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  • Writer's pictureCraig Birchfield

12/31/2012: It’s Never Too Late; It’s Never Too Early – Music education at any age.

Happy New Year to everyone!

I hope that 2012 was a good year for you but no matter how it was, I hope that 2013 is even better. We survived the end of the Mayan Calendar (maybe they just ran out of sharp chisels) so let’s look ahead to the coming year. I’ve worked in six music stores including my own so I have waited on a lot of customers. I’ve often heard a parent or grandparent lament that they wished that they had taken music as a child or that they had continued with their musical studies. Here is a great news flash: It is never too late! As a Boomer one thing that I am noticing about my generation is a reluctance to go softly into the night. In other words, as we reach the milestones of fifty, sixty, seventy and beyond we are not ready to stop learning and living. No matter if you are a youthful twenty or a youthful eighty you can jump on that dream of learning a musical instrument. Grandma Moses began painting in her seventies and lived to be one hundred and one. I would be willing to bet that having a passion for paint extended her life. Thirty is considered old for an athlete but sixty is young for a serious classical or jazz musician. So, no matter what your age is it just might be time to get up out of that easy chair, turn off the latest Realty Show and discover the joy of learning music.

On the other side of the coin it is never too early. It wasn’t that long ago that the age span of seven to nine was considered a good time to begin musical studies. The rational was that a child could read, hands were bigger and concentration was better by that age. Things have changed dramatically in the world of musical education in the last twenty years, especially when it comes to the question of when to start a child on an instrument. You can thank the myriad of studies conducted on the benefits of a musical education on a young child’s mental development. You can also thank the popularity of the Suzuki Method which starts children as young as three years old. Having viable violins down to (almost) the size of Christmas ornaments doesn’t hurt either. Obviously, you are not going to teach a three or four year old music in the same way that you teach a nine year old but that is not a bad thing at all. I encourage learners, no matter what their age, to not be afraid to make up their own songs and melodies in addition to their more formal studies. Sight reading is an important part of music education but I find it discouraging when I talk with able musicians who claim that they cannot play anything without music. I’ve said it before; Bach, Beethoven and Mozart as well as most of the great classical artists were great improvisers but once you write down an improvisation it becomes sheet music. I digress here but the bottom line is that anyone can experience the joy of music. There are also studies that show that unborn children can hear and differentiate music at sixteen weeks, so obviously exposing infants and very young children to hearing good music is a very good thing. More on this subject in a future blog entry.

Thanks for all of you help and patronage in 2012 and have a GREAT New Year,

Craig Birchfield – owner Allegro Violin and Music

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