Music is something that can be difficult for parents to track their children’s progress in, especially if they have not studied music themselves. Unlike nearly all other academic or extracurricular pursuits, music is not a singular skill; it requires a combination and balance of intellectual understanding, emotional intelligence, and fine muscle control. Each of these areas need to be developed, and it is common for many students to have this development occur at different rates.
The intellectual understanding of music takes time and experience to fully grasp, and is multilayered itself, with rhythm, melody, and harmony. By just being around music in a consistent and guided manner, children begin to digest these concepts. In other words, the marker of improvement should not be the ability to play a piece of certain difficulty correctly, but rather to be fully engaged and involved in each class and practice session. The fruits of this experience will show themselves as they grow.
As for fine muscle control, children are small with bodies that are rapidly changing. Just as most kids handwriting is not the neatest, the finger techniques of children is a challenge for most. This is totally normal! Though they may have trouble with difficult fingerings or passages now, the early start will allow them the flexibility and muscle control to excel when their physical growth arrives. This applies to the voice as well; though it will undoubtedly change with time, the ability to hear pitches and match them with the voice is translatable through a lifetime.
Lastly there comes emotional understanding, which can take years to truly understand and master. For most people, this won’t come until later in the process. However, listening to a wide variety of musical styles and performers provides a well of references to later draw from, which is of utmost importance.
As a teacher, I have seen countless real life examples of a students “progress” being slow and minimal, to jumping forward in a matter of weeks once the body and the mind have caught up to each other.
It is important for parents to remember that when it comes to children and music, even though it may not be visible, progress is always happening when they remain involved and engaged in each musical experience.
Enjoy getting to watch and hear the journey of your young artist!