Whether your child dreams of being in a famous rock band someday or simply wants to bang out a few tunes on the piano, music schools throughout Northeast Ohio offer programs to fit every desire.
The first goal is to find the right instrument for your child. Some want to do something similar to their current music interests, while others might choose an instrument based on appearance. However, kids can choose anything that fits their needs and physical abilities.
Making a choice is the easy part, then comes learning how to play. Regardless of ability, students as young as toddler-age can start learning the basics. One instrument, which provides kids with basics to music, is the piano.
“Before they can really learn (any instrument), everyone has to know the basics, play scales and finger patterns — lots of foundation work,” says Nancy Briscar-Martel, professional musician, director and teacher specializing in violin, viola and voice in Strongsville. “Kids can start pretty young, as soon as they start to pay attention, such as ages 3 to 4. Everyone is different. (For my students) they (can) start on violin at age 6.”
There are many music teachers and programs in the region, either private or those who work within schools or afterschool.
For example, School of Rock, with three locations in Cleveland, provides opportunities for students to choose and learn guitar, drums, keyboards and even vocals.
“It can be hard when you are young to find a band setting,” Louie Novotny, general manager, says. “We help them complete that process.”
Choosing Music and a Teacher
Teachers and students should work together to pick the music during a lesson. Being on the same musical page will make the experience better for both.
“The kids want to learn what’s popular,” Briscar-Martel says. “Some teachers are going to be completely traditional. The student has to find a teacher that fits them. I always ask (my students) what are their interests in music. You have to tailor your lesson to the individual.”
What’s popular to some, she says, may not be popular to others. While songs from the Disney movie “Frozen” seem to be popular in her studio, other students still play music outside the mainstream culture.
The Aurora School of Music trains students in piano, cello, violin, clarinet, flute, vocals and more.
Vera Holczer, owner, says instructors have to be extremely versatile in genre.
“Kids will always gravitate toward music that is relevant to them,” Paul Jarrett, executive director at Akron Symphony Orchestra, says. “Great teachers are able to help students succeed by learning music that resonates with the students while also learning valuable musical concepts.”
Technology’s Role in Music
While there are many ways for students to learn music, technology advances have helped expand their knowledge.
“Technology is pervasive,” Jarrett says. “My own son, for example, has been learning to play guitar by watching ‘how to play’ videos on YouTube. The ability to learn just about any song at any skill level is just a few clicks away.”
Barbara Watkins, founder of The Great Lakes School of Music in Mayfield Heights, says, “on the one hand, technology has made learning about music less of a priority, but at the same time, it has made learning about music more interesting and accessible.
Musical Gains for Kids
Aside from the benefit of having an extracurricular activity, children involved in music tend to have a more expansive vocabulary and perform better academically.
“Numerous studies have shown that skills learned while making music apply directly to math and general problem-solving skills. Plus, it’s just fun to play an instrument,” Jarrett says. “Music has always served as a universal language of a culture. By learning a culture’s music, one has an immediate and visceral picture of a culture’s pride, struggles, passions and pains.”
Holczer sees firsthand how music helps those with special needs, such as autism and Down syndrome.
“They learn to play the music by the traditional way of teaching, but with adapted methods,” she says. “For some of these kids, this is what they absolutely love.”
She points to a current student, a 9-year-old with autism, who is flourishing.
“This is what he loves to do,” she says.“I use a different vocabulary with him, but he is practicing three hours a day and improving so much.”
Students with ADHD also benefit from the one-on-one interaction.”These kids may have trouble when in school, but they are angels in music class,” Holczer says.
Both Jarrett and Briscar-Martel also agree there are so many opportunities in the area for gifted students who are looking to go beyond lessons.
Many orchestra groups in Northeast Ohio have youth programs, which provide the ability for children to share a stage with professional and national artists.
“I encourage kids to try out for a local youth orchestra,” Briscar-Martel says. “The more advanced (students) go to Cleveland Youth Orchestra or Contemporary Youth Orchestra.”
She says Contemporary Youth Orchestra has brought some amazing groups and concerts such as Graham Nash and Styx, along with pianist and singer-songwriter Ben Folds.
“Today there are so many forums for kids to express themselves and share their talents with others (if they so choose),” Jarrett says. “Akron’s rich musical heritage, particularly in blues, jazz and gospel, is poised for a resurgence in popularity. Seeing fellow Akron-ites achieving success at a global level (Black Keys, LeBron, etc.) fosters a spirit of success that anyone can find inspiration in.”