ve done that correctly, the results should happen at some time, when they decide.
Children have a plethora of hyper-stimulating entertainment available at their fingertips. And this means that music has to compete in this market-place of attraction. Very few 5-year olds dislike singing or dancing – so, you’re onto a winner before you even start. Just don’t crush that enthusiasm by formalizing it, or making it boring or serious.
So what are my top tips for inspirational listening?
- Make listening part of another task. Do some painting whilst listening, perhaps write, dance, get them to conduct(!), etc
- Avoid categorizing music. Why do they need to know that one piece is Jazz, another Classical? Younger children hear all music without stylistic prejudice – try and keep it that way, as long as possible.
- Keep it short-and-sweet. “And now children, I’d like to play you The Goldberg Variations”!!! Whether it’s live or recorded, full attention for 3 minutes is better than 20 minutes of boredom!
- If you’re performing to children, make it look fun, cool, and exciting. And bring a spare instrument and let them have a go.
- Get older children to inspire your kids. Younger children often hero-worship those above them. So why not get older music students to come and perform? They’ll always be cooler than you!!
And my top tips for sparking and maintaining an interest in learning an instrument?
- Keep it FUN! Remember, there are plenty of competing fun things that kids could be doing instead!
- It has to be achievable, and fast. Children live in a world of instantaneous reward. Get them on easy tunes, FAST! Keep the etudes and studies for later.
- Start from what they know. Teaching a beginner to play a tune they don’t know seems an odd way to inspire. If you want them hooked, teach them a theme tune/phrase from their favourite TV program.
- Don’t get bogged down in technique too early. Okay, so their violin bowhold isn’t correct. Well you can spend 4/6 weeks correcting it and put them off the violin for life, or you can work on it later, when a love of the instrument has taken root.
- It’s got to sound good. Children aren’t stupid – they know when something sounds good or bad. So, when they’ve learned a piece, make a funky arrangement to wrap around it.
And only, only, if all else fails, play them Peter and the Wolf!
Richard Mainwaring is a Composer, Performer, TV Presenter and Educator. He’s presented shows on BBC’s The One Show along with 25 years of teaching experience under his belt. Find more articles by Richard here.