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Who in their right mind would not send the average ten-year-old to private music lessons? During the concrete operations stage defined by Jean Piaget, children of this age are able to follow sequences of instructions and replicate actions without coming back to an instructor. This makes it an ideal time to commence private instrumental tuition and let children discover various aspects and concepts of music for themselves.
The invention of rhymes and songs by young children are an example of the creative outlet that music offers. A study of the arts is essential for the development of children because these childhood experiences will shape their future attitudes towards the arts as well as teaching different methods of reasoning and interpretation that are essential in real world situations and problem solving. (Jeanneret, 2004)
Russell-Bowie (2004) takes interest is the declining importance of arts education in schools as a result of economic rationalism. Music, dance, drama and visual arts education in Australian primary schools have been consolidated in to one Key Learning Area and labelled Creative Arts. After a worldwide review of arts syllabuses Russel-Bowie has determined that many western countries are adopting Creative Arts instead of teaching each subject separately and states that "teachers do not have the [expertise, support,] time, confidence or resources to implement the four subjects every week in a developmental and sequenced approach... Through an effective integrated program, not only can each subject be covered in a developmental sequence to give children skills within each area, but the arts can add so much value to the other subjects with which they are integrated, as well as developing literacy skills, self-esteem, confidence and enjoyment throughout the whole learning experience." (Russell-Bowie, 2004). If quality musical education is no longer available through the school system we must resort to private instrumental tuition by trained professionals to ensure a rounded education for our children.
A study conducted by Costa-Giomi (2004) on 117 fourth grade students from low socioeconomic backgrounds provided a free piano and private tuition to half the group for three years and showed that music was a tool that improved both school results and quality of life. The students had never had formal music training and throughout the study they showed increased self esteem and musical ability. The increased workload of private tuition and practice did not affect the students' academic marks in any negative way. The extra attention given by family members towards the children to the arrival of the instrument and development of musical talent also provided a boost to their self esteem.
A study by Frakes (1984) produced similar results. It was shown that adolescent musicians were higher achievers in both music and academic activities, had a better rapport with their teachers and were more likely to continue on with music later in life. Students that saw themselves as less able and did not receive as much praise from their families were more likely to abandon music and turn to other activities instead. Family encouragement and support is a contributing factor to the musical success of the child. Regardless of how bias or inflated these compliments are, they increase the child's self esteem and give them a more positive approach to current and future musical experiences.
The Suzuki method also uses family involvement as a teaching strategy. By having children learning with their parents, music can be made in to a fun, family activity. It is the responsibility of parents and educators to enrich the lives of children by providing them with a musical education. The earlier musical aptitude is recognised in a child the better. By starting early with private instrumental tuition children are given the opportunity to extend their natural given potential to the highest level. (Gruhn, 2005; Lehman, 2003).
During the "Activity Phase", when students are approximately 8 to 10 years old, practice is treated as a playful activity that children can occupy and entertain themselves with. (Harnischmacher, 1995). Once students start to mature and enter adolescence they can lose this playful attitude and adopt an approach that involves goal orientation and work ethic. Practice can become more of a chore unless the child has a foundation and understanding of the importance of good practice techniques. If students start later and take the pursuit of music less seriously they are less likely to continue with it. It is far better to allow children to experiment with music from an early age and give them the best opportunity to succeed. "Yet most children will never develop very far as performers. We know this well because we have been attempting to get all children to perform music in schools for at least half a century now, yet the numbers of school age performers inevitably drop to a meagre 10% of the total population by the onset of puberty." (Walker, 2005). By exposing children to private musical tuition at an early age they develop a background in their chosen instrument. Even if they choose not to continue private tuition and are required to continue on an instrument in high school, they will be able to pick it up again with relative ease compared to their peers, providing them with an edge or skill that they may choose to develop once again. Such ease and ability to learn and perform would be looked upon favourably by fellow musicians and would give the child an opportunity to become part of another peer group.
It is at an early age that "students metacognitive skills develop... Alternative means of developing interpretation can be addressed.. Students can be encouraged to develop a greater awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, take increasing responsibility for their own learning, and develop issues concerned with supporting learning, motivation, concentration, the organisation and planning of practice and developing strategies for ensuring optimum performance." (Hallam, 1997). These are all skills that once learnt can be applied to other areas of life. Music education is an essential part of the development of children. "The musician is constantly adjusting decisions on tempo, tone, style, rhythm, phrasing, and feeling--training the brain to become incredibly good at organizing and conducting numerous activities at once. Dedicated practice of this orchestration can have a great payoff for lifelong attentional skills, intelligence, and an ability for self-knowledge and expression." (Ratey, 2001).
Music can provide a common ground for children to use as a tool to form new friends and peer groups. It allows children to have close contact with other adults, such as teachers, that are not next of kin. This ability to build relationships is a prerequisite for healthy social development. Through support and praise from parents, pre-pubescent children generally find themselves increasingly motivated to practice music and as they improve they also develop a higher sense of self esteem. Music not only helps develop and increase fine motor and cognitive skills, it changes attitudes towards goal setting, work ethic, discipline, dedication, communication, creativity and general attitudes towards other subjects and life in general. "Music is a chocolate chip in the cookie of life." (Lehman, 2003). A cookie that we should not keep away from our ten-year-old children but instead let every one of them take a bite.
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