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Ideas on Learning

How important is routine for learning music?

The only routine that existed in my home growing up was dinner each night and church every Sunday. There were no checklists on the refrigerator. I had no fixed bedtime. I didn’t have a practice routine. I was never told to do my homework.

The only departure from this lack of routine was in the mornings. Even in the summertime when my friends would be sleeping in till 9 or 10am, my dad would open the door of my bedroom at 6 am and blare out reveille as if he were a trumpet player. To this day, I cannot sleep past 6am.

For many years, I felt that discipline, habit and routine was the enemy of fun and creativity.

The fact that I became a strong violin player was not at all due to discipline. It was due to the fact that I was surrounded by music and could have not escaped it if I wanted. It was the ecosystem that I grew up in.

The environment I had -- messy and musical -- was akin to rich, dark soil in which I was planted. My siblings and I grew musically because all the nutrients were there without need for routine or focus.

But because fewer than 5% of adults play any music in the U.S., most kids will not be growing up in a musical environment. The musical soil these little seedlings are planted is lacking key nutrients.

Hence, the need for routine. Routine is the answer to the question -- "How do I address the fact that we are not yet a home filled with music?" The routine can be as simple or elaborate as you want. But it needs to be consistent.

I get to work with many families and see firsthand how parents run the spectrum on establishing routines like practicing violin.

Not surprisingly, I totally relate to the kids that don’t have a parent enforcing a practice routine. But I have also come to appreciate how the deck is stacked against these students.

Kids want to feel successful in what they do — school, sports, music. When they don’t see progress, they lose motivation.

Some parents have a natural affinity for routine and discipline. They have figured out systems that make things happen. I have come to see this proclivity for routine as a strong indicator for how quickly a student will progress through the levels in violin lessons. (But, importantly, I have seen plenty of damage that comes from too much discipline and routine.)

The power of routine and habits and daily practices for not-yet-musical homes cannot be overstated. Fortunately for those that are not naturally creatures of habit, a little can go a long way. And, if parents can make this happen with their children today, they will get to see their grandchildren grow up in a home where music is a natural part of their life everyday.


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