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If you’ve ever thought about putting your child in music lessons, give yourself a pat on the back. Raymond Goodrich II, a lifelong musician and store owner, says to do otherwise borders on parental neglect.

The National Association of Music Merchants, also known as NAMM, cites numerous studies that find children trained in music do better in motor skills, school grades, speech, hearing and more.

“As a parent, I think it’s our responsibility to expose them to the opportunity to play music,” said Goodrich, the second-generation president of Lafayette Music Company. “There’s one study that got down to DNA and showed there are switches that turn our stress on and off.

“They have figured out if you participate in music, three to four years consistently, it’s going to take three or four of those switches and permanently turn them to the off position.

“Music takes you to a better place. You don’t get that elsewhere.”

Goodrich is among countless enthusiasts who encourage a life lived in music. But parents often ask, “When is my child ready for lessons?”

Local teachers say there is no magic age. Many children start in the fifth grade with school bands. Others begin private lessons as young as the first grade or kindergarten.

But more important than age, the child must have a keen interest in music and be willing to practice for the long haul.

Brazos Huval has taught more than 1,000 children in 10 years at his Breaux Bridge school. Students learn, by ear, to play the accordion, fiddle, guitar, drums, saxophone and more.

But Huval said the students and parents must be interested and committed.

“Kids can develop an interest in the music,” said Huval, who plays bass with the Grammy-nominated Cajun band, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. “Some parents come, drop off their kids and say, ‘We want to try it for a month.’ That aint’ gonna happen.

“They’ll get through some basics. But if they don’t have an interest, it won’t work. Give it six months or a year, that’ll be much better.”

Charlie Gaithe, a touring guitarist and songwriter for 27 years and teacher for 15 years, believes 6 or 7 is a good age for children to start. Gaithe begins with a test lesson to assess a child’s posture, movements and attention span.

“We’ll sit down and see if they’re physically capable of holding a guitar and playing some parts on the instrument,” said Gaithe. “Generally, my lessons are 30 minutes.

“But I’d say 20 minutes is the window when you’re really learning stuff, especially with younger kids. I keep focus on their eyes and body language. That generally will tell me if they’re still focused in on what I’m talking about.”

Proceed Online With Caution

Resources for music lessons are numerous, including countless choices on the Internet. A search for “music lessons” on YouTube brings 154 million results.

But local teachers urge parents to be cautious with online resources. Many teach bad habits that can set students back.

“A lot of times, a kid will say, ‘I learned a song today. I picked up the chords online,” said Huval. “It’s totally wrong. We have to go back to the drawing board and start out the song the right way.

“You can get the chords online. But 80 percent of the time, they’re not right. We have to do a lot of corrections.”

Gaithe and Goodrich have also corrected numerous errors learned online. Gaithe says nothing beats the instant feedback and direction of a live instructor.

Don’t Stop The Music

Once a child starts music lessons, teachers urge parents to keep going. Peaks and valleys are part of the learning process and times for parents to be encouraging.

Owen Meche, left, receives fiddle tips from music teacher Brazos Huval.

“The ones that do well, not only are they into the music,” said Huval. “But they’re taking their instrument home and practicing.

“They listen to live music. They go out and listen to bands. That’s how we all learned.”

Gaithe hopes that positive reinforcement goes beyond music.

“I try to make them be aware of their language and thoughts. You’d be surprised how much that changes them. Sometimes they’re not even aware that’s coming up in their vocabulary.

“They don’t, can’t, won’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t. ‘That won’t happen’ or ‘That’s too hard.’ All of those carry a lot of weight.

“When you get rid of that, miracles can happen. It transfers over into life.”


Reprinted by permission of the author Herman Fuselier

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