Dear Mum and Dad: Your child’s musical journey

Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020



Imagine for a moment that your child wrote you a little letter and it went something like this:

Dear Mum and Dad,

I heard this song and it made my body move. It made me happy and it felt wonderful! I wish I could make those sounds too.

Love from,

Your Child.

If our children could express themselves like this it would make knowing the right time to start learning an instrument much easier. The age-old questions of; which instrument, how much practice, at what age do we start and which teacher should we go to are all often asked by parents. Each family is unique and many of these answers will be determined by your individual circumstances.

“I feel good when I play a piece for my grandparents and other special people in our lives and it makes them smile. It feels like I have given them a little present, something valuable that I did all by myself.”

The first few choices are important and help pave the way forward in your child’s musical journey.

These choices are about the instrument you have and the teacher you choose. But there is a further consideration that is of equal importance and warrants some thought. What is your family philosophy about your child’s musical education and experience? What would your child say if they could express what they needed to have a successful and fulfilling musical education?

After a heartfelt discussion with my two young children here are some suggestions.

How to create an extraordinary musical experience. A letter from your child…

Dear Mum and Dad,

Please encourage me to learn about music. I am curious about sound and want to create and recreate things I hear. Please find people who I can connect with and can learn more from. People who encourage and nurture me. A teacher who can communicate and build a path in music that engages me.

I know we are busy, but can we find time every day to let me have space and time with my instrument? It doesn’t always feel or sound good, but each day I learn a little more and before long I can master things I couldn’t do before. I feel good when I learn how to do something new and you are right there celebrating with me!

I feel good when I play a piece for my grandparents and other special people in our lives and it makes them smile. It feels like I have given them a little present, something valuable that I did all by myself. It helps me to build stronger connections with my community. I also feel confident to then play for my friends and even teach them new things.

Thank you for encouraging me to perform in recitals and exams. I feel proud of myself when I have played and believe in myself more each time. Even when things don’t go right I learn that it is okay and become a little more resilient.

Please give me space in my practice time to explore and roam around in my imagination. Sometimes I feel sad or angry and know that I can go to my instrument and play. I am learning to express my emotions, I can be creative and know that it is a safe place to do so. I am also learning to listen and respond to emotions I hear from others.

I like to hear the sounds I am creating. Please can I have an instrument that creates beautiful sound? An instrument that can do the things that my teacher is showing me in my lessons so that I can explore, create and experience the things I am learning properly.

Please talk with my teacher about how I’m going, and if they have any information to help me learn better, can you help me make that happen? Sometimes I don’t remember my books or want to practice. Can you please carry me when this happens? I am still learning to build my self-discipline and persistence. I am learning that consistency is long term and I’m not so good at the big picture yet.

Please help me explore music in lots of different ways. I love to hear new things and see other people make music. Please share these experiences with me. Share with me your favourite music! Please take me to the music shop and let me explore the sheet music and instruments like it is a lolly shop! Let me save up and buy a music book I want just so I can play a song that I like!

Please help me be and stay engaged, let me explore and create, learn to express myself and be receptive to the expression of others. Help me to experience and enjoy the world in new ways through sound and music.

I can’t wait to show you what I’ve learnt

Love from

Your Child

  • Carly McDonald is a highly regarded Australian piano pedagogue and presenter, seeking to connect teachers with creative ideas and strong business acumen. Carly established her music studio, Novar Music, in South Australia in 2005. In addition to teaching, she manages 25 teachers in 5 locations across South Australia. As author of blog Creative.Piano.Professional, Carly provides thought leadership in early music education and studio business. She is the Creative Editor of The Piano Teacher magazine, Editor of The Piano Teacher Hub Australia, Australian Ambassador for the Piano Adventures series by Randall and Nancy Faber and co-editor of the “I Want To Play That” piano series. She is passionate about working with musicians to develop a strong foundation of skills for self-expression throughout their lives.