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Piano Lessons in Early Childhood

An article in the May Etude entitled "When to begin the study of the Pianoforte,'' advances ideas so totally opposite to my experience in sixteen years' teaching, that I would like to give a few facts on the other side of the question. I have pupils, who commenced with me at the age of seven years, who are now twenty-one; others, now fourteen or fifteen, who are far ahead of the most conscientious workers who have begun later in life, but who can never attain to the same facility of execution, and whose constant cry is, "Oh, if I had only begun when I was a child!"
 
A child beginning at seven, before school duties begin to be very burdensome, gets a good start, learns the rudiments and gets over the drudgery, so to speak, of pianoforte playing before the home study of day-school lessons with their consumption of time begins. Almost unconsciously they have laid a good foundation of technic, and by that time can play sufficiently to enjoy, themselves, the music they produce. From fourteen to seventeen, after they begin to go to the higher schools, I find it almost impossible for pupils to give much attention to music. Hours of practice must be shortened—perhaps lessons reduced from two to one a week—because they are so driven with school work that it is impossible to do more than keep up the proficiency which they had already attained. With every nerve strained to the utmost in the struggle to excel in school, is that a suitable time to commence so hard a study as pianoforte playing? Hard, I mean, to a pupil of that age, but not to a young child who is gently and judiciously led along a pleasant path, step by step, not driven up an inclined plane of instruction books and dry technical exercises.
 
Of course, a child does not always enjoy practice, but several cases have come to my knowledge where children who complained of having to practice, were silenced by the remark that they could stop their lessons.
 
Children do not now, as a general thing, have very much to occupy their time out of school, but play, and it seems to me, a quarter of an hour, three times a day, cannot cut short their amusement in a very injurious manner.
 
If pupils after the age of fifteen have any extra time, it would be far better to devote that time to the study of Musical History, Form, Harmony and Analysis, than to have them then commence at the foot of the ladder.
 
I still hold to the opinion that the proper time for a child to begin the study of the pianoforte is from seven to eight years of age. Virginia A. Howe.

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