Why you should let your child “try an instrument” this summer!

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Why you should let your child “try an instrument” this summer!

by Jan Caimano – Associate Director, The Ridgewood Conservatory

As Associate Director of The Ridgewood Conservatory with a degree in Elementary Education, my main focus is to oversee and develop the educational components of our many programs. When I originally created our summer ‘Try an Instrument’ program 20 years ago, I had three different goals in mind:

> The first was to help parents determine if their five, six and seven-year-olds were ready to study an instrument.

> The second was to help incoming third or fourth graders become familiar with their new instruments and gain confidence before starting group lessons in a school music program.

> The third was to enable kids, tween and teens (and even adults!) to try out any instrument before making a commitment to rent or purchase the instrument and sign up for lessons.

After hundreds of children and adults have tried out musical instruments in our program, I’m proud to say that we’ve achieved our objectives. Many of our ‘Try an Instrument’ students have discovered their passion for music. Some have gone on to study music in college, and quite a few have become professional musicians. The program does more than offer lessons in music. It offers lessons in life….


Most children compare themselves to others – leading to feelings of competition rather than confidence.

As a mom, I became well aware of the pitfalls of starting children on an instrument before they were really ready. My own son, Ben, started group piano lessons at age five. He did just fine in the first few weeks while plunking notes with just one hand – but as soon as he saw some of the other children master playing with both hands while he struggled, he absolutely refused to continue lessons. His self-esteem had taken a big hit, and it was four years before we got him back to the piano! On the other hand, this same child begged to learn to play the flute. The non-competitive environment of private instruction gave Ben the chance to learn at his own rate and gain confidence in his ability to master new skills and eventually make beautiful music.

The same tendency to compare holds true for older children. School programs teach music in a group setting. The result is often that those who catch on immediately soon become bored while the teacher helps the rest of the group, and the slower learners become discouraged as they try to catch up.

Motivation to learn is more important to success than how quickly your younger child masters a skill.

As parents, we all know that some of our children learn quickly, while others take time to absorb and assimilate, regardless of talent or natural ability. Success on an instrument isn’t determined by the speed in which you learn – but by the motivation to learn and the love of making music.

Our Try an Instrument program offers three 30-minute lessons scheduled on consecutive days.* After those three lessons, your five, six or seven-year-old will not only get to know what it takes to make music on their instrument, he or she will be able to play simple songs. Your child will come away with a feeling of success, and consequently be more motivated to learn. Just as important to you as a parent, after those first three lessons you’ll know if your child is ready to study music, and if that’s the right instrument on which to begin.

By offering caring one-on-one instruction from our faculty of world-class virtuosi performers/educators, our summer Try an Instrument program gives your younger child the opportunity to maximize the success (and minimize the frustration!) of learning to play an instrument.

Confidence is the key to continued success.

If your older child is entering a school mus program in September, our program can provide a valuable “jump-start” to enable him or her to join the class with increased confidence. Over the years, we’ve discovered that by getting familiar with the instrument they’ve chosen before beginning group lessons or band practice, our Try an Instrument students are more likely to continue to practice and enjoy musical study. Whether or not they go on to study privately with us after school (and we hope they will!), parents report that their tweens show more confidence about their ability to master an instrument and be successful in music class after taking just three private lessons from a dedicated professional musician.

Choose an instrument that “speaks” to your child, rather than one you like best.

At The Ridgewood Conservatory, we’ve discovered that most student-musicians will only devote the time to practicing and mastering an instrument that they themselves love – which is often not the instrument their parents might have chosen for them.

My husband, Lou, believes a student should first and foremost love the sound of the instrument they choose, as well as enjoy listening to the genre of music in which they are most likely to hear that instrument. As a therapist, I’ve found that students often choose an instrument that fits their self-image: girls often choose to play the light, airy-sounding flute or violin, while boys often ask to play the stronger-sounding saxophone or trumpet. Kids who see themselves as rockers will gravitate to drums, electric guitars or bass. Those who love to sing and compose often prefer to learn piano or guitar so they can accompany themselves as they progress. Tweens and teens searching to make their own mark might be attracted to the less commonly studied instruments such as oboe, bassoon, French horn or cello. The possibilities for choosing the right instrument are endless, and our school is more than prepared to help them learn any instrument they choose!

If you have a child who would love to play an instrument but is having trouble identifying the one that most “speaks” to them, or have a talented child already studying music who wants to play a second or third instrument, our Try an Instrument program will offer them an opportunity to get a feel for the instrument(s) before they make a commitment to study, and before you invest the time or money.

Summertime is the perfect time to try an instrument.

The Ridgewood Conservatory’s Try an Instrument program is offered in our summer session to enable the greatest flexibility in scheduling lessons. It’s a great time of year for children, tweens and teens to “try an instrument on for size” – to experiment with something new, discover hidden talents, and have fun with music – before school and afterschool activities take up all of their time in the Fall.

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At The Ridgewood Conservatory, we are very proud of our reputation for providing the highest level of music instruction to students of all ages and levels. Stop in anytime to take a tour of our beautiful school, conveniently located just off Route 17 in Ridgewood NJ. To find out more about our Try an Instrument program or to schedule lessons this summer, call us at 201-676-9820 or email info@ridgewoodconservatory.org.

*Two 45-minute lessons are offered to older children and adults.

Click here for details on our Try an Instrument program!