Caption: our program director, Zaneta at age 10 practicing with her dad

When you tend a garden, the joy you get from the process doesn’t come about very quickly. Nope – the gratification comes with time, patience, and hard work. You don’t expect the plants to rise out of the ground instantaneously. That would be a miracle (and probably terrifying!). Nor do you attempt to make plants grow more quickly than they naturally would.

Similarly, when you learn music at any age or level, you can’t expect overnight miracles. You have to plant the seeds carefully and mindfully, and tend to learning by practicing consistently and patiently. You can’t put pressure on the process and expect it to move faster. Especially with children, it’s all in the method and manner that you work with them, and help them gain inspiration and ability over longer periods of time.

There is a myth that the gift of music is something you are born with – either you have it or you don’t. There are certainly rare cases of prodigious children playing like Herbie Hancock or composing like Mozart at early ages. Even they have to practice, no matter how easily music comes to them. But the vast majority of musicians out there – those who play professionally and those who play just for fun – learned by planting good seeds and tending to them carefully. They learned by experience and slow growth.

So what’s the true gift of music? To give your child – and yourself – the time, space, and adequate resources to grow naturally. To have a good teacher who cares about the connection their students make with music, and is mindful of the need to balance skills and creativity. After all, what is the purpose of making music? Is it to show off and display physical talent? Maybe for some. But they are missing out on one of the greatest delights life has to offer – connecting with others and with their own feeling of inspiration, through their own genuine, natural, perfectly imperfect music.

When each song learned and each technique mastered is a celebration in itself, rather than part of a list to check off. When you feel the happiness of playing, no matter how well you’ve played. When you are in the present moment making sounds together with friends. These are the times you are planting the seeds of music. With the right balance of effort and patience, these seeds will grow into a beautiful practice that will bring you joy year after year.