The Parents’ Perspective: Musical Beginnings

As you know, From the Top showcases the best young musical talent from across the country. But what about the support behind these amazing kids – the parents? We’ve set out to tap into the rich knowledge base of From the Top performer parents in an effort to share information, stories, and encouragement on raising musical kids.

This is the first blog in what we hope will be an on-going series.

Musical beginnings: How do you know your child is ready to study an instrument & are you ready to help them? Whether or not you have any musical background, our parents share why studying music is a family affair.

Barbara Nakazawa is a musician and teacher, but she looked to her son Joshua for signs he was interested:

Josh, age 6

“Starting at age three, I dragged him to one of my community orchestra rehearsals (I’m a flutist)…After a few weeks he got to be friendly with the cellists and trombonists as they sat near him.

One day he said, ”Mommy, I need a cello.”  I gave him the whole lecture about need vs. want and told him that he was too young…He was persistent as is his nature and just to change the subject I told him, “Tomorrow after nursery school we will go home and call a cello teacher.” The following day when I picked him up from nursery school I asked him if he wanted to go to Toys R Us and he said, “No, Mommy, you promised that we would go right home and call a cello teacher.” Twenty-one years later he is now a professional cellist.”

Emmanuel Cabezas says that his son Gabriel’s journey through music has been shared by their family:

Gabriel Cabezas

“We could tell Gabriel had an affinity to sound, movement and music from an early age.  I grew up among musicians, mostly pianists and violinists, and could tell Gabriel was inherently interested in it.  I played the piano for many years and took lessons at my family’s conservatory in San José, Costa Rica.  Historically, my family has not encouraged a young child to study music until he/she expresses sincere interest and commitment, as Gabriel did.

If I could take the liberty to express my perception of my wife Mary’s entrance into the world of music without much preliminary experience, I’d say she took it with much courage and enthusiasm, learning from every opportunity and developing a keen sense of musical appreciation and knowledge.  What I admired the most about Mary is her unconditional support toward Gabriel without being over protective (what is commonly referred to as “stage mothering”).  Gabriel’s journey through music has provided Mary with an extraordinary insight in an area that she naturally loves and intrinsically understands (albeit without any practical background).”

Roberta McGuire is not  a musician, but she had a general knowledge of music that helped her when Patrick started out:

Patrick McGuire

“I am not a musician, but I did study a few instruments while growing up. This gave me an appreciation for music and the ability to appreciate the work involved in learning to play an instrument and to learn new pieces on that instrument. Studying the piano helped me when my child was starting out on piano and on his other instruments…The basics were the same, i.e. being able to read the music, to fine tune the notes so that they are in tune, etc. i.e. age appropriate critical listening skills.  What was different in each was the method of producing the sound.

I sat in on the private lessons for a few years and by doing that, I learned a lot about the approach and about the instrument.

I don’t think you need to be a musician in order to help your child learn an instrument. Being a parent musician is obviously helpful, but not a must.  What you do need is the ability to ask questions and know where to obtain the information you need. There is help out there. So, don’t be afraid to ask.”

Susie Wuest wanted to give Eric the chance she never had:

Eric, 1991

“I had grown up very involved in athletics [figure skating] and there was never the time nor money for me to learn to play an instrument, something I felt that I had missed out on.  So after my two children were born, I decided that I would give them that musical opportunity.  My daughter started with piano, and when it was time for her brother Eric [two years younger] to maybe start an instrument at age 6, he…decided on violin since his father had played violin through junior high and still owned a violin.

It worked out well that my husband was musical so he could tune Eric’s violin strings in between lessons and after a short time Eric was able to play duets with him.  Once Eric realized that he could read music, he started going through his father’s stash of old violin etude books and sheet music.  That early beginning with reading music turned into a great strength for him.

I was a stay-at-home mom so I was able to plan his days so that there was always time for both practice violin and other activities.  It was almost never a question about practicing.  It was not “IF” but “WHEN.” I feel that I handled venturing into this new territory because there were many parallels to my skating days in practicing, learning, and performing.  I think that I was able to offer Eric non-musical advice through analogies to my skating life.”

Next time, we explore how to find the right resources to support your child in their musical studies. Please feel free to comment below with questions or your own personal stories! We’d love to hear from you.