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Family Rewards for Persistence with Music Practice

By Catherine Sim - 24th August 2010

Music is a big part of life in our family. From when the children were tiny there was a often music playing in some form - either in the background, or big and loud on a Friday afternoon waiting for Dad to come home We would dance around the house to the beat of Sergio Mendes or ACDC. Eclectic tastes here, you see.

No Wiggles for us on long car trips either. As much as they pleaded for their favourite kids’ tunes they were subjected to Jamiroquai, Spearhead, The Weddos and any random funk band that took their father’s fancy.

They were singing “Get on down, I’m a sex machine” from a very early age. (Reading this, I find it a little disturbing.) So it’s not surprising that they now all play instruments and sing.
 
Our house is often a cacophony of different styles and abilities. I find the trumpet particularly excruciating at times as it can’t be turned down and, living in the inner city, I just can’t get far enough away. The electric bass and the electric drum set can be adjusted to non-offensive volumes but their operators prefer not to. The big girl sounds just lovely as she has been playing for some years and can get some beautiful notes and melodies out of her Sax.

To add to the melee, we have rediscovered our youth and formed a garage band with some equally elderly friends. We are busy rehearsing for the “Battle of the Parent Bands” competition in September. This has required Dad to go out and spend copious amounts of money on equipment and turn the basement into a studio complete with all his old posters of the Clash. We are also working on building a Lagerphone using all the bottle tops from the beers consumed. I think our neighbours might hate us.

My part time job thus far has paid for most the children’s tuition and there are many times I despair that they don’t seem to have the passion for their music to practice without me hassling them to death. Often, I have threatened to stop the lessons completely; these threats are always met with howls of protest (except for number 2 son who has worked out that if he says “Okay, whatever…”  I have nowhere to go.)

My recent cunning plan is to appeal to their mercenary instincts so I have put a chart on the fridge. If they do four practices a week they get their pocket money. This ploy does appear to be working, although I’m not sure whether four practices on a Friday afternoon really count.

The other Friday night, we unusually had no extra kids, and our own kids drifted downstairs and started to play music together. They jammed for about two hours with no adult intervention or encouragement and they sounded great. All that “facilitation” on my part has begun to pay off.

There is of course a fine line between encouraging them to persevere with something difficult when they would rather be doing something else, and letting them drop something they are clearly not enjoying. Listening to them play together though, I realised that there are benefits in sticking to the lessons and making practice worth their while, because once they reach a certain level of proficiency, music becomes fun again and that’s exactly what it should be. I only have to look at the grins on our friends’ faces while they’re playing to understand that.                      

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