Music School – The Benefits for Our Kids
Have you ever considered enrolling your child into music school classes to learn an instrument? Perhaps you have heard about all the benefits that are to be gained by children who learn to play a musical instrument at an early age. Or maybe your child has shown an interest in music already and you’re not sure how to proceed.
If any of these scenarios are relevant to you then our latest interview with Alla Guberman from Alla’s Music School (Studio) in Bentleigh is a must listen. Alla provides some great advice on how to get started and how to keep your child motivated.
Topics covered include:
- when should a child start to learn to play a musical instrument
- the benefits of learning to play an instrument
- what instrument should they play
- what to do if your child loses interest in playing a musical instrument
- techniques to employ as a parent to help your child if their progress is slow
- what to look for in a music school
If you would like to add to the discussion please leave a comment below and as always if after listening to the interview you would like to ask Alla a question you can also do this via the comments section.
Websites mentioned in the show:
PS. apologies for the slight intermittent distortion in the audio for the first few minutes of the recording
…and if you would prefer to read the interview, I have included the audio transcript below.
Warren: Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for joining us and welcome to our first interview for 2014. My name is Warren Knower and I’m a portrait photographer with Volare Photography here in Melbourne. My goal with these interviews is to keep providing information that can hopefully assist a lot of families make decisions.
Today’s interview is no different. Our special guest is Alla Guberman from Alla’s Music School (Studio) in Bentleigh and if you’ve ever though about having your child learn to play a musical instrument or if they’ve shown some interest in music, then this interview will give you some great tips on what you should do to foster this interest and also things you should know before enrolling your child into music school classes and then subsequently keeping them motivated to continue learning.
As always, if you have any questions, I encourage you to ask them in the comments section below. I’m sure Alla would be more than happy to answer them. You can also discuss this topic on our Facebook page which is Volare Photography or via our Twitter handle which is @VolarePhoto. So enough preamble. Let’s get stuck into the interview which begins with a very special intro.
Warren: Wow! How beautiful was that? As you can probably guess, I’m here with a very talented person. Her name is Alla Guberman and she’s from Alla’s Music School in Bentleigh. Welcome Alla.
Alla: Thank you Warren for inviting me for this interview.
Warren: Not a problem. Can you tell us what that beautiful piece of music you just played was?
Alla: That was Chopin, Fantasie Impromptu.
Warren: Excellent, nice. Now Alla, can you please tell me a little bit and our listeners about your background? Where are you from and what do you do?
Alla: I was born in Russia. I completed Russian College of the Arts and in 1993, I arrived in Australia and I continued my eductaion in Monash University, bachelor and I – bachelor then honours and then master’s degrees and after that, I completed my two years of business course.
Warren: Wow! That’s great. When did you start the music school or the music studio?
Alla: Music school (studio) started – I started teaching in 2006 straight after I completed my business course and I completed it in December and in August of 2007, I already had 50 students in my house visiting me in the afternoon.
Warren: Oh, so you started from your home.
Alla: Yes, I started from my home in 2006.
Alla: I decided to do something different, something bigger and in 2012, we started this music school in Bentleigh which now has 6 rooms, 20 teachers with me and over 200 students.
Warren: Great. So we’re actually in Alla’s music school (studio) right now and I’m surrounded by some keyboards and a piano and it looks fantastic. So what sort of students do you get? What are their age ranges that normally come to learn?
Alla: We teach students from two years old.
Warren: Two year old.
Alla: Yes, a two year old and go through adult age. We get two year old students and we have 50 year old students. For two year olds, we have Kinder Beat program especially designed for children two, three and four year olds. Kinder Beat one, Kinder Beat two and Kinder Beat three. And for adults, there are special books for the beginners. So an adult can enjoy the book.
Warren: Yeah. So do you find that the adults, the 10 to 50 year olds, are they – have they had a musical background or are they starting from scratch?
Alla: They actually started from scratch. They started from the beginning. We had one adult student who wanted to perform in the concert.
Warren: Wow. So that was at 50 …
Alla: I think – I don’t know how old he is. Over 40 years old.
Warren: Great, that’s fantastic. What sort of instruments are taught throughout the school?
Alla: We teach piano, guitar, all sorts of guitar voice, drums, clarinet, saxophone, flute, violin.
Alla: Theory classes.
Warren: Fantastic. All right. What’s the most popular instrument that the kids love?
Alla: The most popular instrument is piano and guitar.
Warren: Guitar. Oh, I would have thought violin. Not so much violin?
Alla: Acoustical guitar is more popular.
Warren: Yeah, OK.
Alla: Then violin and voice.
Alla: And then all the other instruments. Drums is popular as well.
Warren: All right. OK.
Alla: But not as piano and guitar.
Warren: And in your opinion, what’s the easiest instrument to learn?
Alla: For the beginner …
Warren: Yeah, for beginners. Say I wanted to come and say I want to learn a musical instrument. What would you recommend would be the easiest to learn?
Alla: First of all, what would you like to learn?
Warren: Good question. Good question. Me, personally, I probably like the violin but I guess that’s hard right?
Alla: The easiest is what you like. See, if you like the violin, it will be easier for you.
Warren: Because you have a passion for it. Yes.
Alla: But piano is good and guitar a little bit complicated because the way you’re holding the guitar and when you press the strings, you don’t see the strings.
Alla: The same way with violin, we don’t see the strings. You go with what you feel.
Warren: Yeah, yeah.
Alla: And with the piano, you have a score. You have a music book in front of the eyes, so it’s still difficult to combine those things together in one. Look into the book, finding the right note, finding the right key, pressing the right keys, coordinate your hands, sometimes pedal. Oh, it’s not easy. But you don’t start with everything at the same time. You start step by step.
Warren: Yeah, especially how slow I learn things. Now a lot of my listeners are families, parents and they’ve got kids and a couple of things I would like to ask just to relate this interview back to them, so they can get some information about their children learning musical instruments. What are the benefits in kids learning instruments?
Alla: It has been proven by research that if the child starts violin before eight years old, he develops his left side brain cells. Also it develops coordination, concentration. You have to employ all parts of your body, a lot of parts of your body. You have to employ your brain to find the correct note and fingers to press the correct key and in some cases, you have to use your foot to press the right pedal. So then many parts of the body have to coordinate and when the child starts to play with both hands, he has to focus and learn to focus and coordinate two hands together.
Warren: So you mentioned that it was just the violin but it can be applied to any instrument, right?
Alla: Yes, because the same with the guitar. The child looks at the book, tries to find the name of the note in his head. Then he tries to find the right string to press. So it’s a process.
Warren: So I guess by learning all that, it gives the child more confidence that he could – he or she could then take into their normal everyday schooling. Could they get better at learning in school? Also more confidence I would suggest.
Alla: Yes, because they’re learning to concentrate. They have to organize themselves for practicing. They have to find time for practice everyday. So it’s about organizing time to do some extra thing.
Warren: Good discipline.
Alla: Discipline, yes, and especially then the child do exams. So he has to be a very organized child.
Alla: He has to find at least half an hour to practice everyday and learn what he’s taught from school, after school and with other activities.
Warren: But you don’t think that’s too much for a young child? My next question was I know you said at the start you have up to two year olds starting. In your opinion, what’s the best age for a child to start learning to play instruments?
Alla: Preschool children, we don’t want them to practice at home because they’re going into playing.
Alla: They can’t practice and focus to practice and all classes are designed on the learning through the activities, different activities.
Warren: That’s the preschool classes.
Alla: Yes, preschool classes and all they have to do maybe to listen to this CD at home and if they want to find the favourite song and just sing along with the song or to dance with the song. But with a child who has individual lessons let’s say from five years old. Five years old is a good age to start or they start prep.
Alla: Maybe to help too after they start prep because they need to settle during prep. So they can start and progress very successfully because they do realize notes, numbers, black, white. All this is what you need to start this.
Warren: Sure. So with my child, if I was looking at my child to see signs whether he or she might be interested in playing music or learning an instrument or has some hidden talent, what signs would I be looking at in my child to pick up on those things that they might be doing in their everyday life that would suggest that they would like to play a musical instrument?
Alla: Well, maybe he can ask you or I want to play piano or I want to play violin. Asking you several times or if you visiting shops, in music shops and he chooses a particular instrument and trying to play with that instrument.
Warren: So just a general interest
Alla: Pretend to play or you look at him when he’s playing that he’s holding the guitar and pretending to play or he’s holding the violin pretending to play or he’s in a friend’s house. He is very keen to stay in the piano and do – make some sounds.
Warren: Right. So all those little signs.
Alla: You’re doing his – and oh, if he likes to sing songs.
Warren: Yeah, right. OK. I understand, yeah. So say my child does show those signs and we sit down together and I ask him, “What instrument would you like?” and he has got a few instruments in mind. He doesn’t really know. He just likes music in general. How can I help to choose, to aid him to choose an instrument that would suit him? What can I do as a parent?
Alla: Well, so you can find and listen – find the recording of different music, with different instruments and listen together and say this is how a guitar sounds. This is how the piano sounds. This is how the violin sounds, some maybe fragments from different orchestra pieces or solo pieces or you can take him for a special program for children with symphony orchestra and listen to music there or you can take him into the music shop again and show him different instruments and …
Warren: I really like the tip about playing the different instruments to them.
Warren: I didn’t think of that. That’s a great …
Alla: Different fragments though. Let’s listen to this music. Let’s listen to that music. You can find them online.
Alla: In the music, you can find them more online and just making them listen and recognize what is the sound of the instrument. That’s the sound of the violin. That’s the sound of the guitar. Do you like the sound of the guitar? Do you like the piano sound? What you like more?
Alla: What is your favourite? Then you can ask him. Do you want to listen again? What do you want to listen to again? He can say automatically. He will not think for a long time. He’s going to say a piano. I want to listen to the piano.
Alla: This is like little tips.
Warren: That is a very good tip, very good tip, yeah. So with the child starting, say a five-year-old starting lessons, how long does it take to get to a good standard in terms of lessons or years?
Alla: First of all, it depends on the child.
Alla: Some children progress very quickly. Some children progress very slowly. But sometimes the child who has more desire to go on and to play stay longer in music than someone who has better talent, better musical ability, but not as much desire as the other child.
Warren: Right. Do you find that the children that haven’t got that desire, do you find that maybe they’re being pushed too much by their parents to learn or do you find it’s just naturally they lose a little bit of interest in there?
Alla: Some of them just lose interest at some stage because there are so many other activities around and they want to try something else or they just get sick of practicing and playing with the instrument. Some of them started by pushing at the very beginning. Yes. But yes, but a child’s program progress definitely depends on his – on the child. It depends on the child and for quick – for the child to pick it up quickly, it maybe takes a couple of years to get the good standard.
Warren: OK. What can parents do at home to develop the appreciation of music at home so that the child doesn’t lose interest? Are there any tips that you can give moms and dads out there that could help their child keep that interest in playing music?
Alla: So in my family, my father had that hobby, so he liked listening to classical music. He had a lot of recordings and he used to come home after his work and listen to some of the Beethoven, Mozart music and I just – that atmosphere of someone in the family who liked to listen to music. It is important. But my sister, actually she stopped piano lessons. She grew up in the same family but she …
Warren: What age did she stop?
Alla: Oh, she never wanted to do that.
Alla: She never wanted to do that. She was pushed by the parents and then on some stage, she finally stopped and she didn’t want to do this again but when she grew up, she was very sorry about she didn’t continue piano and her parents didn’t pushed her. So it has happened with most of the people unfortunately.
Warren: So even though people say that the home environment has a lot to do with it, it really depends on the child’s desire, the individual child.
Alla: Yes. So we are two sisters and I wanted to do this. She didn’t want to do it with the same parents.
Warren: OK. What about parents who desperately want their children to play a musical instrument? But their child just doesn’t want to or he has got those distractions that you talked about earlier. Should they push their children into trying at least or …
Alla: I don’t think so. I think the parents should wait for the time where the child will ask him to let him do some music lessons several times, so if the child keeps asking, keeps asking. Otherwise they can put money and they can waste money because the child will not want to do this and it’s very hard to push him to leave the house and go to the music school for lessons or if he doesn’t want to do this, and it’s stress for the parent and it’s stress for the child, for both of them. So that’s not good. But the parents should wait for the time where they child will ask him. It could happen at 9 years, at 10 years old, at 12 years old. Sometimes a 12-year-old starts from scratch and that’s very quick progress.
Alla: Very quick progress. That’s two maybe grades for one year every year and could do all eight grades for four years.
Warren: So that’s eight levels in your studio to get to that level?
Alla: Yeah, we do teach all levels here.
Alla: Yes. Plus associate, licentiate, because we have qualified –
Warren: Sorry, what was that?
Alla: We have eight grades and then we have performance certificate and then there is associate and licentiate level and we do have qualified teachers who can teach all these levels.
Warren: OK. All right. Now for parents whose child are currently learning an instrument and – but they’re having difficulties picking it up and just a little bit slower. Are there any tips that you can give to those parents that are finding their child not so much losing interest but just having difficulties in grasping the concepts behind learning?
Alla: Yes. For the parents of the child, the parent has to be very patient and he can’t expect very quick progress from the child, but the progress will be he could see progress in a year’s time or because if the child wants to continue, he will do progress. Any abilities can be developed, hearing and voice and …
Warren: It’s pretty much for the parent just to be supportive.
Alla: Yes, and patient, patient.
Warren: Is there anything that the parent can do in conjunction with the teacher outside the class that might help?
Alla: Yes. If the child is a five-year-old, it’s good for parents to be in joint lesson and for example, I used to use flash cards and I would explain to the parent how he can use these flash cards at home because they don’t know what to do with the flash cards, the whole pack of the flash cards, 50 flash cards. So I wouldn’t give their whole pack to the parents. I would pick up only five cards with their notes. The student currently learning and I will explain to the parent what to do with these cards.
Then he has to bring these cards back on the lesson next time and I will exam him, together student and parents, together. We can launch through the game, to the playing.
Warren: Yeah, OK. Sounds good. OK. Now, what tips would you give parents who are looking at enrolling their child into a music school or private lessons? Not just here but anywhere. What sort of tips? What sort of things they should be asking the tutors about.
Alla: About how long the lesson you recommend to have for my child. So if the child is four years old or even five, maybe 20 minutes is enough because especially if it’s a boy because boys, they cannot concentrate for a long time at this age. He would rather jump and run around, so his attention isn’t enough.
Warren: But in terms of the actual school, to see whether it’s a good school or not, what things should the parents be looking for?
Alla: Teacher has to be qualified.
Warren: Is there a certain level of qualification that the teacher needs?
Alla: Well, if teacher is teaching students at the beginner level, the qualification is not as important as to find the communication between child and teacher. So like our school has teachers who can teach two instruments. One instrument at all levels. We call it – say piano major and another instrument at the beginner level, say guitar in minor.
So when the student is five years old, it’s not as important how high the qualification the teacher has. It’s more important how the teacher can find the good communication with the child. So it doesn’t need to be very high qualification for the beginner level. But if we for example look in a student – if we enrol a student who already passed grade five in maybe exams, then we would refer the student to the teacher with high qualification.
Alla: So this is important because a teacher who is not qualified will not be able to prepare the student for the exams.
Warren: So do you suggest it might be a good idea for the child and the parent to meet their tutor before they decide whether they want to go with that school?
Alla: If it’s a young child?
Warren: Just to see the connections they’ve got, whether they get along with each other.
Alla: Yeah. If it’s a young child, it’s good to have a trial lesson. So we also have a trial lesson here.
Warren: Right, OK.
Alla: Yes, because sometimes it just doesn’t work for no reason. Just they didn’t find the good …
Warren: Connection, yeah.
Alla: Good connection and so it’s good to have one trial lesson at least.
Warren: A couple of more questions before we finish up. What are the major differences between private lessons at home or coming to a studio? Are there any benefits or disadvantages of having a private lesson compared to coming to a bigger studio like yourselves?
Alla: I think I’m going to choose the bigger studio. It allows the student to concentrate on the music class more than at home because at home, it’s home.
Warren: Yeah. There are a lot of distractions.
Alla: There are all toys around and distractions and sometimes the piano instrument is not locked in the room with the teacher, but in the big room with all the other TV’s and all the other, kitchen and all these. So it’s harder for students to concentrate in this environment. It’s better to concentrate when he’s in the room with the piano and teacher or maybe parent and that’s all.
Alla: Yeah. A school like this organizes a concert at the end of the year and the parents can see. The child doesn’t do exams. So the parent can see his performance at the end of the year and he can see his progress from year to year.
Warren: Yeah. That’s a big concert in the whole school?
Warren: All the students come together.
Alla: Not all the students. Say if we have 240 students, so 95 will perform in the last time at the end of 2013.
Alla: Ninety-five students will perform in. So the beginner who just started can’t perform.
Alla: And the student, we want students to perform the good higher standard. So the concert will be interesting, not bored, because when the students are playing with the mistakes, stops and all this to – that is becoming too boring kind of – yeah, and the student has to be satisfied. He has to be happy about his own performance and developing his confidence.
Warren: And it gives them to – showcase their whole year’s work of …
Alla: Yeah, good performance develops his confidence and the parent can see his progress. He didn’t like the beginning of the year and the end of the year, he’s performing the grand piano on the stage.
Alla: So he can play two songs.
Warren: Fantastic, yeah. There’s a lot to be proud of with that. OK, Alla. Thank you so much. Look, I’m sure there will be a lot of questions and as everyone knows who’s a regular listener with this interview series, feel free to ask questions in the blog and Alla can come back and answer those. Apart from that, what’s the other best way for people who are interested in their kids learning to play music, what’s the best way of them of contacting you Alla?
Alla: On my mobile.
Warren: Yeah. So that’s on your website.
Alla: It’s on my website. Do you want me to say my website address?
Warren: Yeah, sure.
Alla: It’s www.AllasMusicStudio.com.au or my mobile 0422-835-857.
Warren: And you’ve also probably got a Facebook page, yes?
Alla: We have a Facebook page, yes.
Warren: Great. So thank you so much once again. You’ve given some great tips and I’m sure that the parents who are listening to this interview can get a lot out of it, especially those who are thinking about but not 100 percent sure whether their child should start learning to play an instrument or how to go about it. So I think there are some great tips that you told us today. So thank you so much again and yeah, look forward to talking to you sometime later.
Alla: Thank you for inviting me Warren.
Warren: No problem. Thank you Alla. Bye.
Warren: So what do you think? If you were considering having your child learn a musical instrument, did this help? Alla’s tip about playing recordings of various instruments to your child in order to help them decide what instrument they would like to learn to play is a great one. I also thought we can take a lot out of what she said about her and her sister living in the same environment, but each wanting to go on their different paths. I guess it all boils down to what your child or anyone for that matter is passionate about.
I would really love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and if you have any questions for Alla, again, add those to the comments and I will make sure she knows that they’re there and she can get back and answer them for you.
So that’s it for this interview, everyone. Thank you once again for listening. I look forward to bringing you another in this series very shortly. But now, take care and I will talk to you later. Bye.
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