One of the most beautiful things about getting children involved in music is that it teaches them the art of working towards a goal. Not everything in life comes easily, and as adults we often have to complete multiple steps before we reap the rewards of our efforts for a countless number of things! One of the many joys of music is that music performances highlight the hard work and dedication of singers, helping them develop a sense of pride in their work while providing an audience with a worthwhile experience.
However, if you are the director of a children’s choir or the parent of a child who participates in a children’s choir, you may know that getting your child to actually practice their music outside of rehearsal time can be a challenge. Even if a young person loves choir, there are many different distractions that can lead to a lack of practice. So, what do you do to help motivate kids to put in the work?
One of the first things that comes to mind when it comes to helping kids learn the value of practicing their music outside of rehearsal is giving incentives for doing so. While it might be tempting to say you’ll buy a new toy or hand out a piece of candy every time they practice, truthfully this isn’t practical whether you are a parent or a member of the music staff.
For today’s child, there are some fun ways to incentivize practice without dipping into the candy jar. For example, there is a huge trend towards “gamifying” the learning experience. Whether you create a weekly team challenge with your choir members to see who logs the most practice minutes or you give individual rewards for young singers who put in the work, creating a “game” experience can create some natural motivation for kids to practice.
The Parent/Music Staff Connection
An important aspect of motivating kids to practice their music is making sure that there is plenty of communication between parents and music staff about practice expectations. Just like a director expects singers to show up to rehearsals and give their best effort, so too directors likely need young singers to spend time on their music outside of rehearsal.
As a parent, it might be important to ask your child’s music director:
- How long a child’s practice session needs to be.
- If there are deadlines for learning music.
- Whether there are practice tracks to use at home, or if rehearsals be recorded for at-home use.
As a director, you want to communicate with parents:
- The whole song doesn’t need to be learned at once. Give specific musical practice areas.
- How many minutes per day or week a child should be practicing their music.
- When you need children to be off-book/performance-ready.
If parents and music staff have a clear understanding of the expectations for practicing music, it will be much easier to develop a team effort around motivating young singers to practice outside of rehearsal time.
Another great way to motivate young singers to practice is to invest in a rehearsal app that creates a fun and engaging experience during practice time. There are many apps out there today that offer colorful, easy-to-use platforms that track the number of minutes a student practices, include a leaderboard against other singers in the choir, offer options to add rehearsal recordings and playback features, and help music staff and parents know the quality of a singer’s practice time outside of rehearsal. A couple of practice apps that might be worth exploring if you don’t already use one are Tonara and Modacity. There are many others available as well!
Don’t Force It
One final point when it comes to motivating kids is that it’s important not to force kids to practice all the time. Yes, it’s important to emphasize the importance of practicing and help young singers understand what the end result will be. However, forcing students to practice their music whenever there is a spare moment can be exhausting and frustrating.
One great way to help motivate young singers to practice is to set dedicated practice time just like you would set up time for schoolwork. 15 minutes here and 25 minutes there can actually go a long way to keep kids interested in singing without it feeling like a chore. Scheduled intervals that aren’t too long can also be a big help for young singers who have a short attention span!
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to motivate kids to practice their music. Each child will have that one thing that sparks their interest and helps make practicing a joyful occasion. The best way to motivate young singers is a collaborative effort between parents, music staff, and the singer themselves to ensure success!
Do you have any tips as a parent or a director for what motivates your young singer to practice their music outside of rehearsal time? Let us know in the comments!
Amanda Carroll currently teaches middle school chorus and general music in North Carolina. She is a member of Carolina Style Chorus and Sweet Adelines International and is a non-performing member of Womansong of Asheville. She has Master of Music and Master of Public Administration degrees from Appalachian State University. Her background includes singing with large and small ensembles, as well as solo work and teaching private lessons. She is passionate about creating meaningful concerts and connecting with the community through performance.