You’re never too old — or too young — to begin learning a musical instrument.
Inna Kazakova, who founded Cayman Music School in 2010 with her husband Andre, says that music education can begin at any age. “If we are talking about general music skills, learning to play musical instruments, then one can start at any age,” she says. “It is never too early or too late to enjoy music, sing and play an instrument.”
A professional musician herself, and music educator for the past 24 years, Inna was raised in Eastern Europe, where, she says, the classical music tradition is a priority in the educational system. When she came to Grand Cayman more than 15 years ago, she wanted to share what she had learned.
“I realised that there was huge music potential here and many talented children,” she says. “I was excited to share my knowledge and experience with Caymanian people; that is how Cayman Music School started.”
She stresses the importance of beginning young – even just after a child is born — if the goal is a career in the field of music. “Teaching a baby or toddler to move to the music develops a sense of rhythm,” Inna says, adding that taking babies and toddlers to early music movement classes is a good idea, as is allowing them to experience live music at concerts.
More structured lessons should begin by about the age of four, during which a foundation that prepares students for formal music lessons is built, Inna says. “But even at this age, the goal of the lesson is not to become an excellent performer, but instead to instill in students an appreciation for and understanding of music.”
The optimal age to begin learning a particular instrument depends on the physical development of the child, including things like finger strength and length, body strength and muscle mass, Inna says.
For four- and five-year-olds, Inna says, piano and violin are the two most common instruments played, but some children this age are successful at guitar or ukulele. “The best age to begin lessons for most instruments is six to seven years, but for some brass instruments and drums, beginning between the ages of eight to 10 years is better.”
For those with their hearts set on a professional music career, Inna points to the age of nine as an upper limit to begin lessons.
The amount students should practise also depends on their ages and goals, Inna says: about 30 minutes a day for the youngest students; 45 minutes a day for intermediate-level students; at least an hour a day for more advanced students; two or more hours a day for high-level students enrolling in performances and competitions; and three or more hours a day for those planning to audition for musical college programmes.
Those hours of practice pay dividends far beyond the skill level achieved in playing. “Children who can sing or play a musical instrument speak and express themselves more efficiently, memorise challenging words, and even learn foreign languages more easily,” Inna says. “While engaging in music children develop mathematical abilities by coordinating correct keys or strings and counting the value of different notes.”
Music education can also increase standardised test scores, according to research, Inna says. “SAT scores of students taking music and arts were higher than non-music students by 60 points on the verbal section and 43 points on the math section.”
In addition, taking music lessons not only helps to build self-esteem and confidence, but it also instills in students discipline and a good work ethic, Inna says. Passion for music, however, has to come from within.
“The most important thing is to love playing and listening to that instrument,” Inna says.