Ethan chose to play the trombone aged 7 when he and his family were in Australia. Since then his mum, Julie, has supported him on his musical journey, helping him by finding music lessons no less than three times so far! Here she shares with us why she continues to support him and top tips for other parents considering music lessons for their child…
Both my husband Hayden and I play instruments and come from musical backgrounds, so we wanted to encourage our boys to play a musical instrument right from the start. When we lived in Australia, the boys’ school didn’t have a band programme, however they then adopted a new band programme Jan 2018, when Ethan was 7. This was a perfect opportunity for him to start playing an instrument and because we are both brass players, we encouraged him towards this so that we could help and encourage him with an instrument we were both familiar with and could play together!
As part of the band programme Ethan received a weekly trombone lesson at the school and also got to play in an ensemble, so it was relatively straight forward as the programme covered everything he needed to get started.
We didn’t stay in Australia however and returned to the UK to Devon in the summer of 2018, which meant I then had to go about finding a new teacher for him to continue his lessons and keep making progress. My first port of call was the school, so I spoke to the music co-ordinator to enquire about lessons. Although the school had peripatetic teachers at the school, they didn’t have any brass teachers, so this was a little more challenging! However, the music co-ordinator was really helpful and found a local brass teacher, arranging for them to come to the school to give Ethan lessons. This was great, however it did of course mean we felt we had to fully commit to the lessons as they had been arranged especially for him.
In Summer 2019 Ethan was invited to go to the local orchestra at the high school which had been set up by teachers in the area a couple of years prior. He went to the rehearsals for an hour a week on Tuesday after school, which he loved as playing with children in an orchestral setting was lots of fun.
He quickly realised by seeing all the instruments in an orchestra playing together how his weekly lessons impacted on what he brought to the performances. What a great motivator it was to watch him perform in his first concert with the orchestra.
Following our recent move to Bristol, I had to start the music lesson search process for a third time! The school had already offered music lessons for a range of instruments before we transferred which was fantastic, but similarly they had no brass offering at the Junior School.
I spoke to the music co-ordinator who was very enthusiastic and helpful, and we found a teacher before too long. Ethan now goes to the Upper School for his lessons and the school have been supportive and flexible in fitting in the lessons around his normal day.
Working with his current teacher is great, but Ethan does miss playing in an ensemble, so we are currently investigating possibilities of ensembles both within school and the local community.
I often get asked how hard is it to get Ethan to practice! Our approach with everything in learning is a little and often, and we apply the same thing to his music practice. When we get home in the evening, Ethan goes straight to do his practice while I hang up coats, sort schools bags and get the dinner on, and then by the time I’ve done that he’s done his practice and can sit down for his tea and he still has the evening left. Because we have a set routine, it actually hasn’t taken him long to start to see the benefits of a little and often, and because he doesn’t have to practice for lengthy periods of time it keeps his interest.
Ethan really enjoys playing; he is a really sociable character who although he doesn’t want to be the centre of attention he gets so much joy out of playing with his friends as part of a group. From my perspective, Ethan is actually a fifth generation brass player (no pressure Ethan!) and we have been really lucky in that over Christmas we were all able to play together as a family, which was a first and so lovely, but also I got to see him play in the band at my sister’s wedding – a really proud mum moment with three generations playing in the same band.
Ethan is now currently working towards taking his first grade, we’re looking for an ensemble for him to join and his playing is improving all the time. I am so delighted he has a positive attitude towards his music lessons, they are helping him develop and he is improving constantly.
Being a brass player myself I would of course advocate a) brass playing and b) getting individual tuition. It can sometimes be tricky to find lessons or a teacher in which case you can ask your music co-ordinator at the school or of course approach your local music hub for their help and advice. I would say that as a parent it can be hard starting any new activity with your children, however that does not mean it’s not well worth doing!
If you are looking for lessons near you, you may find the information on our music lessons page helpful.