Being a band parent isn’t always easy…especially if you have never been in band and want to help your child. From a parents perspective, you may feel a little lost for how you can help when you don’t know anything about music. As a band director, I can tell you (with confidence) that parents play a huge role determining if their child succeeds in band…whether or not the parent is musical! I have listed several ways you can help your child become an excellent musician
1. Ask Questions
Parents know how to get information out of their child…well, sometimes. It’s not always easy. Try asking your child what they are working on in band. If you are genuinely interested, your child will notice. This conversation alone is helpful because it let’s your child know that band is important. Here are some easy examples:
2. Time Management
Keeping track of all the things you do in life is tough. It’s tough for you and your child. Chores…sports practice…scouts meetings…and what’s for dinner!? Whew!
Fortunately, band doesn’t have to be that complicated. Work with your child to create a practice schedule (but they should do most of the work). I have heard from a lot of parents over the years. Here is what I have seen work best:
3. Play Along
You read that correctly. YOU can learn to play the instrument with your child. Have your child give you mini music lessons over something they learned in class. Not only do you have a better understanding of what your child is going through, your child will be better themselves after teaching you. How cool is that?
I tried out this idea with a group of beginner band parents after hearing it from fellow band director. We even had parents perform a tune on the concert! It was hilarious and the students loved it…but most importantly, it helped them become better musicians.
4. Comment Carefully
When a kid tries something new, like playing an instrument, they sometimes feel a little timid. It can be a little scary playing a loud instrument and making funny noises and knowing others can hear you…and judge you. How should parents handle this?
Honesty + Kindness = Good Things
If you are honest with your child about how they sound, they will be better able to improve. Many parents and teachers have fallen into the “everything is wonderful” comment category. This is false praise and it isn’t helpful. In fact, it makes things worse. Even if you say things are “wonderful,” the band student almost always knows if they are getting it or not. Now they don’t know when you honestly are giving a compliment or if you “are just saying it.”
In my first years as a teacher, I mistakenly used false praise thinking it would motivate the students to continue getting better. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Children are too smart…specially your kid.
If you are kind, it is okay to say “something doesn’t sound right.” You might say, “I recognize that tune, but I think you are missing a note.” These type of comments can help students fix mistakes.
If you just HAVE to give a compliment even when something isn’t going right, you can…if you are careful. If your child is trying really hard and still having trouble you could say, “I’m so proud of you for working so hard at this. You’ll get it.” This statement is complimenting the child’s effort while being honest and kind.
This technique can be tricky, but it is extremely important.
5. Use the Book
Most band programs use a method book to drive instruction. Even if you can’t read music (or even if you can) the book has some great resources that you should utilize. Most books come with a CD or DVD or they have a code giving you access to online videos and recordings. If your child uses something like Essential Elements or Tradition of Excellence you have access to videos and recordings that could help you to help your child.
Watch the video on how to put the instrument together with your child. Take turns putting the instrument together step by step. Listen to a recording to see how line #5 is played. You can compare your child’s playing with the recording to see if they are playing the right notes. The band method book is an excellent resource for students and parents.