Architects of a New Dawn

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Awhile back, Jeanne sent an email out about her grandson who is an exceptional drummer. She described an incident in which the band director was very discouraging about drumming as a form of music. My husband began drumming at the age of 4 because his older brothers had a rock band and practiced in the living room. His parents were completely supportive of all of their childrens' musical talents (well... go figure... they let them practice in their living room!!) :o) In fact, my husband performed "Soul Sacrifice" in front of a large crowd, with his brothers' band at the age of 10. It was his first performance, and to this day, he can distinctly remember his dad giving him a huge hug and kiss when it was over. A very significant moment indeed.

We are now recognizing musical talent in all three of our daughters, but specifically with our 9 year old's exceptional talent on the drums. In fact, a family member who is a music producer heard her play and said, "Get her in lessons right away -- with someone who is top-notch. She's really got something." My question is, if children have true talent -- especially in percussion -- what emphasis should be put on lessons as compared to just letting them explore their own talent? Also, I want to point out the impact that parents have in supporting their kids and music. It is so incredibly important, and the support and encouragement can be life changing!

Looking forward to everyone's comments,
~Leah

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i think good instruction may open many doors into the field of the specific instrument a child is drawn to. however, i feel that there has to be a balance and children should be self-guided as to how much time they wish to spend with the instrument. it should be "playing an instrument" which indicates fun and not "practicing your instrument" which indicates possible drudgery. if there is a true calling, the child won't be kept from the instrument and go "play" a lot. my younger daughter has a voice of an angel and although at 9, she is too young to have formal voice training, i've backed off completely with giving her any advice (even though i've had 5 yrs of voice training myself) and i find her singing most of the day, to songs, to jingles, alone, while playing with her dolls, while straightening her room... under the shower, you name it - it comes natural and is fun this way. this year, she's trying the school choir, we'll see if she likes it. once she's past 15, voice training can become an option, but only if she truly desires it.

claudia
Music training assists all other functions of the brain and the younger the student when beginning, the better. Research has shown that the earlier music training begins, the more developed the corpus callosum... a structure of the brain that connects and facilitates communication between the left and right cerebral hemispheres.

My favorite music instruction method is the Suzuki method. It is about more than musical development; it is about development of the whole person and their character. Required reading for parents enrolling their child in Suzuki instruction is a book called, "Nurtured by Love." Its a good read and light years from the tales I've heard of music instructors hitting the knuckles of piano students with a baton. Suzuki does not offer drum lessons though... but the book is a good read for any parent aspiring to improve their parenting repertoire... especially through the medium of music.

My son, also a drummer, started school band in 4th grade and private lessons in 7th. We found an instructor who was highly recommended. She was a woman of maturity who had been drumming since the big band era, her husband was in John Denver's band and also a music teacher and all four of her children were music pros. When we initally met with her, my then 12yo son was immediately put off... until she sat behind the drums and started to play. His eyes got big and a smile spread across his face. He spent many hours over the years in her studio... but only after she determined he had what it takes to be her student. She tested him for both natural rhythm and sight-reading skills. She did not want students who did not possess both.

Since your daughter is already 9, I would suggest she join school band... A drummer needs a band like a skeleton needs muscles and tissue. Other instruments can stand alone better than a drummer can. ...and she can develop the necessary sight-reading skills needed to be accepted by an exceptional teacher.

Initially you only need to purchase drumsticks, a drum pad and some books... but be aware that over time... the serious drummer requires more space than other instrumentalists. During my son's high school, we moved into a house with a basement and a back entrance where the other musicians could come and go without traipsing through the living room with the steady flow of guitars, keyboards, amps, microphone stands, etc. Our house was alive with music and creativity... it was loud, but I knew where my son was and what he was doing. ...and to this day, I have many "adopted" kids, now in their 30's, who still call me mamasan.
I believe there are two "Mamasans" here--Jeanne and Claudia :-). My son is still 5 and likes to sing and dance. With the whole Michael Jackson thing, his interest in the moves of the King of Pop have been taken to a new level. We sing in the car together, and when I can, we attend a monthly Karaoke group that happens each 3rd Saturday of the month. It's a lot of fun, and he loves it! We get to "perform" the numbers we have been fooling around with. Although I am a ham too, I would say the real joy comes in seeing him try to belt out some notes and creatively express himself. We must remember that for many, the voice is our first and best instrument. I took glee club in middle school for 2 years, and don't you know, I can still remember most of those songs! I encourage each parent to allow the children to develop their passions in the great language of the heart. Just like with most things, formal training augments natural talents.

Best, Mike

First off, With drums ear protection is an idea. As for learning, there's a balance to be paid attention to. Solid technique and proper body mechanics are very important as the player (of any instrument) can end up doing fine until they want to take it to a more advanced level and then find out some aspect of their playing or the way they hold their body stops them from going further (or leads to injury) and then the "unlearning" and relearning is tough.  BUT being too regimented can lead to the student hating the instrument or even hating learning in general and also can force them to be so disciplined that they can't "paint outside the lines" even if they want to. Many great players have moved countless people by playing the "wrong" way, so I think it's vital to work in there a solid foundation but encourage experimentation and for example if the person is learning theory, make sure they know how to ignore what theory tells them they should play. Nothing in music is set in stone. Music is from the soul. There are no wrong souls. There is no bad music....maybe music you or I or someone else doesn't like but if the player likes it...it is good. Make sure that is not forgotten when traveling down the musical paths.  

One thing that is a good idea is tie music in with other forms of expression. Join with others. Have the child or whoever start a project with friends, family, schoolmates or by themselves. Get a group going and make something like my music and art for Peace SoundsLikePeace.org project. You (being whoever) could have a section of music one of art, one of poetry, one of a blog thing, it could grow to cover your whole community and more!

Peace to All,

Steve

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