How to Encourage Shy Music Students
Katherine was a shy toddler. She hid when people visited her home. Later, when she started school, she seldom raised her hand in class even though she often knew the answers. When Katherine enrolled in children’s piano lessons, she discovered she had a talent for music. She practiced every afternoon and became an accomplished pianist.
As much as Katherine loved practicing, never, not once, did she seriously entertain the idea of performing for others. Even playing during lessons sometimes felt like a trial. Her instructor was a brilliant technician but often forgot that children’s music lessons aren’t complete without warmth and encouragement.
Katherine’s piano teacher wanted her to give a recital. But, the idea of a room full of people all focused on her, paralyzed the young girl with fear. In school, where she played a string instrument in the orchestra, Katherine had no such worries. She was happy to perform with her friends in the first violin section.
Katherine entered the piano program as a freshman in college. But the notion of performing was so uncomfortable that she changed majors and studied American history.
Try a Little Tenderness
People often overlook shy children like Katherine. But, they shouldn’t. Shy children have much to offer. Discovering their potential takes patience and kindness. As a children’s music teacher, you need to have those two qualities in abundance.
The causes of shyness aren’t clear. Some experts believe it stems from anxiety during social encounters. Others cite a lack of confidence as a factor. There are probably many reasons why people feel shy.
Just about everyone feels awkward at one time or another. For some, it’s a temporary feeling. Others, though, like Katherine, are deeply affected by feelings associated with shyness. Being fearful or easily embarrassed can interfere with the enjoyment of music, school or work.
As a music teacher, you can help the shy children in your classes. Whether you teach piano lessons for children or another type of music, here are 5 ways you can support a shy music student.
1. Get Parents Involved
We believe parents are a critical part of toddler music lessons. Even for older children, we ask that a parent or another caregiver attend class. A mom or dad is a comforting presence for very young kids. Plus, parents model behavior when they join in games and music-making in our group music classes.
Many young kids start by observing before they jump in and participate. A shy student may hang back and watch for a longer time than an outgoing child. That’s OK. Kids, even when they’re watching from the sidelines, are soaking in the lessons. Later, at home, the child and adult can recreate the lessons they learned. At the next meeting, the shy youngster may want to sing and dance with others in the class.
2. Make Them Laugh
Music lessons for toddlers should use lots of games, movement, finger plays and musical toys. These types of activities are fun for kids. The silly humor of kids’ games draws shy children into the activities. Before you know it, they’re laughing, singing and dancing with the rest of the class. Encourage parents (some of whom may also be shy), to play, too. Older students also appreciate a light touch, with games and fun activities throughout class.
3. Develop Musicianship
Feeling accomplishments leads to self-esteem. At Harmony Road Music, we teach children to be well-rounded musicians. We train their inner ear. We introduce solfege singing. We guide them in improvisation, composition and sight singing and sight-reading.
Mastering these skills is a great confidence builder. Internalizing musical concepts gives the student the building blocks of creativity. They don’t rely on rote learning. They can make music whether or not there’s a book propped open on a music stand. Even in our children’s beginning keyboard lessons, students feel like full-fledged musicians as they improvise and compose simple songs.
4. Teach Group Lessons
Group lessons offer students the opportunity to become comfortable with performing and collaborating. We designed the Harmony Road Music Course for group classes comprised of children and parents.
Our classes tap into the power of an ensemble. Children become accustomed to performing in a safe environment. As they progress through the lessons, they make friends and feel secure in the nurturing presence of a teacher, parents and peers.
Classes alternate between ensemble playing and short solos. Individual performances are brief. Our teachers weave solos into lessons in a natural way. Children gain confidence with each performance. Our classes often involve children taking turns at a keyboard, or at the center of a circle. As they see classmates dancing and singing, a shy child will develop the confidence to join in the fun.
5. Abundant Encouragement
Nothing brings out a child’s confidence like praise from a teacher. Shy children in particular often fear failure. Be sure to give a quiet child positive reinforcement when they do well. Use your judgment to determine when and how to praise. Shower enthusiastic approval on your students when they show progress. Be sensitive if they need correcting.
Recognize even small steps forward. Encouragement might be as simple as a big smile, a thumbs up or a nod when they do well. Or, it might involve special recognition for something in particular. Small children often love rewards such as stickers. Older children also like small tokens of achievement, such as badges or ribbons. The main thing, though, is to notice, acknowledge and appreciate the child’s efforts.
Shyness Shouldn’t Get in the Way of Learning Music
Not all piano students need to perform or give recitals. But, musicians should feel confident and comfortable playing in ensembles or sharing music with friends and family. As a music teacher, you will play a significant role in helping your students feel self-assured when they play in a group.
Katherine, who outgrew shyness, today wonders how life might have been different had she found a way to feel comfortable performing. Perhaps she would have become a teacher. Maybe her memories of playing the piano wouldn’t be tinged with sadness.
A Progressive Program That Builds Mastery
If you’re a teacher looking for a curriculum that supports students in developing skills and confidence, contact Harmony Road Music Course. We have a proven method that will help you become the best possible teacher.