By contributing writer Tabitha
I remember learning a lot about music as a child. Some of my siblings tried different instruments through the school music program. It was great for a large family. We had opportunities through the school to try new things and learn music appreciation.
My husband and I homeschool our children, so music through the schools isn’t a viable option for us although I know it is in some communities. We also have a large family and a not-as-large income, so private lessons are not something we can do easily.
That being said, I am happy to say my children have had many wonderful opportunities to learn music appreciation and how to play music themselves, even though we’ve stayed on the frugal side of things. Here are some tips from our experiences for music education on a budget.
- Barter services. There’s a song on “Schoolhouse Rock” that talks about trading/bartering as a way to get what we need or want. So, it’s a history lesson also! We traded my teaching beginner violin to a friend’s children while she taught my children beginner piano. Will either of us have any famous musicians? Probably not. However, both families learned new things about music and instruments and it was fun. One of her children is still playing violin daily and one of my children is still playing piano daily. I’d say that was a successful venture!
- Start small. Many schools use the recorder in early grades as an introduction to music reading and learning to play an instrument. Recorders aren’t expensive and there are many online resources to help teach the notes and fingering. It also can help you learn whether a child is serious about learning music.
- Borrow or rent instead of buy. Many kids’ interests are fleeting and they just aren’t going to stick with the same instrument for a long time. Experiment. Let them try out something for a bit by either borrowing or renting. That way if they turn out to not love an instrument, the cost hasn’t broken the bank.
- Go to free concerts. Sometimes the love of music is born but not the desire to play an instrument. Free concerts are more often than you think, especially if you live in a college town or a big city. There are so many student recitals and community bands that play for the love of music.
- Sing! Your voice is free! Even if you and your children don’t have perfect voices, there is a joy to be found in being a part of a group and singing your heart out. Many churches have choirs for adults and children and there are also community choruses. They will help you learn what you need to know and there is a wonderful sense of belonging to a group.
- Use the library as a resource. The library can provide community information for musical groups, less expensive lessons given by students, CDs and music to check out and learn what you like and don’t like, and many resources to teach/learn music history and appreciation.
- Take online courses. Online is where one of my high school students is taking a course on music history. It is great because the different periods of music are represented through online links to examples of each kind of music and each composer’s pieces.
- Check out Craigslist, eBay, and freecycle. These and other community swap/sell sites are sometimes a great deal. One of my sons is looking for a guitar, and this is one of the areas we are searching. We found an old piano for free, though not through these resources, in a similar manner. While it is not the best, it is a piano.
- Request musical gifts. Sometimes friends and family don’t know what to give your children for the holidays or birthdays. What a great idea it is to ask for a music lesson or two or even an electronic keyboard. These are also things that work to give to others.
- Share your own musical experience. This has had a great impact on my children. As our kids grew, we noticed that they started out mostly listening to artists and music genres that we listened to ourselves. What happened next was amazing. They branched out to similar or dissimilar music that spoke to them, and then shared it with us.When they saw us practicing instruments or getting ready to participate in a musical event for church or the community, they realized they’d like to learn an instrument, and they worked for that goal. My husband’s and my musical learning, while different and widespread, was passed on to our children. They listened and watched. And while it certainly didn’t cost us anything, I think it was a lesson that was most valuable to us all.
Overall, I think that a love of music has been passed down in our family. Our listening choices are eclectic and varied, and we see that reflected in our children’s taste in music as well. Our experiences in orchestras, marching bands, and choirs have also been shared and we see them try new things and figure out their own way in the musical world around them.
While our budget is small, our experiences are many and our aspirations are immeasurable. Even if we don’t produce the world’s next virtuoso, our family all loves music and that was worth any amount of our time and effort. I hope your experiences