Most parents would love to capture 5 minutes of peace and quiet in the midst of their hectic daily routine of balancing work and family life. I am fortunate to find 30 minutes once a week - that amounts to 6 days in one shot - at the Assiniboia Gallery where my daughter takes her weekly piano lesson with Catherine Ready. Outside, the streets are busy with the downtown bustle, but inside the Assiniboia Gallery awaits a serene artistic haven. The Gallery presents amazing pieces of contemporary and modern art mixed with traditional landscapes and many other masterpieces. It invites quiet reflection and meditation for anyone in need of some quiet time.
In a cozy little Gallery side room there sits a piano, where Catherine Ready teaches music and theory lessons to many children of all ages each week. Despite her busy schedule, Catherine always finds time to share her unique insights into the ways that we can help our children develop an appreciation of music. Coming from a musical family herself, she extols the benefits of learning music at an early age, and how children may benefit in a multitude of ways by being immersed in a musical environment.
KB: When did you first take piano lessons?
CR: I began “unofficially” taking piano lessons in grade one by tagging along for 15 or 20 minutes at the end of my older siblings’ lessons. In grade two I began formal 30 minutes lessons once a week.
KB: How did music influence your childhood?
CR: I have a big family with two older brothers, an older sister and a younger sister. My dad plays piano so it was natural for all of us to take piano lessons. Through music lessons, I developed an interest in music class at school with Orff training (using mallet instruments, non-pitched percussion instruments and recorders), choir and eventually band in Grade 6. I continued in band and choir until the end of high school and these positive experiences led to my choice to pursue music in university.
Through music I met and studied with many interesting people and was given many performing and travelling opportunities. Music collaboration is a wonderful experience and creates bonds with other musicians that last a lifetime. I have no doubt in my mind that studying music throughout my childhood positively influenced my life and shaped me into the person I am today.
KB: At what age can kids begin taking formal music lessons?
CR: This is a question that is often asked and the trouble is there are many different answers. In my opinion, it depends on each individual child. Some children may be suited to private piano lessons as young as four years old. Younger children will learn differently and the lessons will be focused on musical ear development rather than learning to read music. Does your child sing to all the songs in the car? Do you think your child can focus for a 30 minute lesson? Sometimes all it takes is a short introductory lesson to see if your child is ready for lessons.
For the average child, a good age to consider piano lessons is around Grade 2, or age 6 or 7. At this age students can begin learning to read music right away, as the skills they are learning in school help the note reading aspect of music. Learning math also correlates with musical development, especially in understanding rhythms.
Other instruments, like strings are well suited to young children (as young as three years old). These instruments can be customized to smaller sizes (1/4, ⅛ violins) to fit young hands. Children who take string lessons traditionally learn by rote and develop very strong pitch skills as they must rely on their ears to find a note.
That being said, it is never too late to consider taking music lessons!
KB: What are a few tips to prepare kids for their first lesson?
CR: One of the first questions I ask a new, first-time piano student is if they have ever played a piano. The majority of the time the answer is “no.” I think a great way to prepare your child and ease any anxieties they may is have by letting your child play around on the piano and explore the different sounds. Also, I always offer a no obligation introductory lesson to give students a taste of what to expect during music lessons. Ask your teacher for a meeting before you begin lessons so the experience can be fun and relaxing.
KB: How do you know which instrument is right for your child? Or how do you help your child pick an instrument?
CR: When I was studying music in Montreal, all of my friends studied a different instrument and we often said things like, “I wish my parents had put me in violin/trumpet/flute, etc when I was young.” One thing we all had in common was we all took piano lessons at some point, played in school band and sang in choirs.
I think that every young musician can benefit from learning how to sing and play the piano, if anything to help develop a musical ear and learn to read music. From piano, try to expose your child to new instruments by going to free Regina Symphony Orchestra events or attending school band and choir concerts. Whichever instrument they choose, the benefits of music lessons will be extremely rewarding.
KB: How do you think music lessons can benefit kids?
CR: There have been many scientific studies on how music affects cognitive brain development, auditory skills, improves test scores, predicts future career paths and more. Music lessons give your child a chance to develop new pathways in the brain, which help with decision-making and problem-solving. Music allows creative expression, reduces stress and makes children more culturally aware. I recently read an interesting article about the longtime benefits of music lessons via the New York Times: (www.well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/early-music-lessons-have-longtime-benefits/?smid=fb-share)
KB: What is the best way to find a teacher for your child?
CR: One of the best ways to find a teacher for your child is through word-of-mouth. Ask around your school to see who is teaching in your neighbourhood. Visit the Saskatchewan Registered Music Teachers website http://www.srmta.com/regina-branch-and-area.html, or the Conservatory of Performing Arts http://www.uregina.ca/cce/conservatory/. Check out KinderBuzz! A lot of my students came to me through friends of friends, social media (Twitter, Facebook) and through my website, www.catherinereadymusic.com.
KB: How can parents foster their child’s interest in music?
CR: Listen, listen, listen! I am a strong believer in listening to any kind of music (classical, pop, folk music, nursery rhymes, etc) to help develop a musical ear. Encourage your child to sing along with the music and sing with your child. Join a choir -many churches or school have choirs (Lakeview United Church has a cherub choir for ages 4-8, and it is free!). Try to incorporate music into your everyday life - play music and have your child move around and dance for fun, sing songs in the bathtub, listen to music while making lunch or in the car. Enroll in classes like Kindermusik to explore music in a relaxed environment. Take music lessons with your child, (Parent-Child string programs, piano lessons). Most importantly, always have fun with music to encourage a life-long joy of music. And remember, it is never too late to begin taking music lessons!
KB: How can I help my child practice?
CR: Each week I will write down in the notebook what we worked on and what needs to be worked on. This will be a guideline for organizing your child's practice time. For young students, parents will need to supervise the practice session and help show their child what songs to work on. It is important that students do not feel forced to practice, as this takes the fun out it! Working on smaller sections or only one song per practice session is more beneficial than playing through each song quickly. Clickhere for some good practice tips.
Practice Guidelines: Students are expected to have a piano or suitable keyboard to practice. Keyboards should have weighted keys to simulate the touch of piano. Ideally, young students should practice 3 - 4 times per week.
Ages 5-7: 10-15 minutes per session
Ages 8-10: 15-20 minutes per session
Ages: 11-13: 20-30 minutes daily
Ages: 14 and up: 45-60 minutes daily
KB: What do you enjoy the most about teaching piano/voice?
CR: Teaching piano and voice gives me an opportunity to share what I am very passionate about: music. I love watching the progress and growth my students make as young musicians and sharing "ah-ha!" moments with each child. I enjoy the conversations I have with my students, many of which are unrelated to music. I was lucky to have a very close relationship with my piano teacher and we still find time to meet and visit. It is my hope that I give each student a positive and fun environment to work in each week and that they leave the lesson feeling like they have learned something new - either in music or life!
Catherine Ready graduated from the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec with a Bachelor of Music: Piano Concentration. Catherine grew up in Regina. After graduation in 2011 she returned home to teach piano and theory lessons. In addition to teaching music lessons, she is currently working on the Bachelor of Education After Degree (BEAD) program at the University of Regina with a concentration in Music Education. She also recently has been certified in Orff Schulwerk training, Level 1.
To learn more about Catherine Ready Music, visit www.catherinereadymusic.com.
For more information about the Assiniboia Gallery, please visit www.assiniboia.com
2266 Smith Street
Regina, SK S4P 2P4