November 24: The Ballet will take place at the Robinson Center Music Hall. Enjoy a spectacular new “Dove of Peace,” where 2 dancers become one stunning bird, inspired by the early works of Stanislov Vlasov, original choreographer and director of Moscow Ballet’s inaugural Great Russian Nutcracker. The production also features a Christmas tree that grows to 7 stories tall; falling snow and Troika-styled sleigh escorted by Russian folk characters Ded Moroz (Father Christmas) and Snegurochka (Snow Maiden); towering hand-made silk puppets; 200 all new, lavish costumes; and 9 hand-painted backdrops, all set to Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s complete Nutcracker Suite score. Event time: 3 p.m. Tickets: $29.50 -$70. Tickets available at any Ticketmaster location, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or may be purchased online. For more information visit www.nutcracker.com.
October 29: Join Mr. Brian and Ms. Terri for a wonderful Halloween concert. Come in costume if you like. Event time: 6:30 p.m. Event place: Max Milam Library. For more information call 501-889-2554.
October 17: Reach Out and Read Arkansas is hosting its annual “Once Upon a Time” fundraising event from 6 to 9 p.m. at Pleasant Valley Country Club. This year’s book theme is “Oh The Place You’ll Go,” and the event features the Rodney Block Band, dinner and drinks. Tickets are $50. For more details or to purchase tickets, visit www.reachoutandreadarkansas.org or call (501) 226-9444.
October 13: Tim and the Space Cadets perform at the Museum of Discovery, featuring pop tunes, rockers and lullabies. The band was named one of the Top 4 Kid-Friendly Bands to Watch in 2012, and their hit song “Superhero” spent six weeks at No. 1 of the XMKids Radio chart. The concert is included in the price of regular museum admission. $10, adults; $8, kids 12 and under and seniors 60 and older; free for members. For more information, visit www.museumofdiscovery.org.
October 6: Camp Aldersgate is holding its annual Fish Fry, with family entertainment, bake sale, live music, face painting, kids fishing derby, pumpkin patch and more. Event time: noon to 3 p.m. Tickets are $15; kids 6 and under are free. An additional cost may be associated with some of the event’s activities. Visit www.campaldersgate.net for more details.
October 5: This one-day outdoor Americana acoustic music festival, features children and family entertainment from 1 to 5 p.m. at Wildwood Park for the Arts. At 6:30 p.m., acts, including Ukulele Bill, REAL Entertaining, Mister Morphis One Man Band, the Hartley Family Bluegrass Band, Posey Hill, the Mulligan Brothers and BettySoo, take the stage. Gates open for lunch and free hayrides around the lake at noon. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under, and free for kids 5 and under. Evening tickets, starting at 5 pm, are $20 for adults, $10 for teens, $5 for children 12 and under. For more information, visit www.wildwoodpark.org.
Music lessons go beyond notes, keys, scales, riffs and rhythm. Learning to play a musical instrument teaches children valuable life skills, like responsibility, dedication, confidence and discipline. Music education also offers an outlet for creative expression and leads some kids to their passion.
That’s certainly true for 9-year-old Sarah Cecil, who never goes anywhere without her acoustic guitar. She started taking lessons about two-and-a-half years ago at Little Rock Jams. But it was going to a Taylor Swift concert about a year later that changed everything.
“I got serious because I knew I wanted to perform,” said Cecil, who has played a few gigs at local joints and has more on her schedule. She said excelling at music has taken a lot of hard work and practice.
Learning to play a musical instrument takes time and dedication, said Anthony Lewis, owner of Carolyn’s Keyboard Corner in Little Rock. While a 30-minute music lesson sets the foundation and keeps students on track, much of the learning comes from practice, which is essential to mastering an instrument.
“Anyone with the urge to play and the will to learn” can benefit from music lessons, said Lewis, who recommends practicing a minimum of 30 minutes, three times a week outside of lessons. More is always better, of course.
Consistency is also highly important, and that’s where parents come in, said Jason Priest, owner of Little Rock Jams. Parents should encourage and support regular practices to ensure their children achieve their goals. Priest said when kids get in the habit of practicing, they see improvement and playing becomes fun.
Music (and more) for Life
Fun, of course, is what it’s all about. In a world of evolving pop music and electronic media, music instructors must stay on their toes to keep kids interested, especially while learning classical music.
Lewis said instructors at Carolyn’s are tailored to a child’s interest. For some, that means covering the mechanics of how an instrument works, he said. He said instructors incorporate iPads and YouTube into the lessons to keep students focused, and play games to help learn musical theory.
Another way to keep it fun is to let kids play what interests them, whether it’s country, musical theater or pop music – after they learn the basics, of course.
“Once they’ve got the basics, it’s time to make music,” Priest said.
The fundamentals of musical theory and reading music – all part of music lessons – are something that kids can build upon for the rest of their lives, he said. While most athletes do not play their sports for life, musicians can experience a life of enjoying their craft.
“Anyone can learn to tap on the guitar, but not many can sit down and read the notes,” Lewis said. “They have to understand the notes and how it all works together.”
Children also need a creative outlet to express themselves, Priest said. But music lessons go beyond and benefit kids in ways besides actually learning an instrument, Lewis said. Studies have shown that music education can boost self-esteem and improve math, reading, problem-solving and critical thinking skills, all of which are beneficial throughout life.
“They get the discipline needed to practice and the dedication to progress,” Priest said.
Mary-Milam Cecil, Sarah’s mom, said music education has boosted her daughter’s self-confidence and taught her to work with different kinds of people. Taking care of her guitar has also taught Sarah about responsibility, her mom said. Cecil said music has given Sarah many opportunities that she wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Sarah, who will soon be a fourth-grader at Pulaski Academy, has played at the Rev Room, Stickyz and Hibernia. Next up, she’ll be the featured artist at the Applied Light Coffee House at Lakewood Methodist Church on July 24.
“Playing music is all about having fun,” Sarah Cecil said. “I love being on stage and performing and having fun with it. It feels amazing.”
Cecil, who loves country music, said she wants to learn to play the violin and banjo next.
Finding a Music Studio
Most music educators recommend starting lessons around age 5, but Priest said it’s never too early to introduce kids to music. That can mean simply allowing young children to listen to music or playing musical games.
When looking for a studio for their child’s music lessons, Lewis and Priest suggest looking for family-friendly environments that encourage parents to take active role. Finding something within a budget is also critical, especially since costs include lessons and purchasing an instrument so the child can practice at home. Priest said most instructors can offer suggestions for instruments within all price ranges. And, many studios offer the first lesson free, so that instructors can meet with the parent and student to assess what they want to learn and their expectations for the lessons.
To decide if a studio is right for their family, Lewis and Priest say parents should ask questions about the curriculum offered, instructors’ credentials and the general educational path for their child. For example, parents and instructors should discuss their goals and expectations for the lesson, as well as time and financial commitments, Priest said.
Studios are often busier during the school year, from September to May. Both studios offer recitals during the year, giving students the chance to show off their skills. Little Rock Jams also offers jam sessions and workshops where kids can meet each other.
Carolyn’s Keyboard Corner, which has about 500 students, opened in 2006 but Lewis didn’t take over until last year. They offer lessons in piano, guitar, drums, bagpipes, accordion and band instruments, like flute, clarinet and tuba. Little Rock Jams, which also opened in 2006, offers lessons in popular instruments like guitar, bass guitar and piano. They have about 220 students, Priest said.
The best part of teaching music to kids is “the smile they get when they finally play a song,” Lewis said
“They light up. They know they’ve accomplished something and don’t ever want to quit.”
Get in Tune
From guitar to piano to tuba, Central Arkansas has a lot to offer when it comes to music lessons. Here are some suggestions for where to sign up if your little one expresses interest in taking music lessons.
Blackbird Academy of Arts, Inc.
1058 Front St., #102, Conway
Bryant Music Center
7409 Alcoa Road, Bryant
Carolyn’s Keyboard Corner
11121 N Rodney Parham Road, #2, Little Rock
Conway Guitar Studio
803 Harkrider St., #14, Conway
Conway Institute of Music
945 Carson Cove, #106, Conway
12315 Chenal Parkway, Suite A, Little Rock
Jacksonville Guitar Center
1105 Burman Drive, Jacksonville
Keith’s Guitar Lessons
190 Jan Drive, Suite 2, Sherwood
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