Go Ask Mom

Music lessons: Is your child ready?

Melissa Jeffreys, owner of the Musicians Learning Center in Raleigh, offers some tips on kids and music lessons.

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Meri Ellen plays the piano like a true talented musician.
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

I've spent my career in journalism, but once upon a time I dreamed of becoming a professional flutist. Unfortunately, practicing both piano and flute really wasn't my forte. And by the time I got to college, I spent more time in the offices of my college newspaper than in the practice booths with my flute. Still, I majored in music and it remains an important part of my life today.

So now that my older daughter is about the age that I started piano lessons, I've started wondering if she's ready to begin. I think she's interested. At least, she's interested in banging out her own "songs" on her keyboard.

So this week, I spoke with Melissa Jeffreys, owner of the Musicians Learning Center in north Raleigh. Jeffreys will be at the CoolKidz Expo this weekend. She opened the studio in 2006, a few years after graduating from Meredith College's music program. Like me, she plays both flute and piano (though I'm guessing she took practicing a lot more seriously than I did).

Jeffreys offers private 30-minute music lessons in most instruments from piano and flute to sax, trumpet, clarinet and violin. The studio has ten teachers. Class start for kids ages 4 to adult.

I spoke with her this week about how to figure out if your child is ready for lessons. Here's the interview.

Go Ask Mom: How do you know if your child is ready for music lessons?
Melissa: Usually the best way to tell is if they show some interest. if they go to a friend's house who has an instrument and they say 'Wow ,that's really cool.' Or they hear the song on the radio and say they'd like to be able to do that. The kid will show you they have some interest level. For lessons, they need to be able to sit down for about 20 minutes at a time.
Go Ask Mom: What is a good instrument to start out on?
Melissa: A great instrument for the younger set is piano. Anything they learn in piano will translate into another instrument. It's not a waste of time. It's easy to make a sound [compared to other instruments where it takes time to learn how to blow or bow correctly). As soon as you push your finger down, it makes a sound. If they show interest in another instrument, they already know how to read music, which makes it easier.
Go Ask Mom: How much practice do you recommend?
Melissa: It always depends on the level of the student. But at the beginning, it's only 10 or 15 mintues a day. As the music gets harder, it's takes more. At the beginning, it's all about consistency. Getting it in your fingers and in your head.
Go Ask Mom: How do you encourage practicing?
Melissa: The thing is people are signed up for so many activities. Sometimes school gets in the way, life gets in the way. We'll go back over the things, make sure they understand it. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting past a hump. They get discouraged and sometimes when they get home it doesn't sound as good. We try to keep everything positive. We want them to enjoy music. We want them to enjoy lessons.
Go Ask Mom: Do you need a piano if your child takes piano lessons? Or will a keyboard do?
Melissa: A keyboard will work just fine. Everyone here feels like music is important. We don't want to price you out of that. Especially for the younger kids, a keyboard is more than enough. if they are still commited to it two years down the road, the parents are willing to shell out more money. You just need a basic keyboard in the beginning. You don't need a baby grand in the living room.


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