Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My thoughts on teaching kids

I am hearing this more and more lately: "My daughter just LOVES to sing, what do you think of teaching kids?"

"How old is your child?" I ask.

"Well, they actually aren't born yet...."

O.k, so no one has come to me inquiring about their fetus yet, though I'm hearing about a few 7 year olds these days and even a 5 year old. (5 is a bit young!)

Readiness for voice lessons really depends on the child themselves! What is the ideal age for starting voice lessons? In the past, I would have said adolescence. Ages 11-13 are GREAT ages to start lessons and I still think those are good ages to start. However, starting younger can be a very good thing, depending on the student.

I have taught voice to 7 - 65 year olds. Right now I have a 7, 9 and two 10 year olds. The age of the student is not the main issue. The passion of the student is the main issue. A passionate and talented 10 year old student can see vocal improvement more quickly than a 25 year old student! A committed 50 year old student will quickly outshine (and outgrow) a talented, but non-committed 18 year old student.

I find that voice, for children in particular, takes a bit more personal motivation than for other instruments. It can't be the parent's desire for the child - it must be the child's desire for themselves! After all, their body is the instrument! Singing involves the body of course, as well as the heart, soul and mind. Good singing engages all of these things. I used to find that teaching older kids was better, but if you show me a child who has talent, an exceptional desire to sing and is willing to practice, I know that it can work.

When it comes to kids and singing, I find they often already do so much right! They tend to be freer, less inhibited, and more joyful when they sing. It is once we get older, hear criticism and learn to fear that we, sadly, hinder ourselves when we sing. When I teach a child, my job is to discover all they are doing right, encourage that and keep them from getting in their own way. Sure, they all have some unhealthy habits that need fixing. Those are addressed in a persistent but non-threatening manner.

My young students are delighting me! Some of the wonderful things that they are doing could be an example to my older students. For example, my youngest student today was dancing freely, with joy as she sang her new piece, and as a result, her voice rang out beautifully. Ah, if everyone would free up and sing as unhindered as she was.

Most of all, kids want to have fun and sing their hearts out. I am there to help them do it.

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