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Monday, August 29, 2011

Making the Most of Your Investment

It's no secret that providing music lessons for your child can be very expensive. In addition to the tuition costs of the program, there's instrument rental or purchase, instrument maintenance, workshops, institutes, camps, masterclasses, books, recordings etc. But we know the rewards outweigh the costs when we consider the myriad ways in which children benefit from studying music. There are far too many examples to list in this post, but a fair amount of this blog is devoted to links to articles describing the benefits of a musical education. Besides which, as parents you already know it. That's why you register your kids for lessons in the first place.

I'm perhaps the last person who should be offering financial advice, but it doesn't take a CPA or a Stockbroker to realize that it's a good idea to do whatever you can (legally of course) to maximize the return on your investment. Why would the same not be true when it comes to your child's musical education?

It's important to consider what exactly you're paying for. You are not, contrary to what some might believe, paying for a certain number of minutes of face time with the teacher each week (although the actual lesson time and group class are of course very important pieces to the puzzle - they are, however - only pieces). Rather, you're investing in the full experience: the teacher's knowledge and expertise, the performance opportunities, the discipline, the artistry, the joy of music etc, the quality time with your child, etc. The other puzzle pieces have to be in place too in order for the child to find success.

So as we begin a new school year, perhaps now is a good time to examine what steps you can take to maximize your "profit." Start with the following questions.

-How often do you practice? Do you take days off? If so, how many?
-How long is the average practice session?
-How much of that time is put to productive use?
-How often do you practice reviews?
-How careful are you to follow through on concepts and assignments from the lesson?
-Are you attending lessons?
-Are you paying attention in lessons?
-Are you taking notes?
-Are you videotaping lessons?
-Are you patient with your son? Even when he is impatient with you?
-Do you listen to, and empathize with your daughter?
-Do you communicate effectively with your child and with the teacher?
-Are you willing to find creative ways to challenge and motivate your child?
-Could you play the recordings for your child more often? (The answer is always "yes").
-Do you take advantage of the resources available to help guide you through the important and difficult and monumental task of being a Suzuki parent?
-Do you demonstrate to your child, through your own behavior, that you believe music is important?
-Do you attend her recitals and performances? Do you stay to listen to the other children perform?
-Do you participate in workshops and institutes?
-Do you listen to classical music in the home?
-Do you take your child to hear other musicians perform?

None of us is perfect. We all have room for improvement, and of course one significant aspect of studying music is that one is always looking for ways to grow and develop. If, after asking the above questions, you see areas where changes would be helpful, even small changes, what could you do to make those changes? Even a few small changes might lead to faster progress, and more importantly to a happier experience, and that would be well worth the investment of time and money.

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