MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS
The Midddle School Years are very formative in early adolescent education and development, and even though a student rarely picks a career at this time, the student often knows which subjects she/he likes (loves math, hates English, etc.) The same can happen in music, and it is important to encourage the student to continue on the music pathway to ensure that certain opportunities are available in High School. Keep encouraging the student to try hard in all areas, because what he/she likes or dislikes now might change in a few months. Sometimes the decision to like or not like is based on a single obstacle, and once overcome the student's sense of accomplishment will create more appreciation for the subject.
At this age of development, a TV commercial actually explains it best. A brother says to his sister, "I thought you hated math." Her response, "I did because I didn't understand it. Now that I understand it, it's easy and I kinda like it." Sometimes being among the ones who "know" and "can do" is all it takes to create interest in a subject.
MIDDLE SCHOOL BEGINNERS: Starting a music instrument in the middle school years is difficult, simply because the student is often involved in many other conflicting activities (sports, cheerleading, dance class, boy/girl scouts, church activities, school play, etc.). Before diving into music as yet another activity, please make sure it fits your lifestyle and schedule. If your early adolescent is begging for lessons (regardless of the reason), you very well might have to require that she/he quit something else in order to have time for this new project. If it is your desire to start your son/daughter in music, make sure you understand your reasons very well, and that you are not setting her/him up to fail. Also, at this age students are considered adults from the standpoint of teaching materials. Click on ADULT BEGINNERS and ADULT LEARNING for more information regarding the age of the beginner student.
MIDDLE SCHOOL MUSIC: There are many musical activities available at the Middle School level which may or may not have been available before: band, orchestra, chorus and sometimes a school musical. In most cases the opportunities are multi-tiered in structure: several levels of band, chorus vs. solo in the play, etc. Participation in a middle school level music activity is often required for the student to enter the parallel activity in High School, and with this middle school background the student usually can advanced directly to the highest level performing group in the Freshman year.
OUTSIDE MUSIC: There are many performance opportunities for music students outside the private lesson studio and school, in which every student should attempt to participate: church choir, Children's Festival Chorus, Symphonette, etc. All these activities have auditions, and a minimal level requirement to join. Generally, these types of outside musical activities are not available to students who do not study privately (primarily because only through private lessons will a student advance sufficiently to meet their minimum level requirements), and they will not accept students who are too old for the level.
ADVANCING THROUGH MIDDLE SCHOOL: Most students start lessons while in Elementary School, but it is the middle school years that prove to be the most trying. Those students who start later than average (older than age 8) or have not progressed adequately in the earlier years, will often be in a position of wanting or needing to catch up to their peers who seem to be more advanced. (This is important for instrument students wanting to enter the same performance ensembles their friends are in.) Some students may find that the effort required by their music teacher is too much (whether the student is catching up, or merely at a level advanced enough to require more work). If the student has not completed the KMI Core Curriculum prior to entering middle school, this should be made a priority for completion prior to entering High School, in order to ensure availability of many opportunities for participation in High School level musical activities.
KEEPING INTEREST ALIVE: Other new and interesting activities seem to be luring the student away from boring old music ("the grass is greener over the fence" effect). Keeping your middle school student focused and committed to music will be some of the most trying years in your early adolescent's education. A "too stern" approach might create negative feelings, a "too relaxed" approach might allow the student to slip behind so much as to create feelings of "why bother". Constant support, attention and encouragement are required every day, every week and every month. Developing a clear understanding of what is available in the future is one of the best ways to keep a student focused. Take your kids to concerts (professional and youth ensembles). Make sure they participate in recitals every time they are available so they can see other students perform. Visit the websites of the youth performance ensembles, so you can discuss them, show them what other kids are doing, and take them to the concerts. Always create desire to succeed by holding up examples of what they can do in the future (the "carrot" effect: "Won't it be exciting to play in the Three Rivers Young People's Orchestra? They make such wonderful music!") Enroll them in other special music programs such as camp, church choir or Centers. Encourage them to study a second or even a third instrument to increase their exposure, options, and tastes in music (all students prefer ONE instrument over another - even if they like both.) There are many ways to help middle school students keep their interest alive - be sure to consult your teacher regarding these issues.