The Parents’ Perspective: What if Talent Outweighs Passion?

A recent fan comment inspired this next installment in The Parents’ Perspective. A few weeks ago, Jenni asked us:

“How do you handle a child who is very gifted musically but hates it? My 13 year old son hates to practice and has no real desire or motivation to excel, but has a talent and I hate to see it wasted. Any suggestions would be helpful and appreciated. I believe it will help him and others in so many ways.”

We put the question to our panel of parents and here’s what they said:

My daughter does not have the desire to play perfectly (we call her “Miss good enough”) so she would never make it as a musician. We have nagged her enough to get her to a level where she can play with others, which is what she enjoys. I think by age 13 it will be very difficult to force a child to practice, especially if they do not already have a level of facility on the instrument. Pushing too hard at that age will just turn them off completely.

-Jasmine Moghissi (mother of Dominic Favia, trumpet, Show 215)

Barbara Nakazawa, mother of Show 092 cellist Josh, suggests:

Have your child enroll in a chamber music class. It’s true that band and orchestra are fun and social, but with chamber music you have to really know your individual part and listen to the other players. Sometimes it’s important to let go of telling your child to practice but find ways to know that they are learning and growing musically. They will not want to let the group down and will prepare their part. It is most important to let them find pleasure and magic in music. Chamber music is that magic.

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The Parents’ Perspective: Reactions to Amy Chua’s “Tiger Mom” Tactics

Welcome to the fifth installment of The Parents’ Perspective – a mini blog series for parents by parents, to lend advice and share stories about raising musical children. For this post we’ve taken a slight detour in format.

Blogger Katheryn Rivas approached us with an idea that we adapted for The Parents’ Perspective. Katheryn wrote an article (below) about Amy Chua, a Yale Law School professor who recently published her parenting memoir “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” You may have heard of it, or seen the Wall Street Journal article about her parenting methods.

We asked our Parents’ Perspective contributors to read Katheryn’s article and react to the tactics Amy used with her daughter Lulu, a young pianist.  There are many perspectives on this subject and we hope this provokes further conversation.  What do you think about Amy’s tactics? Comment below and keep the dialogue going!

Part 1: Should Parents Go “Tiger Mom” on Their Musical Kids?
By Katheryn Rivas

Amy Chua, a Yale Law School professor who has received an enormous amount of media attention following the publication of her parenting memoir “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” is now nothing short of a household name.

An article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal excerpting her memoir and detailing her strict parenting methods garnered over 7,000 comments, mostly negative, and became the most talked about article ever published in the Wall Street Journal online. Continue reading

The Parents’ Perspective: Skipping School for the Sake of Music

For our fourth blog of The Parents’ Perspective we asked for both parent and reader feedback on which topic to discuss – skipping school for the sake of music, or dealing with stage fright and nerves. Both are great (and important) topics, but we had overwhelming interest in discussing the matter of skipping school for the sake of music, so that’s what you’ll read about today. We will talk about stage fright in a later post.

Being a parent of a young musician certainly isn’t easy, especially when confronted with the choice of sending your child to school or allowing them to compete in a competition that may further their musical career. Below are opinions, personal stories, and advice from parents of From the Top alums. There are many perspectives on this subject and we hope this provokes further conversation. Please feel free to comment below and keep the dialogue going.

At Times, Skipping School Was Ok For Us

Judy Merritt (Edward Merritt, double bass, Show 100)

If either of my children had to miss school for the sake of music, I always arranged with their teachers that the children could somehow get credit for the musical work; they always were required by us (the parents) to make up tests, etc. Missing/skipping school for the sake of music was simply okay with us, so long as all responsibilities were taken care of. He missed school only a couple times a year and it always seemed to be beneficial academically and musically.

Vicky Robbins (Sean Robbins, slack key guitar, Show 210)

Whenever Sean did take time off from school, it was always for the sake of music! It may have been for a special workshop with a master teacher or to perform. Another reason he missed a day of school was to provide Arts Leadership in his community by visiting 4th grade classrooms at a local elementary school. He talked about his instrument, played and answered students’ questions. Skipping school only happens for a good musical reason and it definitely makes him a better student, musician and person.

Susie Wuest (Eric Wuest, violin, Show 030)

Skipping school was never really an issue with Eric. There were a few times Eric was excused for a local concert and there was one year when I needed to arrange for Eric to take a NYS Regent’s exam at another school so that he could start the Tanglewood summer program on time. Fortunately, school was very easy for Eric so it was not hard for him to make up anything he missed. But generally he didn’t want to miss classes.

Achieving Balance Between Academics and Music is Necessary

Emmanuel Cabezas (Gabriel Cabezas, cello, Shows 128, 155, 192, and 217)

Both my wife and I, in concurrence with Gabriel, felt strongly that both schoolwork and music-related responsibilities should be honored and completed fully to the extent of one’s ability (all this while keeping social development active).

In missing school to pursue a music opportunity, we found that Gabriel learned other valuable lessons:

- A strong relationship developed between school administrators, teachers and Gabriel concerning the matter of keeping up with learning effectively, completing assignments timely and efficiently, and enjoying the school experience socially.

- A sound understanding of responsibility and accountability became part of Gabriel’s daily life. In order to perform, he had to keep up with his school-related work; and in order to attend public school, he had to prepare for his concerts efficiently.

- Gabriel’s organizational skills strengthened acutely as time passed and he learned the skills necessary to balance the scholarly duties with the music-related requirements of his life, and to eventually unite them fully into his current endeavor: continuing to learn and perform at a music conservatory.

Skipping for the sake of music, when necessary, actually prepared Gabriel for undertaking higher education and continuing his development as an aspiring musician.

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The Parents’ Perspective: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Welcome to our third installment of the Parents’ Perspective – a mini blog series for parents, by parents, to lend advice, share stories, and more about raising musical children. You can also read past posts on music resources and musical beginnings.

Today’s topic is on practicing: How’d you get your kids to do it? What schedule worked best for you? Was it easy or difficult to get your child to practice? We received a wealth of feedback from parents, and also had guest blogger and piano teacher Maria Rainier weigh in. Enjoy!

Patrick McGuire

A structured practice schedule is helpful!

Roberta McGuire says: “On weekdays, when people have to rise early for work the next day, finishing practicing before 10pm at the latest worked best in our household.  Sometimes, Patrick would practice in between the starting of other subjects’ homework – Practicing seemed to serve as a break from the homework.”

Susie Wuest remembers “Eric would race home from school to practice then and often again after supper.  I think he was bored in school, and the violin presented him with a challenge.  Eric was very athletic and liked to be busy — gymnastics, tennis, baseball, or just playing with friends.  I always made sure that time was saved for practicing everyday.”

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The Parents’ Perspective: Now What?

This is the second installment of our Parents’ Perspective blog series, which is meant to share information, hints, and knowledge about raising musical kids. You can read the first blog about musical beginnings here.

Today’s topic: Your kid wants to study an instrument – now what? Our parent panel gives some tips on finding music teachers.

Word of mouth can be a very powerful tool!

Gabriel Cabezas, 2007

Emmanuel Cabezas remembers, “After Gabriel went through most of the Suzuki program, his teacher suggested a traditional teacher who also performed with a symphony orchestra.  Once Gabriel studied with him for a couple of years, he in turn suggested another teacher from a university.”

Roberta McGuire says, “Word of mouth referrals from trusted and respected sources can help shorten the time in finding what you are looking for. When shopping around for an instrument, you should ask your teacher to help out with the assessment of each so that you get the instrument that best fits your child at that given point in time.”

Barbara Nakazawa advises, “School band and orchestra teachers tend to know the better private instrumental teachers so they are a great source.”

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The Parents’ Perspective: Musical Beginnings

As you know, From the Top showcases the best young musical talent from across the country. But what about the support behind these amazing kids – the parents? We’ve set out to tap into the rich knowledge base of From the Top performer parents in an effort to share information, stories, and encouragement on raising musical kids.

This is the first blog in what we hope will be an on-going series.

Musical beginnings: How do you know your child is ready to study an instrument & are you ready to help them? Whether or not you have any musical background, our parents share why studying music is a family affair.

Barbara Nakazawa is a musician and teacher, but she looked to her son Joshua for signs he was interested:

Josh, age 6

“Starting at age three, I dragged him to one of my community orchestra rehearsals (I’m a flutist)…After a few weeks he got to be friendly with the cellists and trombonists as they sat near him.

One day he said, ”Mommy, I need a cello.”  I gave him the whole lecture about need vs. want and told him that he was too young…He was persistent as is his nature and just to change the subject I told him, “Tomorrow after nursery school we will go home and call a cello teacher.” The following day when I picked him up from nursery school I asked him if he wanted to go to Toys R Us and he said, “No, Mommy, you promised that we would go right home and call a cello teacher.” Twenty-one years later he is now a professional cellist.”

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