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22 Mar, Wednesday
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Montreal Families

Music classes for young kids

Children are drawn to music from a very early age, often clapping, bouncing and singing to their favourite tunes. But when it comes time for parents to introduce the kids to formal music lessons, they often feel overwhelmed with the array of choices. Should they start with private or group lessons, a music appreciation class, choir, piano, drums?

Clément Joubert, director of the McGill Music Conservatory, notes that one-on-one lessons generally aren’t appropriate for children younger than 6 or 7, since little ones may not have the concentration and patience for that kind of commitment. Instead, they may enjoy a short (30- to 60-minute) group class with a focus on learning simple rhythms, trying out instruments like the xylophone, and making up songs.

Angélique Desjardins, who offers music lessons for young kids through her company Tamajam, feels that parent-and-tot music classes can also be an excellent way to introduce the whole family to music.

“Sometime parents feel intimidated because they don’t know much about music, especially classical music,” Desjardins says. But through a parent-tot class, parents gain confidence and learn ways they can incorporate music into the family’s every day life. (And she says it is important to listen to various genres at home to pique a child’s interest in music).

It is around the ages of 7 or 8 that many kids develop a keen interest in music. At that point, parents need to think about several issues before jumping into lessons, including a child’s physical development. Joubert notes that certain instruments, like the trumpet, oboe or tuba, aren’t a good fit for kids until they’re about 8 or 9 years old, because it can be difficult to blow and generate sounds. Also, their lung capacity isn’t developed enough so they can’t play for more than three or five minutes because they get dizzy.

Children interested in singing need to be careful to avoid vocal chord strain so parents might want to consider having a child start off in a choir before moving to more demanding individual lessons around ages 9 or 10.

Families also need to consider the cost of and access to an instrument. For example, while the piano is a tried-and-true first choice, a child will need to have access to a keyboard or piano for practice. Parents might want to think about other good starter instruments such as the violin, flute or the ukulele (in preparation for the guitar). As well, kids can start right away on the cello and percussion instruments like drums and xylophones.

When exploring instrument choices and lessons, parents should ask the teacher if an instrument comes in smaller sizes for children. Alexandre Lafontaine, a ukulele instructor at the McGill Conservatory, says starting on a smaller instrument can make a big difference in a child’s enjoyment and dedication to learning. It is easier to play and the child is still learning how to read, listen to, and practice music. So the transition to the regular-size instrument becomes a natural progression.

However, even with the right-size instrument and a great instructor, sometimes lessons don’t seem to work. The child complains, doesn’t practice and is generally unhappy. Desjardins, who believes music is a lifetime gift we give our children, urges parents not to continue with lessons ‘at any cost.’

She says these kids should be given the option to try another instrument or join a choir, band, or orchestra where they will have more social interaction.  “Timing is everything,” she says. “Sometimes, what isn’t working at 7 or 9 will work at 11.”

Playing a musical instrument can be one of life’s great pleasures — or the source of those “I hated taking music lessons” stories adults like to tell. With a little care and attention, parents can find a way to introduce their kids to the world of music in a way that ensures a healthy, life-long appreciation.

Music classes for young children

Broadway Academy Westmount
Westmount • (514) 433-3366
Various courses

Francoise Zyto
Hampstead • (514) 481-0361
Piano lessons

Cote St. Luc • (514) 836-6872
Various courses

Kosa Music Academy
N.D.G. • (514) 482-5554
Drums and other instruments

Lamda School of Music and Fine Arts
West Island & N.D.G. •  (514) 697-9991
Various courses

Lasalle Music Academy
Lasalle • (514)  363-6771
Various instruments

McGill Conservatory of Music
Downtown • (514) 398-4543
West Island • (514) 398-7673
Various courses

Meikle Music
Various locations • (438) 938-9935
Piano lessons

Mont-Royal Music Academy
Montreal • (514) 880-6495
Various courses

Music for Young Children
Various locations • (514) 696-0008
Various courses

Sheila Parkins Academy of Dance & Music
D.D.O. • (514) 626-1981
Various courses

Sheila Veerkamp
Montreal • (514) 486-5217
Various courses in private homes, daycares and preschools

(438) 777-7617
Various courses in private homes, daycares and preschools

West Island Music Academy
Cote St. Luc & Pointe Claire • (514) 505-6606
Various courses

Vimont Music School
Laval • (450) 625-6116
Various courses

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