Tipsheet: Making Music Lessions Fun

Even the most ambitious kids get lazy about practicing their scales. How do you avoid a tug-of-war when boredom sets in on daily drills?

>> Don’t Force It. You can’t make a child play an instrument or take lessons, says Judith Stein, a child psychoanalyst based in midtown. But if a preschooler shows an early interest, buy her a toy piano or enroll her in a baby ballet class. “It shouldn’t be a power struggle,” Stein says. “It should be fun.”

>> Expose Your Child To The Arts. Toby Perlman, wife of violin virtuoso and kids’ music coach Itzhak Perlman, notes that New York is filled with cheap performances. Juilliard offers free concerts by students, as does the Perlman Music Program on Shelter Island. Carnegie Hall has $8 classical concerts aimed at kids during the school year, and the Philharmonic opens its doors for morning dress rehearsals at the Lincoln Center; tickets are $14 (call 212-875-5656 for details).

>> Shop Around. Just because a teacher is a good match for one child, that doesn’t mean he’ll be right for yours. Parents should sit in on lessons to make sure there’s good chemistry between teacher and student. Even Itzhak Perlman himself says it’s not the student’s fault if she’s not conquering a particular piece. “My husband always says it’s the job of the teacher to see to it that the child doesn’t become bored,” says Toby Perlman. “The child may just need more challenges.”

>> Create Flexible Practice Schedules. Piano teacher Kazuko Baba says practicing every day is nonnegotiable. However, the child should decide how long to practice. A few minutes every day is better than an hour once a week, Baba says.

From the Fall 2004 edition of the New York Family Guide