“Raising Musical Kids: A Guide for Parents” by Robert Cutietta
“Musical children are not born — they are raised.”
So begins one of the greatest resources I’ve come across for parents (and teachers!) who want to give children the best chance to maximize their musical potential, and I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment. As a music teacher, my experience has been that — while some students have more natural aptitude for music, and not all students given the same opportunities will reach the same level of proficiency — the biggest factor contributing to success in music is the commitment of parents to the musical education of their children, and their involvement in that process.
Dr. Robert Cutietta, who is currently the dean of the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, is uniquely qualified to write this book. He describes himself as wearing “four hats”, each of which give him a different perspective on music education. These hats are: (1) professional musician — he knows the music industry through decades of experience as a performer in many styles and settings; (2) music teacher — he has taught music in private settings, in public schools, and at the university level; (3) researcher — he spent more than two decades doing academic research in the field of music education before writing this book; and (4) parent —he has raised three musical children of his own!
The book’s scope ranges from the practical (“Do different instruments require different investments of time and money?“) to the philosophical (“What can music education do for my child?“) to the informative (“What should my child be learning in his music classes at school?“). Each chapter is written clearly and instructively, with the understanding that the book’s audience is primarily made up of parents with little or no musical training themselves. You don’t have to be a musician to be a great musical parent!
Of great benefit to me were chapters addressing the three questions I hear most often in my position as the administrator of a private music school:
- “At what age should my child begin music lessons?” (Chapter 3)
- “What instrument should my child play?” (Chapter 7)
- “How can I get my kid to practice?” (Chapter 8)
Each of these chapters is immensely helpful! The answers to these questions are much more complex than most people imagine, but the author takes great care in explaining all the different factors that go into making those important decisions.
There are a few chapters in this edition (published in 2001) of the book that are slightly outdated, most notably the chapters dealing with music technology. As you might imagine, technology has changed quite a bit in the last ten years! Having recently corresponded with the author, I learned that a new edition is in the works, and I’m sure this will be addressed. In the meantime, this should not deter anyone from buying this book. Most of what is contained in it is timeless information, which will be relevant for many, many years.
Raising Musical Kids has jumped to the top of my list of books to recommend to parents who are considering or currently pursuing a musical education for their children… and not just because I think the chapter titled “Finding a Good Private Teacher” will lead them to my school! This book will be an invaluable resource which parents and teachers will pull down to reference many times over the course of a child’s journey toward musicianship. Buy it here.