Teach Your Children

Aug 30, 2023 | Welcome Column

Teach your children well. Their father’s hell did slowly go byFeed them on your dreams. The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by

Those classic Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young lyrics remind me of the experience all parents have listening to one of their young children attempt to learn the violin. I know. Been there, done that. Though the scratching and screeching and sour notes are disconcerting in the short run, especially for a music loving parent, the end result of a more well rounded child in the long run is totally worth it for most.

Don’t you ever ask them why. If they told you, you would crySo just look at them and sigh. And know they love you

Music is a language that all kids need to be exposed to. I admire our teachers who give that experience to youngsters. Frank Solivan, Sr. just passed away and all of us in the CBA should be proud of and grateful for his contribution to our CBA family through the Kids on Bluegrass program.

The earlier kids start learning music the better because true fluency in a language needs to be built into their brain development as early as possible. I don’t think we necessarily need to be making little Mozarts out of our crib babies but your child or grandchild might be able to pick up that first instrument before you realize it.

Both of my kids still play music as adults but if they didn’t I would still be grateful for the life lessons that learning to play music gave them. After many years of violin and fiddle lessons from about a dozen teachers, my son Ethan abandoned the instrument but later took up the guitar and now he’s pretty good at it. He admitted to me that without those fiddle lessons it would not have become so easy to quickly learn killer finger pick guitar solos by simply watching YouTube. As for Juliet, she’s got a band now. She sings lead, plays guitar and piano and enjoys performing in the Seattle area. It’s not anything like the bluegrass she played with her friends at Grass Valley long ago but at least it’s indie pop and not rap!

I think for kids especially, the benefits of a musical education go far beyond just learning to play, sing or dance. Those skills can provide pleasure and stress reduction to them as adults and very few will actually use those skills to make a living, It will always be an avocation for almost everybody.

It makes me mad when I see school administrators cut music education so they can save resources to chase standardized score metrics. Music education is seen as fluff in a strapped educational system that struggles to keep up.

Learning to play a musical instrument is not easy. But the reward of tangible improvement you can hear teaches every student that there are certain things in life that are so hard you just have to keep trying and it will come to you eventually! Hard work rewards your ears with sounds almost everybody can appreciate.

Most of you reading this probably play an instrument. If not you probably like to sing. If you aren’t trying to teach your child or grandchild what you know, you might be missing a very important teaching opportunity.

The painting you see on the splash page is one of my favorites. The Banjo Lesson was painted by Henry Ossawa Tanner, one of the first African American artists to gain international renown, studying in Paris in the late 19th century. I love how the lighting highlights the interaction between the senior teacher and his young student. This is obviously a family moment and the frames of lighting outside the subjects draw one’s attention to the expressions on the faces of teacher and learner. Look closely at the facial expressions. Isn’t what that’s like to teach and learn for everyone?

Keep learning your instrument. If you are able, teach your instrument. Music gives us so many opportunities for meaningful human interaction. We all need to avail ourselves of those opportunities. Teach your children.

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