Our Monday blog series about child development and what to expect from your young student in lessons has come to an end, but we thought we’d give you a little bonus! This week, we’re sharing some general guidelines for teen students, what your expectations should be for them and the different shapes lessons can take at this stage.
By this point, your teenager has truly developed their own unique personality and may not fit neatly into a set of developmental expectations. They have their own set of strengths and weaknesses and are learning how to make the best of their capabilities. It is important to begin tailoring lessons at this age to the student’s long-term goals, interests and abilities. At this point, your student probably fits into one of three categories:
1. The student who has been taking lessons for some time, is very advanced and is considering pursuing music seriously after high school, as a college degree,career, etc.: This student loves their instrument, and is probably highly self-motivated about practicing and preparing for performances. They set and achieve their own goals without much pushing from their teacher or parent and get a high degree of satisfaction out of meeting these goals. Note that this type of student may not be a strictly classical musician. There are equally dedicated students whose forte is jazz or even rock music, so they may be playing a blend of classical repertoire and their chosen genre that will take them into the academic world. So, what does this self-motivator need from you and their teacher?
– As many opportunities to perform and audition as possible. This will help them acclimate to the expectations they will face at the college level and in the professional world. They will learn how to cope effectively with performance anxiety and develop a go-to repertoire of pieces that they know will showcase their talents.
– A good music theory background. They will be expected to have some understanding of music theory in college, an
d they more they know going in, the better they will perform academically. Not to mention that a good grasp of the mechanics of music will make them better performers. If they’re ready, they may also begin learning composition skills at this age, which can open up a new avenue for creativity!
– Participation in competitions and judged events, like our annual Federation Festival. This will provide your student with scores and rankings they can list on college applications, if this is relevant for them, as well as giving them an idea of how they compare with their peers and what their overall strengths and weaknesses are.
2. The student who has been taking lessons for some time, is not interested in pursuing music academically or as a career, but enjoys playing and wants to continue developing their skills: This student is moderately to highly self-motivated about practicing and preparing for performances and auditions. Some of these students enjoy competitions and judged auditions, but others may find it nerve-racking and not especially important, though even those who dislike judged events often enjoy performing in recitals or other venues. This student has most likely reached an intermediate to advanced skill level and is probably most interested in playing songs by artists or composers they like and are pleased that they have reached a level of ability that allows them to do so. This student may play a blend of classic repertoire for their instrument and popular music. This student needs:
– Some control over what they are playing. Because it is less important for this student to learn a certain repertoire for their instrument, giving them the opportunity to play what they like can be the key to keeping them interested and learning into adulthood. It is often at this age that students lose interest in their instrument, solely because they are not playing music that they connect with in a meaningful way. Not to mention that, at this often emotionally turbulent time, an emotional connection with music can be an extremely positive outlet for everything from stress, anger and sadness to joy and exhilaration.
– Continuing education in music theory and technique, even if they aren’t going to pursue music academically. Even if this student isn’t going to pursue music professionally, they still deserve a rich music education that will allow them to grow as a musician even in their personal life. Hobbies and outside pursuits are an extremely important factor in adult happiness. This student’s ability to continue pursuing music as a life-long skill can be shored up by a good music education now. Even if they do not continue lessons in college or beyond, with a good foundation, they can continue building skills on their own to some extent as adults.
– Encouragement to participate in judged events, if they are willing and able to do so. These experiences can be great confidence-builders, and look great on college resumes, even if they aren’t applying for a music program. It shows that your teen is well-rounded, motivated and pursues their goals successfully.
3. The teen beginner: This is the student who did not start at 5 or 6, but has developed an interest in music (at least in listening) and wants to try their hand at playing an instrument. It may be slow going at first getting this student to develop a practice habit, and they may be impatient when starting with the rudiments of their instrument, however their maturity can make them quick learners and it is often quickly evident if the student has a natural talent. Here are the keys for a teen beginner:
– Consider whether your student is a young teen or an older teen and help them consider what their goals might be. If you have a young teenage beginner (12, 13 or 14) and they seem to have a natural ability are learning quickly, and are highly self-motivated to practice and develop skills, help them think about what their musical goals might be. If they might be a candidate for become Teen Student Type #1, offer them as many of the opportunities mentioned in that section as possible, and discuss this with your teacher to find out what their assessment is of your student’s abilities. If they are beginning much later (ages 16, 17 or 18), they may not be able to develop their skills quickly enough to pass college-level auditions, but may find opportunities in college to continue learning and pursue music professionally if they choose to do so later on.
– As with Teen Student Type #2, it is extremely important to allow them the opportunity to play music they enjoy and connect with. This can be especially helpful in motivating beginners to get past the initial difficulty and slowness of learning the basics.
We hope you have enjoyed this Monday blog series, and we invite you to share your thoughts and questions with us in the comments below. We’d also love to hear from you about what you’d like to see in future blog series, so share your ideas now and you could see them right here in future series!
Sara R. Longwell, M.M.Ed, MT-BC
Community Relations Manager & Music Therapy Specialist