Young children

Young children

After months of practice and constant cries of "when can we go to a session Dad" I took my two lads ( 7and 9) to our local folk club.

Its not a traditional session, more of a circle of doom where you take turn about to do a song, or a tune or two. The boys had a great time, enjoyed playing and kept me right when my nerves tied my fingers in knots. I was really gratefull for the encouragement that the club gave them. It was great to tuck them in bed with tired shiney eyes and hear both say they want to go again.

What I would like to discuss are your thought’s on how to bring on young kids. Did you start at a young age? If so what inspired you - or what put you off? Does anyone have experience of teaching youngsters - what works and what doesn’t? I know there was a similar discussion a while back but it tended to center on teenagers - I hope to have them hooked before beer and girls arrive.

It goes without saying that just to expose them to music and not to push them is the right way to go about it, but I am looking for specific ideas about how to keep them motivated, and what you have found to be positive and negative influences on young children.

Thanks

Steve.

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I have 7 1/2 year old girl fiddler who has an eager 5 year old sister hoping to play music too. The elder started learning Suzuki "violin." She quit, until we gave her "fiddle" lessons. She loves Irish music (particularly Altan and Martin Hayes), and tells people that she plays fiddle rather than violin.

We’ve frequently taken the family to a nearby family-friendly pub to listen to sessions, and it’s been a very positive experience. Once she told me that she wanted to play in the session when she got to be older. That’s all I intend to do right now with kids this young, but I find it to be a very good way to have music be more than just reminders about practicing. Mark

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I haven’t had much luck with Roisin, 12.5, but at least she’s on her piano grades. I caught her the other day, showing off to her friend a French Scottische on the D/G box which I had shown her previously. So I haven’t given up hope yet. She does have a good musical ear, just that she doesn’t want to do our stuff. A couple of her friends’ dads are former rock stars and lesser dieties, so she probably thinks Our Music is a bit embarrasing for her. She is only 12 after all.

The other one, Fergus, the wee guy of 18 months, is coming on great at blowing indescriminate notes out of the whistle or the harmonica, and whapping indescriminate beats out of the bodhran. It’s a start, I suppose.

I just want to say that this stuff is the music I play, and I don’t want to force any of my kids to play it against their will. They will surely find whatever path they find, that may be Jazz Classical, Swahili, Mongolian, whatever. as long as they end up happy. That said "the music" has been contributary to my life fulfilment.

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Mine are a bit young yet (2 & 4), but they get to hear all sorts of music around the house, and we sing to them a lot. The older one (who had his first pub visit when he was a week old) seems to like Irish music, and occasionally makes up his own songs. They don’t have enough patience yet to actually sit down and learn an instrument, but I’m hoping that with gentle exposure they’ll develop an interest with time.

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed that I can’t bring them into the pub to hear a session, due to the anti-smoking laws, but I suppose it’s for the best.

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Mark - how do you go about encouraging practice, we have a rule that there is no tv in the morning till they have run few a few tunes.

Danny - I fully agree that any interest in music is good doesn’t really matter what kind. If Fergus is whapping indescriminate beats on his bodhran, then surely he is ready to attend a session!

Gzeg, 2 and 4 does seem youg to start playing but they must be absorbing tunes - I know that Tim and Ross hum tunes that they have only heard from me. Its encouraging to know that they can pick a tune from my scratching! Could you not try them on half or quarter size nicotine patches?

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I didn’t have the option of starting violin until I was nearly 12, and I wish I could have started earlier. However, a lot of the people I know who started playing early (with suzuki books) now do not play because they were required to play. I would say to let children start playing as early as they want, and encourage different varieties of tunes.

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I remember so clearly starting violin in 4th and 5th grade. I loved it. I felt special carrying it around and I liked to practice.

Here comes the depressing part. My mom would groan and yell at me to "close the door if I was going to make all that noise!" I started to feel like I probably was no good at it. I think my Dad could not have cared less. I never pursued it after age 11 or 12. (until age 38)

There is not a single person on this site who would do something so detrimental and achingly sad to their kids as that, I am sure. Just keep on being encouraging and supportive.

Be the parents I never had. Sob. sniff. Sorry, it’s hurt to dig up your past sometimes…

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Awww, Andee, that’s so sad! I hope they made up for it in other ways. Good thing you’re a Dragon and able to rise above! ;)

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I have spent much of the last week forging neurological pathways in the developing brain of my 3-month-old nephew. Not being too keen on changing nappies, and being ill-equipped for breast-feeding, I have been assigned (and have willingly accepted) the role of court musician. He seems to react favourably to my efforts - it sometimes even proves an effective distraction from the discomfort of hunger and wind. In fact, he was fed my music through the umbilical cord - I put together a CD to play to him in the womb.

Now, if he doesn’t grow up to be a musician - or, at least, an avid listener - then I’ll know the truth about my playing… Well, I’m not sure if it works quite like that, but he’s sure to grow up confused (who doesn’t?), what, with living in Germany, speaking English, with a Jewish mother, Hindu father and a head full of Irish tunes.

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Zina—you ask, did they make up for it in other ways? My Mom has. She always wanted "to be in show business" that means, she wanted to be a dancer in Vegas. But it was the early 60’s and alas, she met my Dad and had a conventional life instead. So anyway, she’s proud of me now, because I’m "in show business". No I am not a dancer in Vegas.

My Dad? Well, he still couldn’t care less…..

Thank goodness for being a Dragon. Hey where’s Kysh these days, speaking of dragons.

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David—your family sounds like an absolute breeding ground for musicality! I love it.

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My son started playing Irish music when he was seven. He started playing hammered dulcimer and moved to fiddle when he was nine. In the Washington, D.C., we are lucky to have many opportunities for kids. Karen Ashbrook has a week-long workshop each Summer where kids learn some tunes on their instruments, learn to play whistle, learn at least to play some scales on the box, learn to play bodhran using a pizza box, and do other things such as field trip to a local pipe maker’s shop, a visit from someone who brings over their Irish wolfhounds, other crafts, etc. The kids range from 8-12 or so.

Karen also runs, for the past 5 years, a monthly kid’s session at a local pub. The session now regularly brings out 15-25 (sometimes more) kids on a "school night." to play Irish tunes for 1.5 hours. The kids learn session etiquite along with tunes from a common tune book to facilitate more kids knowing the same tunes. At 14, my son is now one of the elder members, and has moved on to other local sessions. He has always been welcomed.

Jim L

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We started an informal monthly fiddle session for kids who already play violin, wanting to learn trad. Irish music. Our daughter plays and leans toward Irish fiddling so this was our way of getting more kids involved.

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Gzeg - if your kids can’t get into the session because of the anti-smoking laws, can’t you get them to stub out their cigarettes before entering the premises?

Just a thought.

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I’m actually a bit worried about the negative effect of exposing my youngster to the music. He only falls asleep to accordion music now - and he gets narky when I put Brendan Power’s harmonica version of ‘My Lagan Love’ on the CD in the car. Only eight months old and already he’s funny about the slow airs. Have to give him a dose of ‘Miss MacCleod’ to shut him up.

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I was 5 when I started the fiddle, of my own choice. My fiddle teacher had never taught before, and did a great job, but I hated to practise, but refused to give it up. I wouldn’t it "practise", I would "play". I found it much easier to "practise" when I started playing with other kids, otherwise I was just playing for my teacher. There were some hard stages where I hated the screachy sound of my little Skylark, but my Mum helped me pull through.
Athena

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Steve, We encourage practice but try not to force it on her (as we felt impelled to do with the Suzuki teacher, who was excellent but too intense for teaching a 7-year-old). She can practice whatever tunes she wants, although we gently suggest that she practice what needs the most practice. Like ACT, our daughter likes to "play" rather than practice, which is our biggest issue right now. I think parents can forget that practicing an instrument is a skill in itself: kids must learn how to listen to what needs improvement and how to begin in the middle of piece and play it over and over, etc.

These are the most successful things we’ve done to make playing a positive experience for our eldest: don’t push too hard on practicing, have a family band, take her to concerts, get her some of her own music CDs that she likes. Mark

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Thanks for the advice Mark - one of the things that has worked for us is to have a pretend session. The lads put their fiddles in the cases and we go to a different room where pretend beer is served. There is five minutes or so of banter - hows the wife, is work going ok etc and then one will start a tune and we join in. I play tunes that I am learning that they aren’t and mix them in with "old" tunes that we don’t play much. When tunes are all done I call time and we all say cheerio and see you next time.

ACT - how did you get to play with other young people? is it just that there are so many other youngsters around?

Harpgal - could you expand on the monthly kids session please - did you give out a tune list or just let it form by itself - where did you meet - it sounds really intersting

I think Strider Girl has a really good point, its about playing, not learning to perform. I think that is a why so many kids lose heart with formal music lessons - its all about learning to get a single performance right, be it for a school performance or an exam. With traditional music the emphasis is, and rightly should be, on sharing music with other players. What do you think?

Steve.

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We have a feis here on Skye, every year in the easter holidays. This year it has been in Portree, well over 100 children ranging in age from 9 to 18 have had a week of tuition in instruments , fiddle ,chanter,pipes, whistle, accordion , clarsach, step dancing , ceilidh dancing and singing.They have had a great time and it has made the year of practice and lessons seem worthwhile.,They are deciding what to do next year, and the wee one is desparate to join them. This is a really good, "carrot" to combine with the "stick" of morning practice. The feis movement has revolutionised music here and it was wonderful to see them all, genuinely, enjoying the music and the company.A group of enterprising folk in a nearby township have started weekly ceilidhs in the hall, which all the children can go to and join inl.

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I started flute at 8 and am still playing. No one else in my family played and I’m so happy that I decided to play. Since my kids were babies I have shakers, whistles, and such for the kids to play. I figure if the music is in the house then the opportunity is there. Whenever the kids now 8 and 5 have friends over they all get in on it. We just want them to have fun and get into it if they want. The kids started Irish step dancing this past fall. Since the music is playing most of the time it seems perfect. I definately don’t want to push them I just want them to want to play if they desire. They dance everywhere they go: lunch line at school, on the trampoline, airports, down the hall. It’s great to see that they like it without any parental encouragement.

Hey Jim, We’re in Annapolis and have a 7 and 5 year old who want to play. Where in the area do you do the kid sessions? We’d love to come see what it’s all about.

Whitney

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Nice to see you’ve started them on the shakers so young, Whitney. I’m sure they’ll lift many’s a session in years to come. :-)

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Kids need to be able to play a quantity of tunes before being set loose on a session, otherwise you are just wheeling them out to perform "slow numbers". After they have played their quarter speed "OutOTOcean", what are they going to play next week? The same tune?
If they can’t cope with 20 tunes, how can they cope with nerves?
Yes, I take great delight in encouraging the beginners, providing they play tunes in quantity, otherwise the first half-hour "slow session" is the place to build up speed".

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I agree Geoff, its not about showing off your kids but involving them in a meanigfull way. Its how to keep them keen enough to learn enough tunes and at speed that is the key. Thats the only advantage to turn about type sessions, the way I see it is it gets rid of nerves before joing a full season. I told the boy’s that they could only go again when they have new tunes and they both understand and agree.

Gummidge - the ceilidhs sound like fun!

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Well, of course my kids are both on the patch now, but they keep whining for Guinness. At least once we get them into the pub, they can cadge drinks from the punters, and it won’t be so expensive to keep them. ;-)

I did really enjoy being in pubs in Ireland where there were little kids running around under foot. It puts a different emphasis on the whole scene.

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For my kids (all boys age 3,4 &7) I think it is important to see how much enjoyment the rest of the family get from music. I grew up with it as long as I can remember, I have only just learnt harvest home this last month but before if you had hummed the first bar i’d have hummed the rest!
I am particularly proud of my eldest son who has just past his 1st piano exam (he was diagnosed with autism when he was 4).
I read an article in the Mail about raising kids, apparently most important is having at least one parent love you unconditionally, the second it to encourage a hobby with your child that is

a) relatively inexpensive &
b) something you can do on your own

so your child will have fullfilling hobby that does not rely on expense or other people - I think music fits the bill perfectly (so long as mum & dad buy the instrument!)

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Good for your lad - I’m sure he’s as proud as you. I hadn’t really thought about exams being possitive but (as with all things) when you think about it there is a goal to aim for and a sense of achievment after passing, I just hated exams when I was small. Thats a good point that was in the paper, I know a old gent that plays box and he allways says that if you have music you may be alone but are never lonely.

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Gzeg I find larger is easier to wash out of the kids cloths, guiness stains unless you can get soda on it straight away.

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that would be clothes, they do accasionaly wear them.

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And, presumably, that would be "lager", "Guinness", and "occasionally", and semicolons in place of commas. It’s very important that we get these things right; impressionable young children may be reading this (if they’re not all down at the pub drinking and smoking and staining their clothes).

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Andee - I had exactly the same experience with parental non-support as you did. The important thing is you got back into playing. I have 3 kids (8, 11 and 13) who between them play flute, whistle, fiddle, bodhran and button accordion, and also step dance. All have been playing about 3-4 yrs. They have sporadic real instruction, but get to play in "relaxed" sessions or at parties pretty often. Hearing the music as much as they do, and having most of our friends (and many of theirs) play as well makes it second nature. I play harp and fiddle. I find that if I want them to practice more, all I have to do is sit down and start playing and they will wander in and pick up an instrument or ask me to help them try to play whatever tune they were just thinking of. Often, a comment like "that would go great with…", suggesting a tune they already know, really encourages them to get a new tune down.

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Oh dear, if only I’d tried harder at school. Thank goodness you don’t need punctuation for music.

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When I was pregnant with my first son, I picked up a banjo to mess around a little with it. My big belly fit nicely into the backside of the banjo. That must have been the original "surround sound." I don’t know if Patrick liked it or not. He may have been dancing in there, or kicking to get me stop. I had to put down the banjo for all the discomfort he was causing me. Back to the fiddle for the rest of the night. Patrick is now 17. He has perfect pitch, plays baritone sax, piano, guitar, and will occasionally pick up a flute, clarinet, fiddle, mandolin, or whatever else is laying around.

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Thats a great image - wee patrick rocking and rolling!!

Thanks for the input from you all.

Steve.

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For our daughters, my wife and I never forced the issue on taking up music. We played songs and tunes — either ourselves or on the stereo — as often as we could around our kids when they were little, let them experiment (to a degree) on our instruments, and took them regularly to festivals or other events at which traditional music is featured.
So what happened? Well, by late elementary school we were full in the Hanson-Backstreet Boys-Spice Girls-Britney Spears House of Torture. Even after my older daughter joined a kids’ morris-dance team, we despaired of either of our girls even remotely being interested in "our" music.
But then older daughter began hanging around with other kids who were far more involved in folk music and dance, and she began to take a greater interest in exploring the genre(s). She isn’t as drawn to Irish/Celtic/British Isles music as my wife and me, but she’ll certainly listen to it, e.g., Fairport Convention, Halali, Kate Rusby.
Younger daughter, meanwhile, is more of a heavy metal type, and she became enthusiastic about a Massachusetts band called Devil in the Kitchen, who do the grunge-Ashley McIsaac kinda stuff. So I got her a copy of "Hi, How Are You Today?" to see if I can nudge her a little closer to our sphere of influence.

The point is, sometimes, you can expose kids all you want to the music and dance, but in the end they have to find their own way to it.

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Just returned from the Roscommon County Fleadh in STrokestown. On Monday afternoon there was a cracking session with lots of old timers . A few times during the afternoon parents came in with their children to listen. Each time the musicians encouraged the youngsters to play a tune. At one stage a young whistle player asked me to play Hammy Hamiltons with her. She was really, really good and I like to think I have played with a champion musician of the future. What an honour!

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Sounds great Leitrim Lady, I bet the youngster had as much a buzz out of that as you.