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Ideas on Learning

How violin students can succeed without practicing

The fact that 1) I didn’t practice on my own and 2) I am a strong violin player -- would appear to be proof that practicing isn’t quite as necessary as everyone says.

But there is a variable that is often overlooked when parents and teachers discuss students that quit violin or students that succeed.

This one variable will cause two students who don’t practice to have wildly different outcomes...

Is there music at home between lessons?

Kids that hear and see music being played at home are simply in a more fortunate position than those who don’t. They are musically-advantaged.

My student, Willa, a 16-year-old who never practices, has nonetheless become a strong violinist-fiddler. It is not innate talent. It is because she is surrounded by music at home and has come to many jams and camps over the years.

If Willa were to have a regular practice routine, she’d be off-the-charts amazing. But that is not her goal, nor her parents’. Beyond having fun, she is without ambition for her music whatsoever. She can look forward to a life of music with friends, playing in the occasional band, traveling with her violin, meeting new people and passing time playing music on her own. Musical success in my estimation.

Most parents are not musicians. They may have tried when they were younger, or their music skills are no longer relevant to their lives now. Or, they may have never been given the opportunity to learn.

The absence of music at home creates a disparity in outcomes for their children compared to kids like Willa.

But, there is a way to balance the scales a little. Non-musician parents can take steps that will allow their children to have that same advantage as children of musicians. And that is by facilitating practicing.

But not the practicing that has driven countless young students to quit. Rather, a practicing routine that approximates the environment of a musical family where music is relevant, social and frequent.

If non-musician parents participate in the music learning at home, kids will have all the benefits of growing up in a musical family.

And, if you — as a non-musician parent — create that musical environment through routine and practice now, your grandchildren will likely grow up in a musical home where they will be able to flourish as a musician with or without practicing.

If you are a non-musical parent looking for some additional support, reply to this email. I'd like to help.

Bonus: Here is an interview with Willa from a couple months ago.

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