Music lessons are not just another activity. While this short essay is not an attempt to bash team or solo sports, chess club, math tutoring, or any other after-school (extra-curricular) program that parents subscribe to for their kids, it is designed to remind and enlighten NWMA families as to what exactly music lessons mean.

Research shows us that due to the myriad of tasks involved in learning a musical instrument – acquiring intellectual skills of understanding musical notation; developing fine motor and intense co-ordination skills; developing social interaction skills and gaining responsibility for one’s part while working together in ensemble playing; learning to express oneself emotionally; gaining self-confidence and self-awareness from performing in recitals; learning time management skills for practice at home – obviously with the help of parents; cultivating pitch recognition and memory development at the visual, aural, motor and intellectual levels and so many more – it is hard to find another pursuit for young people – or people of any age for that matter – that can compete on a developmental level with musical studies.

At every level of learning an instrument, a wide variety of developmental hurdles and goals are simultaneously achieved. Consequently, consistency in learning – weekly lessons (at a minimum) with excellent and experienced instructors coupled with a learning environment that supports ensemble participation, performance in recitals and the cultivation of often-neglected skills of sight-reading, collaboration and improvisation – is critical to growth. When a student “takes a break” from music lessons, the skills that take so long to acquire are lost almost immediately with disuse. Summers are particularly notorious for these problems and music educators often struggle with the juggle between the statement, “My daughter needs to take a break for the month of July and August.” and the questions “why isn’t my daughter excelling in her music lessons?” or “why has my daughter lost interest in music?” shortly into the new academic year.

Although learning requires new information to be built on top of existing knowledge, no one likes to re-learn fundamental skills – ever. When this happens, the damage to a student’s self-confidence manifests itself in an overall lack of interest at the very least and even resentment of the instrument, teachers and parents in worse cases. At the university level, I encourage my students to take part in summer music camps and festivals, that often include trips abroad. When summertime musical experiences can stimulate growth on multiple levels – socially, linguistically, musically, while expanding worldly horizons, that is the best we can give our students and our children.

For the coming year, it is my wish that all NWMA families understand music lessons for what they are: intensely important channels of physical, emotional and social development for students. Learning a musical instrument is one of the most difficult but rewarding endeavours a child can be involved in and as owner and director of New World Music Academy, I take the responsibility of providing the best possible environment for musical study very seriously.

With best wishes for the 2018-19 year to all!

Mark Anderson

New World Music Academy Executive Director

Pleasanton, CA