What Makes a Good Piano Parent?

Okay, so my not-so-short rant on parenting and piano lessons has now reached thousands of people from dozens of countries…. literally, all around the world. Clearly, it hit a nerve — in Russia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Jamaica, South Korea, Mexico, China, Portugal, Italy, South Africa, Israel, Japan, Bolivia, Estonia…

But there’s a “glass-half-full” aspect to all of this, and I wanted to share that, as well.

Last night, David and I hosted a music party to celebrate — well everything: The 9th year of our studio here in the Berkshires, the publication of seven music books in the Idiot’s Guides series, and a community that has given us amazing support in our mission to bring music into people’s lives.

And the performances of our students and the joy of David’s song-circle of guitarists playing old favorites together reminded us, once again, why we do this: it’s so much more than a job. Watching our students turn into musicians before our eyes is a one of the greatest gifts I can imagine.

So I wanted to share with you some of what I see that my really wonderful piano families (and David’s equally wonderful guitar families) are doing right:

1) They are making music a priority. For some, this means that lessons and practice are a non-negotiable part of life. Kind of like brushing your teeth.

2) They don’t overcommit. Our most successful students (and this includes those who are successful  academically AND athletically as well as musically) do two maybe or three activities at a time — not four or five.

3) They supervise their kids. For very young students, this means that they make sure the kids have put in their required practice, completed any assignments, have their books for their lessons. For older students, it means maintaining a presence: asking about a piece, showing interest, making sure their kid plays in recitals and other musical events. 

4) They support lessons by playing music at home and attending live music events — ANY live music events.

5) They listen in at lessons and then remind students of what the teacher told them to do. (Yes, we allow parents to sit in… I know some teachers don’t, and there are good arguments both ways.)

6) If they CAN help with practice (counting, correcting wrong notes, etc.) they do.

7) Even if they can’t help with correcting musical problems, they ask their kids to play for them and show them what they are working on.

8) They are JOYFUL about music: They see it not as just another chore, but as something special in life.

9) They listen to us when we talk about lesson length or practice times or overscheduling or summer lessons or the need for a quiet practice place uninterrupted by toddlers trying to bang along on the high notes or a blaring TV.

10) They communicate with us: Let us know about scheduling issues, school problems, and other issues that might affect how a child is doing. Sometimes we can help by changing the requirements, taking a break from the “serious” stuff to have more fun, or simply knowing that a kid is feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re a parent reading this: What have you done to support your child’s music education?

If you are a music teacher: What makes a great music parent in YOUR eyes?

Please comment.

3 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Piano Parent?”

  1. I am both a Music Parent (to a beginner pianist) and also a Piano Teacher.

    As a music teacher who has a child learning, I have found one of the most important things I have had to do is give my daughter (and her teacher), space to make the music their own. She can always ask me for help, should she need it, at home. I will always ensure she has practise time and space, and all of the things I really want other parents to do. But taking that step back from being a teacher and turning into the parent was difficult.

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