When our 4 year old son decided he wanted to learn the violin my husband and I were thrilled. Being 2 teachers with backgrounds in music we understood the amazing benefits that learning an instrument can have on a child's development and learning.
No doubt If you have ever known someone who has learnt the violin, a family friend, your own child or perhaps even yourself then you have probably heard many negative comments about what it sounds like. Things such as "wow you're brave", "it sounds like a cat being strangled", "it sounds like a cat being tortured", "it sounds like a dying cat" (and many more cat related comments). While these may seem to be a funny throw away comments what most don't realise is the unintentional effect that they have on the child who is trying to navigate their new world of musical awareness. Unfortunately, to the child these 'funny' comments are perceived as someone telling them that they are making a horrible sound and that by practicing their instrument they are creating something negative. Let's face it, everyone who learns an instrument whether it be the violin, trumpet, piano or the bassoon, begins by making random sounds that may not be very pleasant but everyone needs to start somewhere. I guarantee that Beethoven and Mozart didn't start playing concertos from the moment they sat in front of a piano.
There are thousands of studies out there that prove just how beneficial learning music is to brain development. So why do we continue to focus on the superficial aspect of learning an instrument and fail to acknowledge the amazing changes that occur in our brains? Think of it like an iceberg, we hear the music being produced but beneath the surface there is a lot more going on.
After my four year old's first lesson yesterday afternoon he has already practiced his exercises twice and is so excited that he is learning how to navigate his instrument. Of course when he practices I don't hear a magical tune from the gods but I certainly don't hear sounds that would prompt me to call the RSPCA. Instead I hear the magical sounds of learning and discovery, more specifically:
So next time you hear a child practicing their instrument I challenge you to listen to the sounds of that child's brain unlocking, I promise that sound is far louder than any noise the instrument is immiting.