"Sessions" with your kids…

"Sessions" with your kids…

My little boy is 3 1/2 years old. I’ve had this dream since before he was born that he would be a "natural" with music and we’d be able to play music together.

Well, I still dont’ know if he’s a natural, but he’s been around music (especially ITM) since he was born. He’s been to more sessions than can be counted with many hands. I’ve always noticed his interest and participation (by bobbing his head, or humming along) but never has he actually collaborated or "jammed" with me alone.

Well, last night something like that took place. He was playing his harmonica while I played the guitar and for 5 minutes at least, we "jammed" like jam.

It was amazing great fun!!. He even made up some words (syllables) to his own song. He kept on singing "Times Past Memory" or something to that effect. Those are the only English words I could attach to the syllables he was singing.
(He actually makes sense when he talks normally.)

Anyways, have any of you had experiences with your own offspring that you’d like to share? I know I’ll never forget the first real "session" I shared with my son as long as I live, even if he doesn’t.

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We have a 3 yr old as well and he’ll pick up a whistle or whatever but he’s more likely to whack you with said whistle or bow as play it!! Our 14yr old plays box a bit and now sees the social aspect of playing so he’s gone back to it recently with renewed interest. One of our daughters has a good ear but she makes a point of wanting to play anything except what her mum or dad might play.
Sounds great and go along with it as far as it goes. But do be careful not to force it. Kids are fairly compliable and want to fit in with their mums and dads up to a certain age, maybe 8 or 9 in our experience. Comes a point sooner or later when they want to make an assertation of their own interests which is right on. Often that will be the opposite or tangential to your interests. If you can manage it, direct that to other aspects of life. If you’re too keen on the music with them it can become a ‘thing’ to rebel against. So play it cool, encourage them to join in if they feel like it and praise etc. but don’t push it too hard!!

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We took our daughters to all kinds of sessions, festivals and concerts when they were little, and while they like Irish/Celtic music generally, they haven’t really caught the bug for it. Still, I have fond memories of dragging our oldest — then barely a couple of months old — to the very last official session of the venerable Village Coach House in Brookline Village (Boston), and then about a year or so later to a wedding reception for a friend/bandmate which included a session.
When they were on the pre-school/kindergarten cusp, we took them to the monthly Comhaltas session. They had loads of fun tearing around with the other kids, while my wife and I played with one eye trained on them.
When my oldest was about 13 or 14, and (at last) had taken somewhat more of an interest in folk/acoustic-type music, she asked to go along with me to a session. Didn’t have an instrument, just a book and her writing/drawing journal, so she just kind of observed and listened for the evening. On the way back I asked her if she had enjoyed herself, and with a youthful touch of diplomacy she said she had, kinda, "but I guess I would enjoy it more if I could actually play something."

I’ve said this before, there’s just no guarantee whether your kids will take to the music. Keep exposing them, keep encouraging them, but they gotta find their own way there, if at all. Even if we don’t share exactly the same enthusiasm for Irish music, I like that they have at least some appreciation for it.

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Guess my story is a bit different as I am technically the kid (as opposed to the parent), albeit a completely grown-up kid, but still a kid as far as this story is concerned. My parents were what I would consider Folkies, so I was always around the Folk music. Neither of my parents sessioned or anything, but they both played instruments. Many people in my extended family also played various instrument, so at Christmas time during our big get-togethers we would all sit around and play music. Mostly played from the written music, but I have a few family members who tinkered with bluegrass kinda stuff, so I always enjoyed watching them go at it. The whole playing by ear thing always looked like fun. Unfortunately in the schools, it was all about Classical music, so it was always about the written music.

After high school, I still was tired of classical music, but still wanted to play, so I sought something different and eventually found Irish music. After a semester in Ireland, I was completely engrossed. My parents meanwhile still tinkered with their instruments, but after seeing me get so involved in ITM, decided to give it a try. My Dad bought a box, but kinda realized that he didn’t have the ear to play the music and even though he still tinkers with it some, it’s my Mom who has latched onto the music. She now takes private lessons and attends many of the same sessions that I do.

It’s kinda funny for me to look back over the 24 years of my life and see how the current musical vibe in my family came to be. My parents helped lead me into music at a very young age, but never really pushed anything. My own interests eventually led me to ITM, which has in turn led my parents into ITM and many sessions together, and this will inevitably continue into the future.

So there ya go, a story about offspring and sessions told from the perspective of the offspring.

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I’m childless by choice, but can I sneak into this thread and applaud your "session" anyway? What a wonderful way for you and your child to enjoy each other, and how encouraged he must have felt. He may lose the memory, but he won’t lose that feeling IMO.

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Ok I’ve been lurking for a while, but no more. I like this forum, with its interesting, constructive discussions.

So, jamming with your kids for the first time- what a moment that is !
We have a little girl (just beginning to form long sentences), and we often sang her and ourselves to sleep. Two voice lullabys that sort of thing. Then we would play sound games and cooperative games together. Call and response, just messing around. Now, when she hears a rhythm that she likes, she ‘dances’ as though there’s an elf behind her pulling the strings. You know, limbs all over the place. She even does it to Motown, and sings in the street -‘Doctor, is this normal ?’

I was trying to imagine what it must be like to be trapped inside a tiny body and to have to communicate your developing emotions using sounds, no language, well, just a couple of slurred words, and hoping that the people around you would know how to respond. What a nightmare that would be…
So for our first session, I was playing the guitar and she had a D harmonica. What made me laugh (inside) the most, was that she was so serious about it. Then after the session- 20 seconds is a long session- we played again. The second time she looked at me strangely- she had picked up the ‘C for cat’ harmonica and I was still playing blues in D. Key change ? How was I meant to know ?
I agree, they need space too- and an extended famly.
Silence is important.

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Hey halfway - been there, done that & have the T Shirt too! 🙂

Can’t exactly call our son a kid anymore though, as he’s 23 now, but right from the word go he was exposed to loads of live music - & I mean from day one, cause even from the time he was a fertilized egg, Mrs Ptarmigan would have played the Harp most days, with all those musical vibes running through her body, to his.

Even when he was a baby he would have heard us play most days & came with us to all manner of music festivals & sessions, both pub & house ones.

We didn’t want to force the music on him though, as I’ve seen plenty kids turn away from it, when forced, so we were content to just encourage an interest in music & not only ITM & STM by the way, but my tastes include good singer/songwriters & guys like John Martyn, Rory Gallagher & the Average White Band etc etc.

Anyway, he was a teenager before he took up the Bodhran & joined us, & his fiddling school mate, in the beginners sessions I used to run here, then he discovered the Guitar, taught himself to play & has never looked back.

He’s now a professional Jazz musician, & you can hear how his musical upbringing has turned out, by listening to him play on his MySpace - e.g. check out his riffs on ‘Beatrice’ & imagine what he’d have done with a set of Uilleann Pipes if he’d gone down the trad road instead!:

http://www.myspace.com/kevinglasgow

In any case, I’m not in the least disappointed that he isn’t a trad player - instead, I’m absolutely delighted that he has a real passion, & a flair for music.

Good Luck with your young fella ‘halfway’, you have an interesting road ahead of you!

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Yum, kids.

I have a good teriyaki in the fridge…

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I have pretty much exaclt ythe same story as JAson G.

Although, if you play the smae instrument as your child and especially if you teach them, leave them alone during practice time (particularly in the teenage years. This is currently a big problem between my mom and me, because she teaches me piano…Of course I want constructive criticism during lessons, but when I’m practicing any instrument, I’m very "in my little box" and sso on and so forth…so when I get a shout "no it’s more like this" from the kitchen, I get kind of upset…not because of my mother, just because I like to pretend I can’t be heard when I’m practicing. I’m hoping this will be something I grow out of…just saying that the "give space" thing applies in general (I too have seen a lot of friends really sadly turned off to trad music because of overenthusiasm by their parents), but on the smaller scale as well (or maybe your chuildren won’t be as self conscious as I am musically…or it’s not that I’m self conscious [okay maybe it is] but unless I’m actually playing with or for other people I don’t want to be heard….

Sorry that probably made no sense…

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I’m glad that this thread has received input from "kids" and non-parents in addition to the likes of me. Thanks for sharing.

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Hold on. What about all those people who learned trad as little tiny kids and are now fantastic tune players? Were they forced to learn? Or did they say at 4 years old ‘think I want to be an amazing fiddle player’? How come they didnt get turned off the tunes?

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I’m a teen player, i’ve been playing violin (classical, suzuki) since I was three. I started learning Irish music during summers when my violin teacher would go teach at institutes, and the person who would take over was a fiddler (who also could teach suzuki!) I really got into the music when I got the MasterHarper of Pern CD by Tania Opland and Mike Freeman, and started learning other instruments like hammered dulcimer and guitar. Since then I have been playing Irish music more than classical music.

Richard

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Interesting that I stumble across this thread on this particular weekend. I am a divorced Dad and this is my weekend with my 15 year old daughter. She plays a concert flute (silver flute) and I’m trying to get her interested in Trad music. Problem is that she is very comfortable in Bb while I (a mediocre fiddle player) am more comfortable in D or G.

We play a a really jamming version of Beethoven’s 9th…Ode to Joy. (OK…the sarcasm is in full swing on that statement)

Tonight, I broke out a D whistle and we did manage to have fun with Oro Se Do Bheatha Abhaile and Molly Malone. I’ve also manged to meet her on her territory with "The Wounded Hussar". Not exactly "Trad" but hey…maybe a step in the right direction?

I’m still contemplating getting her a D flute…

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Well, I have a bit of a different story. My music was vastly influenced by my parents, but inadvertently. Neither of them plays anything, and I picked up the violin in 4th grade as part of a district wide program. I continued to play for several more years, hating it mostly because it was sub-Classical (hot cross buns, humpty dumpty…), and then my dad accidently ran across a Leahy CD in borders one day. He brought it home, I loved it, and haven’t looked back. Since my parents know nothing about music, they don’t push me or criticize my playing. So yeah, I guess it is all about exposure and not pressure.

Oh, and bb, the Leahys were pretty much forced to play, and they turned out fine (more than fine, actually).

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Brides, I’ve thought about this before and I don’t think there’s any consistent rhyme nor reason to explain why some of these forced youngsters stick with it and others don’t. I think the easiest explanation deals with the people you grow up with. If you have other friends from a young age that are playing ITM, then it’s pretty easy to continue playing all through childhood. It’s kinda like Americans who go to friends’ houses and play video games as kids and continue doing this into adulthood. If ITM is simply what you do with friends, then it’s likely you’ll not get turned off by it.

However, I’ve also known people who were apparently pushed into the music at a young age and still stick with it as adults. Don’t know if that’s pressure from parents that keeps them going, or if they honestly just enjoy it.

Some of it’s just genetic as well. Not that there is an ITM gene floating around somewhere, but some people are simply wired to be musical. Obviously there’s other types of music besides ITM that those people could be drawn to, but obviously their social interests or whatever else led them to ITM as opposed to some other type of music.

Anyway, kind of diverted from the thread topic, but bb’s question was too tempting to resist.

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Thats a good point about the friends Jase. It makes sense that if they all just grow up doing it togther then its no big deal and just something they do. Which isnt great for Cian…..the scene is really not that big here - and if there are kids learning in my area I havent heard of them….damn it.

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I started taking my son to our local session back in 1995. He was 8. Now he is in college and is an award winning mandolin player. He started on the violin in 5th grade and then took up the mandolin a few years later, which is the instrument he loves. You can hear him recorded back when Ryan was about 14 playing a solo set on the mandolin at this link:
http://www.soundsauce.net/themeadowlark/

It is great to play music with your kids. Our session used to be in a location where people of all ages could come through the old hotel lobby where it was located, little kids dancing around to the beat. Well, it got moved to a bar and now only adults are allowed. I think it lost a lot of value to the community.

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There is longitudinal research done in Scandinavia about musical and sports ‘giftednesss’. Someone studied a group of young people identified as gifted whilst young, for about 25 years…..don’t have the references unfortunately, it was in a journal on gifted education I looked up at uni now about 10 years ago.

But I DO remember some of the conclusions they drew.

That it didn’t matter whether you were identified as gifted or not when you first started to learn music or sport. It’s about mastery. And pretty much, anyone who sticks with it for about 10 years, will achieve a level of mastery that will get them labelled talented. (Guess its self selecting….if you aren’t getting the emotional musical rewards from it….you won’t stick with it).

And that parental support was an important part of anyone sticking to it…..and that elements included encouragement, the physical resources (instruments etc), routines that encouraged practice or training, physical space that encouraged practice and minimised distraction.

Basically the conclusion was - if the activity made a young person feel good about themselves…..they’d keep going. And that the danger periods are always going to be when they hit an obstacle (injury, a piece that just won’t be got, a technique that is struggled with)….and what resilience had been built in over time to give the person the right skills and attitudes to ‘push through’ and keep going.

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"……..parental support…….." goes a long way.
At a very early age, I wanted to play music. There was no precedent in my family. I verbalized my urge by saying that I wanted to learn drums. This was met by discouragement. Several years later, I was able to single out an instrument that I could relate to: the guitar. Still discouragement. My father, in complete ignorance of all the issues, invented a protocol: If you want to learn a PROPER instrument (classical violin or guitar was all he could think of), then perhaps one day you could branch out into (improper) instruments.
After years of frustration, only tempered by listening to lots of music and drumming on tables, someone sold me a guitar for a giveaway price and I set about learning for myself.

MAKE THE INSTRUMENTS AVAILABLE. FOLLOW UP WITH EXAMPLES AND LESSONS IF APPROPRIATE. Forget about YOUR expectations. If your kids want to go in a different direction, give them space. They may or may not come back, but they will be making music.

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hey possumawesome, that makes perfect sense don’t worry. i feel that was too mostly about my violin- although i probably act the annoying one when my lil brother is practising trumpet or violin!

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It’s not a good idea to bring goats into a session.
(The goat-basher or piper might skin them)

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My dad is one of my absolute favorite people to play music with.

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No children myself, but you’ve brought back wonderful memories of my friend Max. Twenty years ago, his mom and I played in an Irish band in a small rural community. He was exposed to the music in the womb (his mom was the flute player, and I always marvelled at how she still got all that sound out with Max pushing on her diaphragm at nine months gestation).

I joined the band when Max was nine months old, and he was fascinated by my guitar. I had to supervise closely while he strummed with his baby fingers. Not long after, his mom got him a pawn shop guitar, and he delighted in playing with us during rehearsals. He watched every move I made, trying out something new every week ("tuning" or using a pick). He had some whistles of his own, as Mom’s flute was strictly off limits despite his persistent crying about wanting to play it.

I especially remember one performance we gave when Max was almost two. He momentarily escaped his dad’s arms, ran up to the stage area, grabbed a whistle and blew mightily during an instrumental number, and he protested loudly when his dad carried him off. He had rehearsed with us often, but this was his first "performance".

We moved away from each other a few years later, but have always kept in touch. Max played a variety of instruments over the years (including bodhran), was often been part of the music scene with his mom in the little town they settled in, and is now at Columbia. He’s become an accomplished jazz sax player.

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I was really worried about starting a jam at my school. I teach 11, 12, 13, and 14 year-olds. I thought that the kids might think that it’s dull, but what I’ve found is that many of them don’t want to put the time into band and/or they are sick of the classical routine. The real clincher for most of them is that they are not required to perform. It’s just a safe space where they are given lots of approval for trying something new. Many of them are rebelling against parents who are pushing some agenda. This keeps them in music without the pressure. I’m pleased with them.

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I have grown up going to sessions and lots of Irish gigs, and I am really interested and involved in Irish music. I guess for a period of a few years, like from age 10 to 13 I thought it wasn’t cool. But after that I got back into it and I have now got some of my friends interested.

I think if you just immerse your child into the music and culture, he will naturally have an appreciation for it. But, as the others have said, forcing him into music probably won’t work.

Good luck!

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I find that my 5 year-old boy pushes himself with things - no need to add much, he’s taught himself to read and wright with very little prompting except to explain some of the pronunciations.

Just yesterday he discovered the 3 glass jars on my workbench could do 3-blind-mice in F# and I strummed a long on guitar. Mind-you, it was less stressy for me after I’d given him a chopstick to use instead of the screwdriver he was using!

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