Jon Schmidt is the red-headed pianist in the above video. Did his parents know when they paid for classical piano lessons that their son would be composing music at age 11 and teaching piano at age 16? Did they know that their child would be world-famous or did they have to tell him he couldn't go outside to play until he was finished practicing the piano?

Somehow I think that Jon Schmidt had a passion for his childhood piano lessons. When you read about Schmidt you learn that he was brave enough to rent a concert hall and risk presenting himself to the public at a young age. If you listen to his music you won't be surprised that he was a success. What gave Schmidt his confidence?

How did I decide I wanted to write for you? I wrote my first poem when my grandfather died. I read it publicly for my family. The tears in their eyes meant that they understood how I felt. They encouraged me, corrected and edited me, read my work and celebrated my successes.

When I developed a passion for painting at age 11 my mother traded laundry for art lessons. When I wanted piano lessons she did more laundry. Later I sold paintings to pay for my kids' activities and my daughter went on to become the piano prodigy I always wished to be.

If you want your children to be able to have piano lessons, ballet classes or other creative experiences, you may have to get creative.

Why are the arts important?

  • Evidence suggests that children who receive musical training are better at science, math and language.

  • Brain research suggests that there are windows of opportunity for learning music at an early age and that some music increases mental skills related to education.

  • Music, art and literature are all healthy coping mechanisms during times of stress. It is better for a child to pick up a violin when he's upset than Dad's beer.

How do you become the muse that inspires your children to risk trying new things and give them the confidence to share their talents publicly?

Expose your child to music and live concerts

Children are just like computers, garbage in leads to garbage out. Expose your children to quality music played in a variety of places. Take them to free concerts in the park or zoo to hear folk, classical and other forms of music. Watch to see what they respond to or like.

Allow children to make noise

Keep a variety of inexpensive instruments available to children. See which ones interest each child. You may have a drummer. In that case you have to be willing to put up with a little noise. My youngest daughter was a rock and roll drumming genius. I learned to appreciate what sounded like noise to begin with when I watched her amaze me in a concert. Lots and lots of noisy practice is good.

Rent instruments and keep pressure off

Do not invest large amounts of money in expensive instruments so you feel pressured to have your child use them. You can rent quality instruments for your child to test the waters on before you invest.

Expand into art, dance and other creative endeavors

Trade, barter and work with friends to expose your children to as much of the arts as possible. If you play the piano, teach your friend's children and let her teach your children her talent. Maybe she was a ballet dancer before she was a mom. You never know until you ask.

Celebrate every effort and some sour notes

Encourage children honestly. When they hit a sour note, ignore it and focus on the three good notes to follow. Invite friends and neighbors to listen to your child's music or watch her dance that you know will be encouraging. Always be truthful. Kids can see right through you when you are being insincere.

Try again and again

The first instrument your child tries may not be the best instrument for him or her. The daughter you were sure would be a beautiful violinist, may be happier rockin' the house with my daughter on the drums. Focus on your child's dreams, not yours.

Have a regular family talent night

Schedule a regular and consistent time in your life when you all sing, paint, write or share your talents. Our friends, the Dickersons of Highland, Utah, had eight children. I was amazed when I saw all eight children sing while dad played the piano. They clearly had performed hundreds of times before. They shared that they often stood around the piano and sang for fun as a family. It was a regular occurrence.

Remember patience and long suffering

You can never "make" your child like his vegetables any more than you can make him love something he clearly does not. Ask your children questions and look for their passions. You will know it when you see it. A child will light up and will not be able to contain his excitement.

You never know what cute red-head will grow up to be the next Jon Schmidt. Get to know your child and watch for that special magic spark that says your child has a passion or interest. Once you discover what your child loves to play or do, celebrate it and encourage it. This year, take your child to a concert and ask her what kind of beautiful music she likes and wants to make.

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