Piano Lessons at Any Age? Talent Is What Counts in Culture-rich D.C.

Piano Lessons at Any Age? Talent Is What Counts in Culture-rich D.C.
piano player in D.C.

piano player in D.C.

It can be tough to know what age to start piano lessons for your child. You want them to start taking music lessons early, yet you want it to be fun and fulfilling.

So, how young is too young to begin music classes? That depends on the child, but music teachers suggest a good rule of thumb is to begin when they start school.

Most piano lessons in the Washington, D.C., area are offered in the afternoon and structured around traditional school hours.

Piano teacher Angela Butler, of the highly rated The Classical Piano Studio in Kensington, Maryland, doesn’t set a specific starting age, although a 5-year-old is the youngest student she’s taken.

“Parents want to start their children with lessons earlier, but often the children aren’t quite ready," she says. “At a very young age they may not have the coordination or attention span.”

Should you start young?

Butler, who has been giving piano lessons in the D.C. area since 1993, is a firm believer that the earlier you start to learn a musical instrument the more likely it will become second nature, similar to learning a foreign language.

Parents, of course, often have a keen instinct about their young children's musical abilities, so Butler offers a free consultation. It involves talking with the child and playing games that allow her to observe the child's natural music talent and control over movement.

“If I feel they’re not ready, then I tell the parents to come back in a few months,” Butler says. “It’s amazing the difference just a month can make.”

It's never too late to start

If your child is well into their school years, don't worry.

A 13-year-old who once came to Butler for beginner lessons ended up being an amazing talent, she says. “It was like I was opening a gift box,” she says, adding that in just two years he was playing piano at a college level.

Butler takes students of all ages. “Sometimes a grown-up who always wanted to play will take lessons,” she says. “You can teach piano skills to almost anyone.”

She normally offers 30-minute piano lessons once a week and charges $35 per session. Continuing to play at home also is essential to the learning process. She prefers her students practice piano in small increments, rather than just play two hours in one day.

“You learn so much more by doing even a little each day,” Butler says. “That approach doesn’t change no matter how old you are.”

D.C.'s cultural offerings fuel music interest

Butler, who is Russian and taught in Moscow, finds Washington unique because of the various international families connected to the government or diplomatic corps. That brings a different perspective to both parent and music student.

In Europe, she says, musical education is approached differently, she says. They give more attention to theories and history, and it’s not just about lessons and practice. “The European approach is very serious,” says Butler, adding she see a lot of that carrying over in many of her international clients.

Some music students approach piano from a competitive standpoint. Others, she says, view it as an art form or “just want to see where it goes.” Butler says the different approaches keeps lessons interesting.

Living in and near Washington also offers students exposure to cultural diversity and top-notch music events, including the Kennedy Center and a world-class opera company.

“It’s a huge advantage for kids and a wonderful place to teach piano,” Butler says.

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