by Lorel Kane


Founder, Prelude Music Classes for Children

Owner, Vanover Music Academy

Editor's Note: Straight from the Source is a series. These Question and Answer sessions allow readers access to the thoughts of Houston's top experts.

       Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is probably the best known child prodigy in the world of music. He began learning piano at three years old, composing his first piece at the advanced age of five.
       Not all children can be prodigies, but all children are musical, according to Ana Trevino-Godfrey, the founder of Prelude Music, a program at Houston's Motherhood Center, that introduces young children to music beginning as infants. Trevino-Godfrey says studies show that babies in the womb can hear, so exposing them to music before birth is a great start. And after birth, "As soon as mom is ready to leave the house, sign up for a music class."
        At Prelude Music, Trevino-Godfrey teaches a curriculum called Music Together®. It begins with parents singing to their babies in class and out. As the child gets older he or she learns about rhythm using a variety of instruments. "We have a window of time, when a child can really pick up something with an absorbent mind. We know for music it's really between the ages of zero to around six," Trevino-Godfrey said. 
       Even by the age of three-and-a-half many children already have what she calls musical competence, the ability to sing in tune and move to a beat. Exposing children to singing and rhythm not only instills an early love of music, it affects the rest of their young lives. "It helps with memory, focus, concentration and social development," Trevino-Godfrey said. It also prepares them to tackle an instrument when the time is right. 

      When is the right time? turned to ELIZABETH VANOVER, the founder and director of Vanover Music Academy, which offers private lessons in piano, violin, guitar and voice, for some advice on that.

ParentsPost: How do you know when your child is ready for instruments lessons?

ELIZABETH VANOVER: You can't really pinpoint an age, especially with all the different instruments we do. We have a lot of parents who come in just because their child bangs on the piano. You can't even really say that a three-year-old isn't ready or a seven-year-old is, just because of age.

ParentsPost: What criteria do you use to decide whether a child is ready?

ELIZABETH VANOVER: That varies from instrument to instrument. With piano, attention plays a large part. Also,ugg pas cher children need to know their letters from A to G. By the time most children are five they know that. If they don't know their letters, it's not time. They also need to know their left hand from right hand with piano. Some eight-year-olds have trouble with that. Typically for guitar, the starting age is around eight-years-old. The strength in their fingers has to be there. For violin, too, but not quite as much.

ParentsPost: What's the best instrument to start with?

ELIZABETH VANOVER: I personally think piano is the best. There's more instant gratification. It doesn't matter how you hit the notes, it's going to play. And with piano you are learning music theory, which helps when you want to move on to some other instrument.

ParentsPost: If a child is ready for music lessons, what questions should parents be asking when looking for a music teacher?

ELIZABETH VANOVER: They should always meet with the prospective teacher. You want to see what the place is like, you want to know the teacher's credentials and education, and talk to other parents. A lot of parents ask about methods. There are so many methods, but they all end up in the same place. You learn the notes and how to read music on the staff. We tend to adapt to each individual student.

ParentsPost: How do you customize the lessons?

ELIZABETH VANOVER: Just meeting a child, knowing the age, experience. Showing them some things, asking them questions, you can tell how they are picking up on things. And that can help you determine which method. Sometimes you try something and it's not working like you thought it would. You have to pick up and do it a different way.

ParentsPost: What about private versus group lessons?

ELIZABETH VANOVER: Private. A lot of these group lessons are going to be based on age. Enough individual attention can't be given and you don't want to slow someone down or hold someone back.

ParentsPost: Is there ever a moment when you say music isn't right, this kid needs to do something else?

ELIZABETH VANOVER: I know there's a level of frustration for parents when their child doesn't want to practice. Some parents just say that's it.air max pas cher We've tried it. Let's move on. Sometimes just finding a way to make it rewarding helps. I'll add some different music and that sometimes sparks interest. If they're old enough, change instruments or add an instrument. Sometimes they just need to take a break and come back after a few months. Music has so many positive aspects to it, but a lot of times that's not recognized until the child is much older. I have more people say when they're older how grateful they are to know how to play. It gives them a life-long appreciation of music.

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