It is a fairly common idea that in order to become a professional musician a child will have amassed 10,000 hours worth of practice by the time they are starting music school.
When I was a child I did not spend the hours required practising and I am not a concert standard professional musician, so I may well be proof of that statement. Music, and working at the physical, repetitive aspects of music and becoming a musician did not click for me until I was 11 years old. Before then I took music lessons, enjoying performing for my parents or anyone foolish enough to let me play for them, but did not practise. I did, however, learn to love music and that is probably why, although I am not a professional concert or orchestral musician, I am someone who has worked with and around music for most of my working life. I put that down to a couple of things:
Firstly, I grew up in a house full of music, art, drama and books. My whole family is very arty. We had music on a lot at home, in the car, everywhere. If I think back to my childhood, some of my happiest memories are associated with music – my mum putting on one of her favourite songs “Open the door and come on in” by Judy Collins, and playing it loud while we sang along or danced around to the song. My parents’ large collection of vinyl records, quite a lot of it from my dad’s job as a young man of being a sales rep for a record distributor.
Secondly, when I started taking instrumental lessons I started, as many children do, at around 6 with the violin. My teacher Mr Vandolin had a rather unconventional approach to learning music, which my parents did not find out about until some time into my lessons. He would get me to play a little in each class, but what he would also do is play the violin in the lessons himself and ask me to dance along to the music. When he talked to my parents about his approach he told them that what he was trying to do was not only teach children how to play one instrument, but also instill a love of music in them.
I do not play the violin (I never practised you see, and eventually went through failed guitar classes as well before the flute finally clicked with me in the first year at Senior School), but I remember those classes; I remember my first music teacher, and most importantly I do have a love of music. Learning a musical instrument, as well as being incredibly beneficial for children’s development as a whole, should above all be fun. If it is fun, it is so much easier to stick with the more boring, repetitive work that is needed to be able to play an instrument really well.
Also, not everyone who learns to play a musical instrument will become a professional musician, and nor should that be the aim. Some people love to play an instrument to relax, some love to listen to music at home or in a concert hall (when we can finally go back). However people enjoy or use music, it is equally valid and all starts, I believe, with developing a love of music.