Kids are not so different from us adults, in that they value activities that are deeply and intrinsically meaningful to them. When children participate in activities where they can feel a thing inside of them grow and strengthen and help them make sense of the world, they learn to trust themselves and become more resilient, compassionate people. We see this in sports, theatre, ideally in our schools, and yes, in music.
Music is a strange beast though for a kid. Unlike sports, where one attends coach-lead practice with a calendar-abiding season, games with clear rules and similarly aged teammates, music practice is a much more self-driven, often isolated, activity. The way we traditionally explain music practice is at best ambiguous and confusing, and at worst sterile and uninspiring.
Kids might wonder “when am I done practicing?” or, “does this count as practice?”, or “what are we having for dinner?” as they mindlessly run though the national anthem on their recorder for the millionth time.
When the pandemic hit, I needed to find some quick, technology-supported ways to engage my youngest students, who I could sense were losing connection to music learning. I searched the internet for a childrens' book that modeled daily accessible music practice, and could not find one that covered what I needed to communicate to my kids. So, like many a teacher before me, I jumped into action mode, and uh, wrote a childrens' book. Add that to the strange and ever-growing list of my teacher duties!
The purpose of this book is to expose young, pre-lesson-aged (or beginning lesson-aged) children to the many ways our music practice is interwoven throughout our daily lives. It encourages children to notice and tune into this, and make conscious daily space for music, be it through playing instruments, dancing, listening to music, participating in community music opportunities, and more. As they begin or continue formal music education, my hope is that they can integrate the technique and repertoire they are learning into their already strong foundation of their daily music practice.
The idea of a “practice” is an old tradition, often with spiritual connotations. It may be helpful to talk with your child or students about other relevant practices in their life for context. If your family meditates or does yoga for instance, you could say things like “just like we have a yoga practice, you have your own music practice!” If your family goes to church and/or prays regularly, you could say things like “just like we practice our faith every day, you can visit your music practice every day.” And of course, those two things are not mutually exclusive.
Music is at its root spiritual. We are biologically programmed to connect with it in wordless ways in both individual and communal settings. It is something that unites all of us on this planet, and yet is also deeply personal. My hope for every little musician who reads this book is that they feel empowered to make intentional space for music in their lives, and that their practice grows as they do.
Georgia English, music educator and musician. Founder of You Be You.