WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DISCOVER YOUR CHILD LOVES MUSIC
By Emmanuel Akapo, Founder, Tenstrings Music Institute
Weighing in on the recent tragic incidents surrounding Davido’s career and his deceased friends, and many other self-destructive creative youths out there, I am pressed to share these thoughts with parents of talented kids and teenagers.
Take this article seriously and secure the future of your child, ignore it and leave his or her destiny in the hands of strangers, including derailed and deranged peers.
I need you to understand that this is coming from a background of many years of experience of working with thousands of musically inclined youths from diverse cultural backgrounds. Over the last decade alone, I’ve had the privilege of working with more than 10,000 youths in the music industry. There’s one trend that gives me sincere concern – and that is, parents of students in universities home and abroad enrolling their children at the music school after they have wasted several years in trying to make them study something other than music. Usually, it’s either the child drops out of school due to very low grades, or they’re not officially registered in school at all but keeps deceiving their parents while they remain in the university environment. When the parents get to find out about this, after much anger and disappointment, they sit down with the child and ask “what do you really want to do with your life?” And then they usher in another disappointing moment for their parents when they respond: “Music”.
Some parents would completely be at loggerheads with this choice, they’d rather he/she moves to a “better school” or “better course”, as music is seen as derogatory or a career choice with less prospect. The child proceeds to another school, and more often than not, the same setbacks reoccur and the child’s life becomes more and more complicated as the parents push him harder to tow a path against his wish and dream.
But a few parents would rise up to the responsibility and be prepared to give the child the best of support and guidance as he/she aims for his/her passion. It is this second category of parents we see enrolling their kids for a music course at the music school.
The essence of this article is to point out clearly that in both parent scenarios, some serious damage would already be done in the lives of the children, and if care is not taken, this could debar them from leading productive lives. How??
While parents live in denial and refusal, this is what happens to the children;
1. Since they lack parental support and guidance, the children would follow the cheap and mediocre approach to learning and be making their music, which would become a signature on their creativity and limit how far they go.
2. They become a prey and operate at the mercy of anyone who seems to offer them the support they need to keep doing music. Girls are more susceptible in this scenario, as they’re sexually and physically abused.
3. They would have to hustle and sometimes hide from family to do their music. This could be very depressing. And to get away from that state of mind, a lot of them turn to alcohol and drugs, which soon ruins them.
4. Because they have turned to the street for support, they team up with the people on the street.
The following are some of the impacts of being on the street when you’ve not been prepared for it:
a. More drugs
b. Illicit sex
c. Stealing and defrauding people (e.g Yahoo Boys)
d. Loss of self-esteem
e. Late night outings
f. Gang fights
g. Cultism and Fetishism
h. Poor nutrition and health complications, etc.
Imagine your child going through all of these but pretending to you everything is ok, simply because you are not in support of his/ her passion for music. Imagine the shame all that could bring to the family. A lot of parents cry on their children’s convocation ceremonies when they discover he or she hasn’t been in school all along or that he or she is graduating with a terribly low grade because they had no interest in the programme from start.
So, to avert all of these troubles and heartaches, what do you do when you discover early enough that your child is in love with music?
Notice I said “early enough” – the best time to start paying serious attention to the inherent passions in your children is when they are very young. The best way to prepare a child for a successful future is to give them a good head start in every major field of learning; give them a well rounded education; introduce them to every kind of knowledge and skills that you can afford (science, business, leadership, arts and crafts, sports, etc). While you expose them to these broad spectra of knowledge and fields, you will discover which ones hold their interests the most – which ones they always wish to keep going back to. Do not ignore what a child keeps talking about; do not ignore where a child loves to go; do not ignore which TV channel a child loves to watch; do not ignore what a child does with his friends when they play. Discover his/her passion and be prepared to guide them towards becoming the best at it, even though many at times it might be disappointing for you-you’re probably thinking you’d be prouder if he/she becomes a lawyer or doctor. If you do not take ownership and responsibility of what they love to do, someday he/she will meet someone who does and that person would be the remote control of his/her life.
Now, if MUSIC is his/her passion, I recommend the following steps and actions for you to secure his/her future:
Nursery/Primary School Stage:
1. Introduce him or her to a broad spectrum of great music, from Soul to Jazz to Rock, Highlife, etc. Engage them in appreciating music of different times and genres. Let them appreciate music that’s got substance and that are excellently made.
2. If you can, enroll him/her for music lessons and buy him/her a musical instrument at home.
3. Encourage them to participate in group music making activities in school, community, and place of worship. Let him/ her join other children in singing or drumming, and praise them whenever they do.
4. Let him/her participate in music competitions and talent hunt programs for children.
Secondary School/Higher Institution Stage:
5. Continue all of the above
6. Have a heart to heart discussion with your child to find out what his/her goal is with music. Find out what their dreams are. If they’re keen on pursuing music as a life-long career, let them know education is key in everything one desires to do in life. Let them also know, they don’t have to study music in the university to be successful musicians; you should guide them in making a concrete decision about what to study at university level. They should be happy about whatever choice they make in the end. I’ve heard too many people say “I’m in school studying law, medicine, accountancy, etc, to please my parents, I’d rather be…….”.
7. At some point, you will need to help him or her narrow down to a specific area of practice in music. There are many career options in music, not everyone who loves music should be behind the microphone performing or playing on the stage. You can be a record producer, a sound engineer, a music promoter, a record label owner, an artist manager, a songwriter, a music teacher, etc. An early choice of which path he/she wants to take will help inform you on the specific areas he/she should be trained.
8. There’s a common promise parent make to their musically inclined children when they’re preparing to send them to the university: “you just go to school and face your studies, finish your first degree and come out with a good grade…I will give you all the support you need for your music career as soon as you’re done”. Sorry sir, sorry ma; it never works! Passion for music doesn’t work that way: you wake up every day to the reality of the fact that this is what you’re born to do, ignoring or postponing the pursuit of it will hurt and depress you daily. Never tell your children to suspend their passion for music until some later time: what works best is for you find a smooth way to marry both interests side by side – that is the education and the music. There’s always something little you can do by the side, for example, record a new track every holiday, shoot a video, perform at a few events, do some media interviews, promote a social media page, go for a new photo shoot, learn a new musical instrument, etc. These activities don’t have to wait until he or she graduates from school; these are the activities that will get them glued to their studies in school; these activities that assure them that their future is guaranteed; these would make them never want to disappoint you in their studies and in life generally. Note, there are some kids who will tell you “Ok mummy, I’ll wait till I finish”. They’d simply be deceiving you. They’ll usually devise a means of doing their thing by the side, and build a support network consisting of all kinds of people they can find. And that’s where the problem lies.
Allowing them to carry their passion alongside their studies, with you being fully involved in it all, is what ensures you don’t lose them to the street.
9. When he or she is done with school, sit down with him/ her again and discuss the way forward. “Do you want to work in the corporate world for a while?…Do you want to face your music career squarely now?…Do you want to go for some special or professional training in music?”. With your guide, let him/her develop a career plan – short-term and long-term. At that point, you may also consider handing him over to a credible and reputable mentor, who will be able to give him the professional advice and guidance that you may not be able to give, given that you are not in the field of music.
10. Be his/her biggest fan! Your child should be sure of your appreciation and support for his/her creative work. Be there to encourage him/her; go for his/her performances and let your applause sound the loudest; give his/her works a positive review; be the first to download his new song and share it with your friends; accompany him to the recording studio once in a while – you’d appreciate and understand what the process feels like for him.
The bottom line is for you to be at the center of your child’s musical journey, until that point you can rest assured that he/she can continue safely and successfully on his/her own. That’s the only way you can avert the possibility of him derailing or self-destructing.
As I conclude, please note that musicians are not losers, they’re not failures. Music is a noble course; it is no lesser in prospect than any profession. If music is the path of your child, I can bet you, he/she would be as successful as every other esteemed career path, provided you give him/her the needed guidance and support.
If you have a child who falls into this category and things seem a little more complicated already than you can handle, do not hesitate to contact me. I’d be more than willing to help.
Thanks for reading!
Please share with other parents.