We all want to know!

Moms of Stillwater
Moms of Stillwater

I think of all the other moms who are planning crafts, baking cake pops, and ACTUALLY playing Simon Says. I commend them. But I am a mere mortal still trying to figure out how to get the dishes done and the laundry folded.

The one thing I do make time for is music.

We get multiple posts regarding music lessons on our Moms of Stillwater Facebook page. I recently sat down with my sons’ piano teacher, Jim Woodhouse to get the scoop. Here’s what he had to say.

  • What age can kids start?
  • Four to 64. Violins come in six different sizes, so students can start as young as four with the Suzuki Method (everything is learned by ear). I find that parents are the ones that get frustrated starting kids too early, expecting more progress than their child is capable of.  It’s a slow go with the younger kids. Patience is the key word. I think 6 is a great age to start students on either piano or violin. Finger dexterity and strength have developed, and they have developed to a point where they can understand the skills need to play an instrument.
  • How do you know when your child is ready to take lessons?
  • They express an interest in taking lessons. I love it when parents tell me that their child said “I want to play piano or violin”. They have seen other people playing, and want to learn.
  • How do you evaluate students’ progress?
  • Every student is different, and I make allowances. I choose music that is at the student’s ability, but is also a challenge. My students play easy, fun songs so that they feel an accomplishment, but also have challenging pieces to improve their skills.
  • What instructional materials do you use?
  • I use the Bastien Piano Method, the Suzuki Violin Method, along with Essential Elements for String. I always supplement with sheet music to give the students fun songs to play. I have never been one to give a student a method book and say, “OK, play the next page for next week’s lesson”.
  • What if you don’t have a piano? Can you use a keyboard?
  • Keyboards are fine; I use them in my studio. Make sure they have full size keys. 88 keys is great, with piano action. 66 is OK, however you will have to switch to a larger key board eventually.
  • How often should kids practice?
  • It depends on the level. 10 minutes twice a day is great for beginners, 20 to 30 minutes a day for older students. Kids have many activities these days. I encourage parents to set aside a time each day for practice. I still remember my mom setting the timer on the stove to practice every day after school!
  • What do you expect of students?
  • Tough question. I expect my students to pay attention during their lesson and to practice at home. They have been given a great opportunity to pursue something that they will enjoy the rest of their lives. I can’t count the number of parents who have said, “I wish my parents had made me continue music lesson.”
  • I love when parents attend lessons, especially with my young students. I tell them, “You are the teacher at home.” It’s great when parents take an interest in the kid’s practice time, reminding them of what we talked about during the lesson, and what they should practice.
  • What is your teaching style?
  • My teaching style is fun, but strict. As I say on my website (musicmanjim.com), Music Is Fun, Music Lessons Should Be, Too. I expect my students to do the best job they are capable of, however not push to hard to discourage. Every student is different, and you have to adapt. Some of my students have gone on to be teachers and/or performers, of which I am very proud. I am equally proud of students who continue to play either in a community orchestra, garage band, or at Great Harvest to get a free fruit drink.

If you would like to find out more please contact Jim Woodhouse at [email protected]

Alicia Donovan is a native of Stillwater. She the mother of two (adorable young) boys. She is devoted to her family, her friends and two dogs. She believes this lovely river town is the best place to raise kids. She is realistic about life, an admitted control freak and loves building the community by connecting with people. She is head organizer and chief of details at Moms of Stillwater.