Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Parental Support in the Development of Young Musicians: A Teacher's Perspective from a Small-Scale Study of Piano Students and Their Parents

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Parental Support in the Development of Young Musicians: A Teacher's Perspective from a Small-Scale Study of Piano Students and Their Parents

Article excerpt

Parents stepping farther

There is compelling evidence that the confident and skilled playing of most young performers is supported by caring parents who are committed to help their children along the challenging, yet incredibly fulfilling journey of learning an instrument (Davison, Howe, Moore & Sloboda, 1996). This support is considered to be of paramount importance in the early musical development of a student, as it engenders security and confidence in the child's playing.

The provision of support is not an easy task for parents, considering that they need to:

* try to understand an often unfamiliar language.

* participate actively with the teaching.

* make time to practice with the children.

* expose children to various musical opportunities.

* encourage and instil positivity.

Parents' socio-economic status, educational/ cultural background, occupation and attitudes/ beliefs related to their children determine the type of involvement they will have in the musical development of their children. Generally, a stable family life provides the child an environment where learning can be nurtured with no external pressures or worries (Howe & Sloboda, 1991a). Parents who are musically inclined (either professional or amateur musicians) may offer their children a more 'musically minded' support, exposing them to the right opportunities and directing them more effectively towards the goals to be achieved during learning. Conversely, parents who are not musical are often unaware of their potential role when it comes to their children's musical training, often sitting passively during their instrumental class, or simply chaperoning their children to/from lessons (Hallam, 1998). However, studies have revealed that children who are successful with instrumental learning do not necessarily have parents who have musical abilities; in fact, most have parents who simply offer support and encouragement rather than provide expertise and technical knowledge. In other words, parental commitment appears to be more significant than high levels of musical competence or ability (Sloboda & Howe, 1991; Davison, Sloboda & Howe, 1995-96).

Parents willing to support their child's musical learning often do not know how to help the child overcome difficulties and obstacles during the early stages of the learning. As a consequence, parents may often be unable to communicate the correct message to their child when it comes to practicing in between lessons. In addition to physical dexterity, children need to develop and refine musical awareness, intellectual agility and emotional depth. During the early stages of learning parents can nurture these attributes through the provision of care, love and patience, in a non-threatening environment. If they understand and appreciate the vital role of practice, the children will consequently see home practice as an important and enjoyable activity along with the many other activities and commitments they are involved with in their young life. Studies have demonstrated that both parental support and teacher input and influence contribute to strengthen the child's self-esteem, motivation and enjoyment (McPherson & Davidson, 2006).

The child's learning progress can also be affected by parents' preconceived ideas about his or her capabilities. This may result in misconceptions about the child's actual skills and attitudes towards learning an instrument. Research has shown that these 'fixed' ideas can impinge on the child's progress and can lead to the child feeling unable to cope and achieve (McPherson & Davidson, 2002).

Parents need to take into consideration the child's specific needs, characteristics and personality. Parent-child interactions are not unidirectional, but are based on mutual choices and decisions. McPherson (2009) proposes a model where parental goals, the child's characteristics and social/cultural contexts play a fundamental role in shaping the child's musical development. …

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