Music, Lessons

For me, one of the hardest parts of parenthood has been knowing when to push and when not to. It's a constant struggle, really - reminding myself NOT to push, even when signs and people and etc. constantly suggest otherwise.

About a year ago I posted about Archer's (unique?) music ability. He had just turned four and even though, in my head I was thinking, "sheesh. Isn't it a little bit early to take him to music lessons?" my heart was saying: YOU HAVE TO! HE'S A REAL BOY OF GENIUS! GO! GO! GO! GOOOOOO!

So, I did some research, corresponded with several readers who had recommendations for where to take Archer, and after consulting with musically inclined family we decided to start him in piano lessons and go from there.

We found an incredible teacher who also taught violin. He would teach Archer the basics of piano and then after a few months, transition to violin. The downside? This particular teacher was an hours-drive away. But it was worth it. I mean, hello.

Except Archer didn't want to take lessons. He just wanted to play. He wasn't ready to learn how to read music or sit with a teacher or follow directions... He didn't want to practice. And I refused to push him. Even though part of me really wanted to. Because he could do it if he wanted to, you know?

Except he DIDN'T want to. Not at the time, anyway.

I played music as a child and hated feeling pushed. I ended up quitting because I never felt like I could play piano. My teachers were strict with me and refused to bend - even though I was really quite good at playing by ear. They didn't let me arrange my own music - frowned on my wanting to write my own songs - play differently. So? I quit.

I was many years older than Archer, of course. And yet, my sensitivity to creative stifling is acute. My greatest fear is pushing Archer away from what he loves. There is no worse a feeling.

Needless to say, as soon as it became obvious that Archer wasn't ready for music lessons, I pulled him out. Let him go back to banging on friends' drum sets, playing around on the piano, conducting his own symphonies in the privacy of his own bedroom.

"When I'm five..." Archer had said to me at the time. "I'll be old enough to take music lessons when I'm five."

And so...

This summer (just after Archer turns five) we're signing him up for two separate music classes - classes with other students, no pressure. One is an introduction to violin and string instruments and the other is a percussion class. Because he loves playing drums at his friend's house and totally rocks it. We'll see how those classes go and let him choose what instrument(s) he wants to pursue from there.

That's the plan, Stan.

...In the meantime, few things bring me more joy than watching him jam, hearing him sing, being able to dance like crazy to his song.


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Rebecca | 6:38 PM

I would LOVE to sign my daughter up for ballet and tap. More so for the ballet classes because she is so interested in ballet and she tries so hard to mimic the positions she sees on television and follow what she sees on TV, but I've checked into ballet classes and they are expensive. Even the ones that claim to be cheap..............If you have the money, sign him up for anything his little heart desires, because you will never know you are an amazing gymnast, ballerina, tap dancer, singer, guitar player, etc. . .Unless someone presents you with the equipment to try. Let him try until he finds something that he is thrilled with.

Mom101 | 8:27 PM

How fabulous that you're allowing him to follow his bliss -but at his own pace on his own terms. A gift means nothing if you're not interested in pursuing it and I'd imagine your gentle encouragement is better than any sort of mandate.

Meanwhile, if he makes it big? I've got a roll of photos of baby Thalia and baby Archer at the piano ready to sell to US Weekly.

Cave Momma | 8:59 PM

Good for you!! I keep resisting the urge myself to get my daughter into dance. She loves it but I just don't think she will enjoy classes yet. So as much as I want to, I won't.

Also, so funny that he said "when I'm 5". My parents love to tell a story of me when they were trying to teach me how to tie my shoes and I didn't want to learn. I told them I would when I turned 5 and low and behold I did. They don't even know how. I love how kids think, it's very refreshing.

jenifer | 9:39 PM

5 is a good age to start. we started gus in november shortly after turning 5 in august. he has flourished and we love the teacher. for now we are sticking with piano- at least for another year and then see where that takes us. being home schoolers we have the availability to really focus on a child's strong interests which is amazing. he has his first recital may 9th where- with the help of his teacher he will be playing his own piece. it is inspirational and music is so important. can't wait to hear what archer has in store. and if you need help, i know a slew of amazing teachers from the home school community that take in school children as well.

Amy | 10:13 PM

In your last post about Archer's musical ability, a commenter wrote about the program Music Together. My Bug and I have been going since she was about nine months old because of that post and it has been glorious. It is so beautiful to watch her blossoming into musical knowledge in the most playful, gentle, and loving way. And the program transitions over time into more structured music classes but in a very organic way that is based on solid research and practice.

Thanks, Rebecca. If it had not been for that post and that comment, we might mot have had this lovely musical growth together. It has truly enriched our relationship.


I am SO SO glad to hear that, Amy. That's amazing! Music Together is great. I did Music Together with Archer when he was a babe and do a weekly music class with Fable as well. It's my highlight. :)

Meemo | 11:29 PM

You're so right to give Archer space. I think that experience has to be organic. It has to come from them. I bought my son a guitar at a yard sale a couple of years ago, and just like that, he fell in love. The kid is really good and loves learning, whether he's learning from his teacher or the internet. He's 11, so that makes it easy. The amazing thing is wathcing him discover this all on his own. And my house is filled with beautiful music.

Sarah | 7:35 AM

I was the same way with writing!! I was writing plays and stories and books and anything I could word vomit onto paper until 4th grade when we had to learn how to write essays.
And passing the 4th grade fully depended on wether or not we passed "Florida Writes!". But having to put an introductory paragraph, 3 explanatory paragraphs and a conclusion were for people that couldn't already tell stories! I could! I would put my head down and sob. I literally told me teacher she was ruining imagination.
You're doing the right thing. You don't have to read music to play music. If it's in his heart, he'll play it.

Amanda | 8:27 AM

Archer absolutely kills me! He's so mature and wise beyond his years it's insane. I can't wait to see what music he makes.

We're most definitely in the same boat. At the moment Jack is really showing interest in music. I feel he's too young to really try and teach him so I just let him bang out on anything he wants. He seems to be into the drums and piano as a result and can somewhat sing before he talking (he has yet to really throw sentences out there but turn on his favorite song...). My husband and his grandmother are classically trained on the piano so hopefully one day they can pass it on over to Jack, if he wants it. One of my aspirations for the future is to have a house with an extra bedroom or den to turn into a music room.

I'm glad to see so many mothers are nurturing their children with music.

Kathleen | 8:50 AM

It really is important to find a teacher who will gel with your child. One who will be flexible and let them just play, goof off or be down with them making suggestions. Here in Eugene there's The Lesson Factory. It's a big box franchise yes. The teachers, however are fantastic. The real thing. Real musicians who love music and really get kids.
I know it sounds like I'm an ad here. But,there is nothing more of a parental self pat on the back than music being played by your child filling the house.

Unknown | 10:52 AM

Hi, speaking of Music Together, I have a friend here in Florida that teaches a program called Musik Garten, and I know it is taught other places as well. They have classes for all age levels of children from birth-6 years. This might be another program you could look into!

stephanie | 12:22 PM

Jazzo LOVES music--his favorite toys are books and anything that makes music, and he drags an ukulele around with him wherever he goes. I'd love if he wanted to play, and I think five is a great time to start! :)

Still Life With Coffee | 1:46 PM

Awesome post as always.
And... I just adore the way that boy of yours dresses! Cute as a button in his little jackets.

Tracie | 2:03 PM

I started goofing around on the family piano when I was around 8 and asked to take lessons. I took for 6 years and added flute at age 12. I am still playing flute now at 34 years old! I love making music and hope that one of my children will decide to play something. I agree that pushing is not the way to do it, but having a lot of music around and creating the opportunity is great.

We signed both of ours up for dance classes at the local parks and rec and it has been fantastic. Our son is loving it and our daughter thinks she is a professional dancer!

MommyLisa | 2:26 PM

That is cool! Boo Boo always talks about playing soccer...we signed up last fall for a totally chill league and she liked it mostly, but we don't really push either.

Is that bad?

Claire | 3:52 PM

If Archer's not really into the technical part of music, like learning notes and rhythms and stuff like that, he might really like the Suzuki method. You may have already heard of this. They start all kids on violin, and you get a small one that he'll be able to handle easily. They teach music completely by ear, and the children just absorb it by listening to the teacher and repeating. It's pretty cool! It was taught in a program at the music school where I got my Bachelor's degree.

But I should admit that this didn't work with me. :) My parents signed me up for Suzuki when I was 4, and after one lesson I attempted to "hide" my violin under my bed so I wouldn't have to go back. The teacher was completely un-phased. She told my parents basically let her quit, if she's destined for music she'll come back to it. Well, here I am 23 years later with a Masters degree in oboe performance. He'll find his way to his true love. Just wait!

Anonymous | 7:53 PM

I second the thought about Suzuki method. I grew up a Suzuki kid, playing both violin and piano. They don't actually start all kids on violin. The Suzuki method exists for cello, piano, flute, and guitar as well. It's a very nurturing way of learning music; the basic concept is that just as we learn language by listening, music should be learned the same way. Parents attend lessons with their kids and practice with them. It is a big time commitment on the part of the parents, but Suzuki kids are encouraged to play by ear and to play music that interests them. It might be a great fit for you and your son.

EMQ | 7:46 AM

How great! My husband and I are both full time muscians, as are our friends. And the commonality between all of us is a basic love of playing. Lessons are definitely important, but love...that's what drives us. I know plenty of professional musicians who are essentially self taught because they dug their instruments so much they just couldn't get enough. Archer may or may not respond to formal training, but it sounds like whatever his reaction, you'll always encourage him to pursue his love of music. And that's awesome.

Ray | 8:18 PM

Archer looks so grown up in his cute little outfit. I love it! And I'm sure when Archer's "five" he'll marvel everyone in his music class. ;o) I can't wait to read more about it. I'm glad you're helping him follow his dream. You're a great mom.

Mamacita | 10:57 AM

I think if our generation has learned anything (the twenty-something brood) it's that pushing your children doesn't result in passion or cause them to develop the interests you want them to. How many of us have parents who tried to push us into their professions and instead we went in completely different directions? Taking a writing class won't ignite a love for the written word the way a well written book will. And generally, a book that makes a person love writing is something they chose, not something that was handed to them. I think it's awesome that you are giving Archer a chance to find his voice in his own way.