Tag Archives: children

Why I Love Teaching Kids

I love teaching, partly because each and every student is unique. You never know what you’re going to get. Both kids and adults come with their own special joys that make them very different to work with. This is what I love about teaching music to kids.

Kids are unpredictable

You can be fairly sure that most adult lessons will more or less be similar every week. The late ones will be late, the hardworking ones will have worked hard, and the forgetful ones will have forgotten something! Part of being an adult is learning and developing consistency of character and behaviour. Kids haven’t got there yet. Some days, they’re bouncing off the ceiling, others they’re tired and unmotivated. Even when they’re fairly average, you never know when they’re going to turn around and say something totally bizarre, or incredibly insightful. Lessons with kids are never the same twice!

Kids are ambitious and take challenge in their stride

Most kids don’t really have much experience of failure, and none of them have learned the life-lesson of adulthood that ambitions have to be tempered with realism. Kids want to be actors, pop stars, astronauts and superheroes – they have no idea about gas bills and council tax. This means kids tend to take all the challenges of music like taking exams in their stride. Everything in their life is about learning, so they just take learning music as normal. It’s delightful to see them go forward with a level of confidence adults rarely exhibit. Give kids a challenge and they’ll almost always rise to it.

Kids are endlessly inventive

Adult life tends to crush creativity. We’re so busy keeping afloat and doing what we have to, that creativity is often squeezed into small portions of time, or applied to very practical problems. Kids don’t have this issue – so they’re always coming up with new ideas and thoughts. I always find I learn new ways of looking at music from the kids I teach because they just think in a more creative way than I do.

Kids are full of potential

With adults, you usually know where their musical journey is headed. Sometimes, one will surprise you, but most of them enjoy music as a hobby, or are already working professionally (or have ambitions to). Kids aren’t even close to a career plan, so you never know where their musical journey could take them. Some will go on to study music at university or conservatoire, and others will take non-academic routes to a music career. Many will find a non-musical career, but hopefully, they’ll take both the primary and secondary skills learned from music lessons into those careers and succeed at them. The delightful thing is, when you start the journey of music lessons with kids, you have no idea where they’re going to end up in the end.

Those are just a few of the reasons I love teaching kids!

If you have a child who is interested in singing lessons and you live in the Edinburgh area, why not arrange a trial lesson for them with me? I offer specialist tuition for primary aged children which develops all-round musicianship and develops vocal technique in a safe way for young voices. High school aged children are able to take formal singing lessons.

Singing Through the Summer

It’s school holidays from this week, up in slightly sunny Scotland, and it won’t be long before the schools are off in England too. That means lots of music teachers are on holiday too. Some teachers take the whole summer off and most of us will take a couple of weeks.

So, how do you survive the summer as a music student? Here are some of my favourite things to do to keep myself motivated without weekly lessons.

1. Read some books about music

As things quiet down over the summer, it’s a great time to pick up a book about music. If you’re off on holiday yourself, a good book is a must to pack into your suitcase. Join your local library to get books for free. If you’re under 16 (mainly aged 4 to 11), you can also join in the national summer reading challenge at your local library and get rewarded for reading!

There are loads of choices for all ages. You could pick up a composer biography, a book on the history of musical styles, or one about instruments. What about a scientific book about how music works, or one on the psychology and neuroscience of how music works? Amazon even has a selection of classic texts on music available free in kindle format.

I’m just compiling my reading list for this summer (more later in the week), but in the meantime, check out my book recommendations page.

2. Head out to a concert or festival

Music happens all year round, but in the summer it’s usually mild enough that musicians venture outdoors. There’s a huge range of outdoor concerts that take place throughout the summer, from national events like Proms in the Park, to the bandstand in your local park. Keep an eye on national sites like The List as well as your local listings for opportunities, especially family friendly ones with the option to picnic while you listen.

For the more adventurous, summer is the time for festivals. Urban festivals often showcase local talent, while weekend events in fields give a more intense and cosmopolitan environment. These aren’t the cheapest option, but often offer a wider variety of styles of music. I’ll be reporting back from Greenbelt later in the summer which offers a huge range from classical opera to punk rock all on the same site.

If you really can’t find anything locally, check out coverage on the BBC of the various music festivals from Glastonbury (last weekend) through to Leeds and Reading (at the end of August). They also broadcast lots of concerts from the Proms on radio and TV.

3. Make some music with others

I nearly titled this one “take part in a concert” and I would definitely recommend that as one of your considerations. If you have a local festival, why not consider participating? It might be too late for this year, but you could use your summer to plan for next year.

If you’ve got some more free time over the summer, why not touch base with some musical friends and get together to play? You could even head for the park and make music outside, or try busking (check out your local council’s by-laws before setting up just anywhere). Making music with others challenges all kinds of skills like sight-reading and aural perception, and it’s loads of fun. I love getting together with my duet partner to rehearse new songs.

4. Take part in a summer school

Summer schools for music come in all shapes and sizes for all ages and abilities. Local events are often short and affordable. Come-and-sing events often crop up over the summer, as do workshops for kids run by local music groups. I was lucky, as a teen, to take part in summer workshops with a local opera society, for example. Non-residential summer schools are often run in vacant school buildings for local kids, while boarding schools often host residential weeks for more advanced children.

For adults, the range goes even further with Conservatoires opening their doors to a wider audience. There are also many residential events, some of which involve travelling overseas to French country lodges or Mediterranean hotels. You can get a taste of what is on offer here.

5. Set Yourself a Challenge

Why not set yourself a challenge? Your teacher might have left you a list of things to do, but if you’ve got some extra time (especially if you’re on school holidays) why not set yourself something totally different to do? The summer break is a great way to hit the T of SMART by making your challenge one which is “time-bound”.

You could set a goal of learning anything from a single song you don’t know up to a whole song cycle. I’m toying with learning all the mezzo arias from the Messiah as my musical challenge while my teacher is on holiday for a month.

To take a different angle, why not consider the challenge of composing something? Set a favourite poem to music, or muck around on an instrument (anything from piano to recorder) and write down a melody all of your own.

6. Think about what you want to do by next summer

Maybe you need to take some time to refocus on what you want out of music lessons. We can often get stuck in one track in music, like getting from one grade exam to the next without really thinking about why we’re doing exams. It’s important to think about what you’d like to do in the future and summer is a great time for blue skies thinking (well, on the three days when the skies are actually blue anyway!).

Think about what you’ve achieved up till now. Is it what you’ve wanted to do? Are you happy with all of it? What would you change?

Then think about what you’d like to do in five or ten years with music. Do you want to go to conservatoire, or be a teacher? Do you want to sing in amateur musicals? Or just to be able to sing to your kids?

I try to spend time with my students at the end of the summer talking about what we’ve achieved and where we’re going together. Watch out for more on this later in the summer.

7. Don’t stop singing!

Whatever you do, don’t stop singing all together. Just as when you stop exercising for a month, going back to the gym is unpleasant to say the last, so if you don’t sing over the summer, your voice will get out of condition! So keep singing. Even if you’re on holiday on a Spanish island, do your warm-ups in the shower to keep your vocal chords in check! Remember, too, that just like athletes, singers need to be wise about things like drinking too much and sleeping too little…

 

All in all, though, have a great summer and enjoy taking a more relaxed approach to music for a few weeks. If you’ve got any of your own tips as to what to do over the summer, why not comment below with your ideas.