Brass parenting: some basics for a successful year

Welcome to February 2018! My 2018 started with a “whoosh!” and I am still receiving questions from parents on how to best use their music departments to fully realise their  children’s potential. I decided to write a few basics that parents could follow on how to better their relationship with their child’s teacher, and to fully utilise the skills and knowledge available out there. This e-note is for students who are based at a music programme in school, but there are some points that are still valid for students who might be having private lessons.

Nitty Gritty:

  • Get in touch with the music teacher and introduce yourself. Let them know you are on their side. Most music teachers want their students to flourish (it is the reason we teach) and knowing that you support this process is great in establishing a working relationship.
  • Read the T’s and C’s of your music departments contracts. This really helps avoid any surprises. If there isn’t a standard letter that goes out at the beginning of every year, ask general FAQ’s. These include rates, when they must be paid, how they must be paid, what is expected in terms of practise, notice period, and information on external exams (ABRSM, Trinity and UNISA).
  • If you think you want your child to perform in the external exams, you should confirm this with the teacher so that are aware of your intentions. Students need to be practising fairly regularly to enter into these exams. Regular practise allows for an exam to be a positive experience for both your child and the teacher.
  • If your child is in a music programme at school, check which day your child has their lesson, and make sure they bring along their instrument and music.

Planning for success:

  • As the year starts, consider scheduling in some weekly practice times. We suggest 20 minutes daily at our school, but this is sometimes difficult to achieve in busy schedules. I would say that students should try to play their instruments 5 times a week. Those who can manage more, will reap the benefits but it is important to be realistic in preparing for the academic year. The schedule can go behind the bedroom door, be stuck into the music/school diary or anywhere to help the students remember their practice time.
  • If the student is able, I would really recommend getting involved in an ensemble programme. This can count towards a daily practice session and involves community (playing with friends), team building, and stops the isolation of individual practice.
  • There is always something to practice. I give my students quite a bit of music so if you hear the words “I don’t have homework” it is not true! On a brass instrument practising can include:  the foundations of long notes/tonguing/flexibilities, scales, pieces, band pieces, music found online (that is applicable for the student’s level).

Planning for the future:

  • If your child shows an affinity towards music, and you think this might be an option for high school please consider enrolling your child into music theory.  I would, personally, recommend that, if possible, all music students do some theory, as it is an integral part of the subject and helps young musicians with their reading (even sport has rules and strategy that need learning.)
  • Get your child to listen to as much music as possible! This can be fun and is important in exposing your child to the various styles and artists out there.
  • At the International Young Water Professionals conference, I was able to meet one of the engineers at Aurecon, an engineering firm in Cape town. He referred me to this article regarding the importance of creative thinking that is developed and nurtured in the arts subjects. Here is the link: I would really recommend reading the article as a whole (for perspective) but the quotes I would like to include are:

“From Richard Branson to Bill Gates, ‘creativity’ ranks as one of the top ten traits of all billionaire entrepreneurs across the globe.”


“Art is an important, dynamic part of the mould that makes up the progressive business climate today . Should we be studying Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare at the same time as the management theories of Peter Drucker?”

Good luck for 2018! You know where to find me if you need me.

P.S. Some listening to get you started: Oystein Baadsvik plays Czardas!







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