Beyond Practicing Music

Notes from Atlanta Piano & Voice Teacher Maria McDonald

shutterstock_2340384635I was a very lucky kid when it came to arts exposure. My family didn’t allow television so my siblings and I spent a great deal of time at the library, doing various activities, and going to concerts and shows. We spent a lot of time going to free concerts and shows. Some of them I enjoyed, some not so much. By the time I hit middle school I was already into the critiquing phase when listening to different styles of music. I was able to tell you about tone, dynamics, phrasing, articulation, and even if I felt the musicians felt connected to what they were playing. This awareness I felt greatly contributed to my own art. Was I just a crazy kid? Quite possibly. But I think my ability to tune in to the fine details was greatly due to the amount of exposure to various types of music and arts not only in recordings but actually live performances.

Besides Practicing Music

One of my most frequently asked questions from parents is what can they do besides practice to greatly enhance their child’s music education. The number one best answer to that question is exposure. Listen to a variety of music at home. Listen to different eras of music and styles. Make a family night of the PBS orchestra specials. Most importantly, go to concerts.

Excellent Music Schools

Every month all members of my studio get a list of local concerts and performances in the Atlanta region. Thankfully, Atlanta is home to two universities with excellent music schools, Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University, which provide music performances pretty much on a weekly basis for the entire school year. Most college performances are completely free or are around $5 per person while also providing a wide variety of concerts and recitals in different genres and styles. You can see an opera one night and go to a jazz concert the next. Sure Yo-Yo Ma will not be front lining but that does not mean you won’t hear amazing music. If you have a local music school near you, try looking into what kind of performances are offered and go. You’ll be supporting the leaders in music of tomorrow and also get the exposure without breaking the bank.

Smaller Orchestras

Another great way to get try out some concerts without breaking the bank is look into your local orchestras in your area. Many cities have what are called in the professional circuit as regional orchestras. These are professional part-time orchestras made up of musicians who actually play for living. In the state of Georgia we have over seven. This is a great way to see professionals in action for much less than going to see a full-time orchestra like the Atlanta Symphony.

Opera House

Now I’m not saying to boycott the symphony. They need love, too. In fact, I think it’s an excellent idea to dress up the family and go see that special performance once in awhile. In some cities, these full-time orchestras will sometimes have dress rehearsal performances for significantly reduced rates or even group rates. Most opera houses will do this as well. It gives performers a chance to do a run through in front of a live audience and allow a more budget friendly option for families.

Greater Appreciation

The more you expose your child to the arts, not only will the child grow to have a greater appreciation for the arts, but will also start being able to relate everything their teacher discusses in their lessons. Children love to educate others. Being able to let you know a performer played a crescendo or used staccato will make them feel special and it will also maybe help you see what they are getting from lessons. I hope this helped you come up with a few options.

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