Remember that children aged 6-10 tend to have a very narrow view of what ‘music’ is. So far, they have really only experienced classroom singing and whatever artists you enjoy listening to at home. If you would like your child to take more interest in music, take time to explore different styles and different instruments with them and look out for what gets a strong reaction. As well as listening to classical, rock, pop, jazz, film and choral music, watch videos online of people playing instruments and name them together so your child starts to build a picture of how an orchestra, rock band and choir are built and which instruments make the sounds they are most attracted to.
Your primary school child is the perfect age to begin taking weekly lessons on an instrument so once you’ve identified the main candidates, see what opportunities are available through their school. There might be group lessons or a guitar/keyboard club, for example. Schools also increasingly offer ukulele lessons, steel pans and world drumming so listen out for what’s inspiring your kids at school and see if there is a ready made opportunity you can help them to make the most of.
All good music shops will be able to point you in the right direction for private teachers of many different instruments and be able to help you choose someone who is good with children. Often, teachers can offer taster lessons or a meet-up where you and your child can get to know more about them and the instrument they teach to make sure it’s the right one. Also, consider rental schemes through school or your local music shop if you are concerned about buying an instrument straight away. Many children dabble with several instruments before settling on the right one(s) for them.
Playing an instrument isn’t the only route into music. Your child might prefer to sing in a choir or join a stage school to explore their musical potential. Dance is another great creative outlet, and often leads to taking up an instrument later on.
Back in 2008, I wrote a blog about how gender stereotypes affect young people before they even play their first note and the influences of parents, peers and the media on choosing an instrument (Read ‘What’s The Right Instrument For Your Child’ here). According to a recent study commissioned by the Royal Albert Hall, nearly a decade later, the steering of boys towards ‘masculine’ instruments such as guitars, trumpets and tubas and girls towards more ‘ladylike’ options such as the flute, is still just as common.
So why, when we have come so far in the last 10 years in our general attitude to sexism (women fighting on the frontline for example) do we still feel uncomfortable when a pink and dainty little girl announces she wants to play the drums?
…according to Arts chief Jude Kelly. Speaking at the launch of the Southbank Centre 2014-15 season, Ms Kelly highlighted the recent career of US conductor Marin Alsop who was famously on the receiving end of some shocking sexism when she became the first lady to conduct the Last Night of the Proms last year. Many leading male musicians have made comments indicating that the role of conductor is too physically demanding for women and also implying that females cannot be committed to the shifting life of a musician because of their expected role within a family.
It’s all complete b*****ks of course, since the ability to perform in any role is down to the talent and life choices of every individual. However, we were wondering if any of you lady musicians have ever experienced any hostility from the male musicians you work with? Or what opinion you fellas hold on working with (or under) lady pros? We’d be interested to hear your stories.
There has always been a reasonable percentage of famous musicians (and poets) who have leaned towards drugs either to inspire their art or to escape from it. In the modern age, Ozzy Osbourne, Robbie Williams and most recently, Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse have been in and out of rehab like the proverbial fiddler’s elbow.
And it’s not just the odd spliff which is causing controversy. The increasingly popular genre of ‘gangsta’ rap is full of lyrics glorifying drugs, gun crime and suicide. Like violent computer games, it has been suggested many times that this type of music has more than a passing link to the steady rise in violent crime in the UK. So, is it still ‘music’ or ‘art’ or is it incitement?
Along with drinking excessively, particularly when photos of these antics appear in the press, these factors contribute to the picture of a yobbish ‘don’t care’ attitude adopted by the famous people who are, worryingly, held up as role models and even idols by young people. However, instead of being ostracised, they receive more press coverage, more fame and also, it seems, more recognition within the industry.
So should illegal or immoral behaviour affect the way we treat our music stars or is it entirely separate from their music making? If we decide to stop allowing these people to avoid taking responsibility for their behaviour, is this to be confined to certain ‘crimes’ or should they be banned from the Brits for jumping a red light?