|N. playing around on the piano at age 4 1/2|
Here's what I told him at (great!) length about how this unfolds in our family:
First, we listen to a LOT of music at home and talk about it, especially during meals, not really didactically but just because we like music. We listen to a wide range of stuff (although not really any current pop) from medieval through 20th-c.classical to jazz to traditional/folk/old-time to musicals and Hollywood themesongs to 50s classics. Being home all day means lots of music-listening time! N. goes through phases of obsessing about particular songs or CDs and we go with that till he moves on, however tired of the CD we may be (for a long time when he was 2 he was obsessedwith track 11 on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack: "In theHighways, In the Hedges."). We prefer older kid-type music to contemporary more treacly artists; our favorites are Sam Hinton ("Whoever Shall Have Some Good Peanuts" on SmithsonianFolkways), Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins (she is so good!). One contemporary album we like is Elizabeth Mitchell's "You are My Little Bird." In the past year we've started listening to the weekly Piano Puzzler on public radio, which is a great way to build your musical knowledge about composers' styles and popular American song history. Listening to music is a big part of our daily life, so it would have been hard not to expose N. to that.
Second, Tim and I love going to concerts and I wanted to share this with N., so I started taking him from an early age to the second half of afternoon symphony concerts or other daytime concerts (if you go to the second half only, you usually don't have to pay, which made me feel OK about leaving whenever N. needed to because I hadn't just spent a bunch on tickets). I would sit in the back with him to minimize disruption to others and bring something quiet for him to hold, such as a small stuffed animal. Gradually he got comfortable sitting for longer portions of the concerts. I found that adult concerts are better suited than special children's concerts to developing a child's appreciation for concert-going because children's concerts are often a total zoo with so many kids in one place. When N. was 4 he wanted to start going to the symphony with us regularly, so we got season tickets for the Sunday afternoon concert. That first year he often fell asleep during the 2nd half of the concert but he still enjoyed going. This year we're switching to the weeknight subscription because he's old enough to stay up for it. Sometimes we talk about or listen to what's going to be on the program in advance, but not too often. It's fun for him experience the music live first. (I wrote at length about the process of taking N. to the symphony here.). During his second-grade year N. went (voluntarily!) to six symphony concerts, six or seven chamber music concerts, a Richard Goode piano recital, his first opera (The Merry Wives of Windsor), a bluegrass festival, a cowboy music concert, and a concert of Hoagy Carmichael hits. There are probably more I am forgetting. As I said, we love going to music performances.
Third, making music. We sing around the house a lot and I play around a little on the banjo and cello, so N. has heard and joined in our music-making. In addition to the kiddie music-makers we all accumulate (so many maracas!), we bought a piano when N. was 1 year old and encouraged him to play around on it as much as he wanted to, which was a lot. It's great to have that experience of just playing with an instrument for awhile before beginning formal lessons, especially an accessible instrument like a piano. We never took him to any of the "kindermusik"-type of general music classes for kids because N. didn't like participating in groups when he was younger. We wanted to begin piano lessons when N.was 4 but one trial lesson revealed the teacher we'd chosen to be an authoritarian jerk, so we didn't continue (and 4 was probably too young). We found his current teacher when he was 6 (he's 8 now) and she is absolutely wonderful. I wrote about the beginning of N.'s piano lessons here, and have written about his wonderful teacher here, here, here, and here. He's had some fun opportunities to play with and for other people and I'm glad he's had the chance to experience the joy of sharing music with others.
It's possible that N. would have loved music even if we were uninterested in it, just as it's possible he could have hated music despite (or even because of) our passion for it. But as it happens, he loves music and loves sharing it with us as much as we love sharing it with him. N.'s inherent attraction to music has been developed by our family's saturation in it. Spending so much time together as a homeschooling family inevitably does, our passions rub off on each other.