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Music Practice Time Turns Into Playtime

I have absolutely no knowledge of music, short of a deep love for it. But when our daughters were born, we decided to give them the gift of music. We listened to classical music at mealtime, in the car, and as background music while reading.

When they were 3 and 5, the girls started music lessons. We chose the Suzuki method. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for.

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I had to learn each piece of music with them. The first songs were easy, but only as far as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Soon, the entire family was involved. My husband wrote the names of the notes above each note, then I would learn the piece and we would practice together.

Soon it became evident that I was slowing my daughters down!

Gradually, my role became less and less. The girls took off on their own, but not without encouragement and a high degree of creative imagination on my part. I became adept at keeping the practices fun and their love of music alive.

We turned practice time into play time.

At a handicraft shop, we bought an unfinished floral picture with ready-cut felt shapes. For every section of their music that they learned to play correctly, they would choose one part of the picture to make. Our walls are still adorned with many of these pictures.

If they had a difficult piece to learn, they would choose a small gift from a favorite shop and it was put on a high shelf. On the day they learned the music, it was their prize. We have many soft cuddly toys named after composers that commemorate their successes.

We went through packets of Smarties candies poised on musical lines as notes. Each time they got the note right they could eat one. As it turned out, the Smarties inspired the girls to become wonderful sight readers.

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My husband and I also looked for ways to make ballet, opera, and orchestra concerts fun. Before each performance, we would listen to a tape of the music until we all knew it well. Then we would learn the story and all the characters. By the time we got there, the music and story were so familiar that we sat glued to the seats.

We also had musical parties and invited friends who played an instrument to come and give little concerts (even some parents took part). At Christmas, we cut a green card in the shape of a Christmas tree. For every piece they played, each child would decorate the tree. They soon became confident performers in front of others.

Now they are teenagers, and all those games gave them a great start to their musical careers. The day came when I no longer needed to think of new things to make practicing fun. We actually had to get each of them a piano on different sides of the house to avoid arguments over who got to play first.

And as for my husband, he is now their music agent.

But the best reward is having two children endowed with the gift of music and our house filled constantly with it.

Marta Greenwood is a mother of two budding musicians in Weybridge, England.

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