by Andy Hammond, Pastor of Worship & Media

"My child says he wants to play guitar? What should I do?"

Though the wording varies, this is a common question I'm asked every so often, and I completely understand why!  If you aren't familiar with the vast world of music education, the details of helping your child begin his/her musical journey can seem daunting: What is a bassoon?  Should we pay for lessons?  How young is too young?  Should I buy a left-handed guitar?

Make no mistake: developing and encouraging musical skills is a good thing.  The many cognitive, social, developmental, and behavioral benefits of music education have been well-documented.  What's more, for Christians, we know music to be an important gift given to us by God that we use to give back to Him in praise and help teach and shape our faith in the church!

Music-making is a fun, joyful, and worshipful experience, and it is a good thing to share with your kids.

While I can't offer specific advice for your particular situation in a blog post, I'd like to offer 7 practical ways you can encourage your child in his or her musical gifting:

1.) Make singing a part of your home.

It is true that your child is born with a particular level of musical aptitude, but did you know that until age 9, that level will fluctuate according to the quality of music education in his or her environment (click for source)?  Put simply, you will help determine your child's musical aptitude by what you do in your home, and the early years are critical: after age 9, your child's musical aptitude is pretty much set for life!

That's one reason it is so important to sing in your home.  Sing bedtime songs, sing during family worship time, sing silly songs about toothbrushes, have "dance parties" in your living room, and make up songs about everything.  Not only are you helping develop internal musical pitch, you are taking advantage of every child's innate sense that music is a natural part of being human, and you are shaping their relationship with music for the rest of their lives!

2.) Take advantage of children's choir.

As mentioned above, early childhood music education is extremely formative.  If your church or community offers a children's choir, take advantage of it!  While we know there are many more benefits to children's choir (learning Scripture, making friends, serving the church), participating in a "formal" musical setting exposes your child to skills and techniques that may go beyond what you are able to teach at home.  Children's choir also begins to teach the skills of listening, cooperating, and helping others sing better.

(Shameless plug: the children's choir at Hernando Baptist meets Sunday nights at 5pm during the Fall and Spring).

3.) Encourage musical literacy alongside musical performance.

As your child learns to sing or play an instrument, encourage them to learn the "language" of music.  It's a craft, and it's not always fun (think about diagramming sentences in middle school), but learning the discipline of music reading and writing will open a world of possibilities.  Playing "by ear" is a great skill to develop, but be sure to develop it alongside the skill of reading actual music notation.  Otherwise, your child's ability to play music will be hindered by whether or not he has access to YouTube so he can hear the song first.

4.) Participate in school band or choir.

In an excellent band or choir program, your child will not only be shaped in musical artistry, he or she will also learn critical leadership skills and the value of hard work, preparation, and being on time.

Can we also say college scholarship?

Hernando folks, did you know that you live down the street from a championship high school band program (Hernando High School Band)?  Desoto County is blessed with incredible music programs- get involved!  Even if you don't have kids in high school, support these groups however you can because they are impacting students for the better.

5.) Purchase a quality instrument.

Poorly made instruments produce frustrated instrumentalists.  Constantly frustrated instrumentalists do not stay instrumentalists for long!

Typically, it's not a great idea to buy instruments online from countries you cannot pronounce, or from pawn shops.  I recommend shopping at a local music store.  Not only will they give you a face-to-face meeting, they will also be there to help you with instrument maintenance needs down the road.  It's wise to begin your instrument search by asking a professional for help; I'd be happy to answer your questions if I can, and point you to someone else if I can't.

6.) Attend a symphony concert.

Tickets to a symphony concert might cost more than a movie theater, but the impact on your child of seeing professionals perform great music well cannot be overstated.  Begin with a "pops" outdoor performance or something more informal, and as they mature, introduce them (and maybe yourself!) to the experience of dressing up a little, sitting in a magnificent concert hall, and hearing the music of master composers.  It's good for you, and it will inspire your child.

7.) Constantly point to the Creator.

Music is such a gift, and we only have it because God, in His infinite wisdom, created sound with a spectrum of frequencies that we can organize into something beautiful.  He is the one true Creator, and when we "create" music, we exercise a gift He has impressed on mankind as part of the image of God.  Remind your kids to be thankful for music, and to always use music to point to an amazing, wonderful, musical God.

Do you have specific questions about music?  I'd love to help if I can; just contact me at andy.hammond@hernandobaptist.org.  Keep singing!

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