Music contains something extraordinary that no one can deny. Even the hardest of hearts will feel the impact of music’s embracing hands. Melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, obbligatos, dynamics, rhythm, pitch–the many components of music magically collide and collaborate to produce sounds that can soothe, invigorate, heal, infuriate, enamor, etc. I don’t know if an emotion exists that music cannot instigate. So why is it that so many children begin playing music and then quit shortly after? If music is so powerful, why don’t children desire to stick with it? Probably several answers could apply here, but one of the big ones is simple: lack of encouragement. So many kids begin playing instruments, but if they’re not continually encouraged, if they don’t have any cheerleaders, they become discouraged and eventually quit. Imagine how many Ravel’s, Chopin’s, Mozart’s, and Debussy’s are in the infant stages of their music careers, but will never venture beyond infancy because no one is there to tell them they can do it. I know it is often difficult to hear someone play an instrument poorly–it can be ear-drum shattering at times. But, everyone must start as a beginner.
That’s simply how it works. I was a beginner once. All professional musicians started as beginners. But the goal is to get beyond “beginner” and slowly convert harsh, choppy sounds into a melodious, sweet musical euphoria. I’m not suggesting you buy a foam finger and sit at your child’s feet attentively each time he or she practices. No, all I’m suggesting is that, instead of becoming irritable when glorious sounds don’t proceed out of Bach Jr.’s instrument, encourage him or her to keep practicing and have fun in the process. I guarantee that the rate of children continuing with their musical studies would increase dramatically if they were encouraged and edified while stumbling through the various stages of mastering an instrument. I know full well that I would not be the musician I am today if my mom had not cheered me on, listened to me practice, and offered me corrective criticism along the way. She always reminded me that I could do it, even when I felt like it was too hard.
When I look back, I can see that her encouragement gave me the strength and determination I needed to keep playing and keep practicing. Never, ever underestimate the power of edification. Little Mary over there poking out notes on the piano may give Liszt a run for his money some day! You never know!