For the most part, teaching methods have changed tremendously over time. While not all changes have been positive, it is safe to say that most contemporary methods have been advantageous. Instruction continues to advance over time. This is true in most fields, and holds true in music as well.
Today, children start their formal schooling at an earlier age than that of many older generations. The concept of kindergarten and preschool didn't even exist in the Western world until the early nineteenth century. Even day care centers for toddlers employ learning practices nowadays.
It is beneficial for children to learn as early as possible. Cognitive and emotional development starts during toddlerhood. As music is a vital tool for mental development, it should be encouraged for kids to learn it at around age 3. But it is of utmost importance that it gets taught properly, especially during such formative years.
This might come as contrary to those who advocate the archaic principle that children shouldn't learn music until around 7 or 8 years of age. The argument is that children have short attention spans and don't have the muscle control in their hands and fingers necessary to play. Music is always taught on a gradient and never above one's level. There is a certain professional skill to teaching a 3- or 4-year-old.
You see, learning music actually improves motor skill, thus aiding in its development. Similarly, teaching basic speech to a toddler helps toward his/her linguistic development, even though the toddler cannot yet speak. By the same token, the toddler is improving his/her hand and finger control toward proper manipulation. Not to mention, music also helps increase IQ, improve memory, coordination and much, much more.
Also, if taught correctly, the child's attention is captivated, not dispersed.
Another archaic concept was that learning music was only for those who were considered "talented". Inherently, Man responds to music. Most babies will readily dance around when they hear it. Every relatively able person is capable of learning music, despite his/her "talent" in it.
Not everyone is a gifted mathematician by nature. However, it is compulsory in just about every educational system for every single individual to learn math. This does not mean everyone will become a statistician, engineer or physicist, but they will have the necessary grounding in this central subject of math. And by learning music, one will have the necessary fundamentals of this subject, along with its far-reaching effects, regardless of whether they become a professional musician or not.
Even among world-class performers, not all are child prodigies or possess perfect pitch or play with perfect emotional expression. However, they are all talented and accomplished.
This principle of "learning music is only for the talented" is simply suppressive. It was actually perpetrated, to a large degree, by music teachers, mostly piano instructors, who simply used it as an excuse to chop others down to satisfy their own unsavory intentions.
It is very interesting to note that the majority of these perpetrators, despite being "popular" music instructors, did not even perform themselves. They were incapable of doing correctly what they criticized in others. They masked their inability by focusing negative attention onto others.
This made music seem like it was an exclusive subject and not intended for everyone. To this day, notice how much music gets cut back in schools.
So be aware of this and, more importantly, know that music can be learned by everyone, even as early as toddlerhood, and with possible quality instruction too.
© 2014. Evelyn Simonian
Evelyn Simonian is a pianist and music teacher who applies "music with movement" to her students. She has been featured in televised interviews as well as several magazine and newspaper articles.
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