The (unspoken) fact that causes kids to succeed or fail in music

Even though I was not one who practiced music growing up, I find myself giving advice and suggestions on practicing, developing routines and efficient use of time.

The fact that #1) I didn’t practice and #2) I was able to become a strong violin player would would appear to be proof that practicing isn’t quite as necessary as everyone says.

But there is a fact #3 that is almost always neglected when parents, teachers and students discuss kids that quit violin or kids that succeeded. It will cause two students who don’t practice to have wildly different outcomes.

Fact #3: Is there music at home between lessons? Kids that hear and see music being played at home are simply in a more fortunate position than those who don’t.

Musicians from a musical home who attribute their success to hard work and talent are like a kid that thinks he hit a triple, but doesn’t realize he was born on 2nd base.

Fact #3 has allowed one of my students, M__, a 13-year-old who never practices, to become a strong fiddler. She is surrounded by music at home and frequently comes to jams and camps.

If M__ were to have a regular practice routine, she’d not only be a good fiddler, she’d be off-the-charts amazing. But that is not her goal, nor her parents’. Beyond having fun, she is without ambition for her music whatsoever. She can look forward to a life of music with friends, playing in the occasional band, traveling with her violin, meeting new people and passing time playing music on her own. Musical success in my estimation.

Most parents are not musicians. They may have tried when they were younger, or their music skills are no longer relevant to their lives now. Or, they may have never been given the opportunity to learn.

The absence of music at home creates a disparity in likely outcomes for their children compared to kids like M__. But, there is a way to balance the scales a little. Non-musician parents can take steps that will allow their children to have that same advantage as children of musicians. And that is by facilitating practicing.

But not the practicing that has driven countless young students to quit. Rather, a practicing routine that approximates the environment of a musical family where music is relevant, social and frequent.

If non-musician parents participate in the music learning at home, kids will have all the benefits of growing up in a musical family.

And, if you — as a non-musician parent — create that musical environment through routine and practice now, your grandchildren will likely grow up in a musical home where they will be able to flourish as a musician with or without practicing.