sealPurdue News

August 2000

Expert: Music education can begin, flourish at home

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University child development specialist says parents can be the lead conductors in making sure their children reap the benefits of music education – even if the programs available to them at school are limited.

"Research shows that involvement in music programs improves a child's early cognitive development, basic math and reading abilities, spatial reasoning skills, standardized test scores, self-discipline, ability to work in teams, self-esteem and school attendance," says Judith Myers-Walls, an extension specialist and professor of child development and family studies. "Yet band and orchestra classes are among the first to be cut back or eliminated when public schools face a funding shortage."

Myers-Walls, herself the mother of two musically inclined children, says making the home environment supportive of music interests and activities can go a long way, even if there is no formal instrumental music program offered at school.

"It's never too early to expose your child to all different kinds of music," she says. "In addition to the usual recordings of lullabies for babies, play the music or radio stations you like to listen to and look for opportunities to take children to live performances, like free concerts in the park and parades."

Once a child decides to take up an instrument and both the parents and music teacher feel he or she is ready for instruction, family members need to be prepared for what they will hear.

"Beginning musicians are not all that much fun to listen to, and this can be especially challenging for parents if they've never played an instrument themselves," Myers-Walls concedes. "Be sure to choose a teacher who understands kids and is encouraging of their efforts without pushing too hard."

Myers-Walls says it's important to help the child develop good practice habits, and that may mean arranging the environment to be both supportive and forgiving.

"Depending on the instrument, you may need to find a relatively sound-proof place for the child to practice, or alternately, a place for the rest of the family to go during practice times," she explains.

Finally, Myers-Walls says parents need to support performance opportunities when the child is ready for them.

"School band and orchestra programs generally hold regular concerts, and private music teachers will often arrange recitals for their students, " Myers-Walls says. "Plan to attend as many of them as you can and encourage siblings to attend as well. Making it a family event can bolster a young musician's confidence and encourage younger brothers and sisters to take up an instrument."

CONTACT: Judith Myers-Walls, (765) 494-2959,

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