As music teachers we can help parents to support music students.
I am a Father of two boys and navigating all that they need to do in life and at school can be really tricky. They are still young, but keeping up with curriculum changes, homework and “where they should be at” isn’t easy. This is what led me to start thinking about the parents of the students I teach. What must it be like to be a parent of a musician? Do they understand what is needed to help their sons & daughters achieve? How can I help parents to support music students?
Empowering Parents to support Music Students
This year I want to help parents more, which will lead to students getting even more support. I don’t just mean giving parents permission to be “supportive” because I know that the parents I work with are supportive of their kids. What I want to do is empower parents with ideas that are linked to GCSE & A-Level music. Hopefully these ideas will ring true with you and you might like to share them with your parents. I have organised a meeting for my GCSE parents so I can take them through all of this in person
Top Tips for Parents
- The best thing a parent can do is be an audience for their son or daughter. Performing is a crucial part of both GCSE & A-Level and so I am going to encourage all my parents to sit down and listen to their child perform at least once a week.
- Parents can support music students by encouraging them to practice as much as possible. Reinforcing the value of practice to parents is crucial. I am thinking of getting a student to demo what good practice looks like when I have my meeting with parents!
- Parents should listen to the set-works in the anthology and ask their son or daughter to explain the pieces. This could be over dinner one evening. They might not understand all the key terms, but it will get the student talking about music. It will be clear to the parent if their child actually understands the piece or knows anything about it.
- Parents can support students by taking them to hear music being played live. This is often more affordable than it might seem and it will really help support them. Not only is it great for the ears, but it provides valuable wider listening opportunities.
- Parents can help support GCSE students by ensuring that they are having instrumental or vocal lessons outside of school. Alongside this parents should make sure they meet with the peripatetic teacher to make sure they know that their child is studying GCSE or A-level Music.
- Having a list of Key Musical Terms stuck to the fridge is an easy win! Parents can then support students by testing them on theses key terms. Constant reminders of words will really help them to embed in their brains.
- Parents need to know that it doesn’t matter if they are not “musical” whatever that means! If they don’t play an instrument or read music then that can still help. I think it is about breaking down this barrier and empowering them. There is plenty they can do, and frankly they often do it for other subjects! A parent might not have studied geography at school, but they will still help with geography homework!
- This might be specific to me, but I find that a really practical thing parents can do is ensure that their child has a good set of headphones. These will be used in class during composition work and can be used to listen to music and block out other sounds. They do not need to be mega expensive, they just need to be good enough quality to last and sound reasonably good.
- Another practical thing parents can do, particularly for Advanced level, is provide a music streaming service for their child – Apple Music or Spotify. Paying a monthly subscription will get rid of the adverts and help the student focus on the music. Wider Listening is crucial and so much easier when they can just search for anything.
- Finally I plan to share mark schemes with parents and de-mystify them as much as possible. I want parents to know what to listen out for when they perform, how to comment on essay and how to understand a little more about composition. Leaving all this to the students or to chance isn’t good enough. I want parents to know what a mark means and be able to help their son/daughter make progress.
Above are some thoughts that I will be sharing with parents. I am going to start with GCSE and then work out what I do for A-Level. A simple email home or a PDF to all parents might suffice. I think we need to work as a team around the students to ensure that they succeed. But of course the most crucial thing is that the student does the hard work!