There are several rites of passage, like learning to swim, that all kids need to experience–not just because they’re sort of traditional but because they actually help kids grow up. It’s okay if they end up hating it, but they still need to try it out, at least for a little while. One of those rites of passage is taking music lessons and learning to play an instrument.
Music, in particular, has been proven to have a positive effect on a person’s brain function–especially when that person is still a child. Studies have proven that listening to and, more importantly, learning how to play music do better in school and have “improved neural functioning.” Outside of biological neural functioning, taking music teaches kids about discipline and sticking with something even when it is hard. It gives them real life experience that proves that if they just keep working at something they can master it.
Unfortunately, not enough kids have access to regular music lessons. School districts across the country have slashed their music and art budgets, which means that kids (at least, those in public schools) get only the barest exposure to music and that exposure is almost always at the superficial level.
This means that it is up to parents to ensure that their kids are exposed to music and that they spend some time learning to play an instrument (or more, if they are interested). Unfortunately, while most parents agree with the idea in theory, few are able to put it into practice. Why? Money.
Music lessons have a reputation for being incredibly expensive. This is partly because, well, parents have to purchase the instrument that their child will learn to play. That can mean forking over a lot of cash, which feels scary since there is no guarantee that the child in question will actually practice the instrument or stick with the instrument long enough to make the investment worthwhile. It is also partly because parents believe that hiring a music teacher has to be expensive.
If this sounds familiar, here is some good news: there are a lot of ways to save money on instruments and lessons. Here are just a few of them.
Buy used Instruments. You can buy directly from sellers via sites like Craigslist or eBay (where there are often lots of great bargains to be found). You can also buy instruments used from music shops that buy instruments back from people and then sell them at a discount. You can also often score some great instruments at pawn shops. Spend some time hunting around and you should be able to score a decent instrument for a good price.
Get creative with your lessons. It is true that some people do charge an arm and a leg for an hour’s worth of lesson time. But, there are lots of people out there who charge at an inexpensive price as well. A good place to start is at your local community college or university. Students in music programs often give lessons at great rates to help put themselves through school. You can also use online directories and review sites like LessonRating to find local teachers who specialize in certain instruments.
Review sites, in particular, are great because parents can use them to find teachers who have experience dealing with new students, particularly stubborn students, etc.
Use the internet! Believe it or not, it is possible to find online music lessons. Self starting kids–especially those who work better independently–can learn to play by watching YouTube videos or using other resources and lesson sites online. Some teachers will even offer lessons via Skype or Google Hangout for parents who live rurally and aren’t able to make it in to town for regular lessons.
Of course, saving money on instruments and lessons isn’t the only area where parents have trouble getting their kids interested in music. Some kids simply hate having music forced upon them.
The best way to help your kids overcome their stubborn refusal to take lessons is to give them as much room for choice as possible. If you try to force your child to learn to play piano, for example, it probably won’t go well. But if you say “we want to start you with music lessons this year. What instrument do you think you’d like to play?” you’ll have a much easier time. Be prepared to try out several instruments for a few months a piece before your son or daughter decides to commit to just one.
Remember: it’s doable! You can save money, find ways to make a stubborn kid feel like music lessons were their idea, etc. You just have to get a little creative and be a little stubborn yourself!