The kids of Generation Z, also known as Post-Millennials and born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s, bring a whole new set of challenges to music teachers and parents. Gen Z students learn differently because of their exposure to technology. These kids have never known a world without smartphones and social media, and they prefer to communicate through digital devices using a few words, a single picture, an emoji or a snap. They expect to find whatever information they want quickly and may become frustrated and impatient if they can’t find a solution to a problem.
Still, music cannot be mastered quickly. It takes patience and focus. So, how do you get a generation of tech-savvy kids known for their short attention spans to cope with the difficulties of mastering an instrument? There are no shortcuts, but the following tips can make the process easier:
1. Keep lessons short and focused. While some kids can handle an hour, a 30-minute lesson with a goal-oriented practice assignment will ensure that young students stay focused.
2. Minimize distractions. A controlled environment for lessons and practice is essential. We recommend that children study at a school that has soundproofed lesson rooms and simple décor. At home, make sure your practice area isn’t close to ringing phones, TV and other distractions. Since many Gen Z kids will progress better with shorter practice sessions, keep distractions to a minimum during that time.
3. Look for frequent opportunities to perform. Preparing for year-end recitals is fine, but more frequent performance showcases can help Gen Z students advance toward their musical goals, as they’ll be rewarded with short-term successes. We host monthly student showcases, in addition to a year-end show. The more opportunities for performance, the better. This will boost the confidence of young musicians.
4. Parents need to be on-board. Gen Z parents are sometimes too quick to register disappointment with their children’s progress. We remind parents that their children are likely to encounter difficulties from time to time. Don’t let them become discouraged. The most important thing you can do as a parent is help them over the rough patches and keep them from quitting.
5. Keep your eye on the prize. No matter what generation you belong to, nothing compares to working on a piece of music and getting to perform it. Like generations of children before them, Gen Z kids will quickly grasp the value of playing an instrument once they take the stage and hear applause.
Mike and Miriam Risko are the owners of Mike Risko Music School and the parents of two Gen Z kids.