Why This Blog?

Hey everybody, I’m James Mays, and this is raising musicians, and today I thought I would talk about why I even started this blog. Many of you know, I own Band Aid School of Music. We’re in Austin, Texas, and we are part of the inspiration for the movie School of Rock. I’ve been teaching musicians for a long time and educating kids for over 30 years. So I want to share insights and some of the things that could help parents who are raising musicians.

I’m going to interview all kinds of people on this blog: brain scientists, educators and people with different perspectives on raising kids, how to do that in a healthy way, and raising creative kids specifically, and even more specifically than that raising musicians.

Welcome to another episode of raising musicians, the blog for parents that helps us understand how to empower our children to enjoy a lifetime love of music.

So one of the benefits from a blog like this is if you already have a musician in the house. They’re taking lessons, or they’re learning at school. You want some really good tips on how to support them and how not to pull your hair out. I want to give you some perspective that is based on my life experience, my experience as an educator and as a musician. So that’s the idea of why we have this blog in the first place. I hope you learn some things. I hope you interact with the blog and send me your comments and questions to have episodes that address the things you want to know about how to raise a musician.

It was suggested that I start an episode just talking about my story and growing up as a musician. And so I thought I might break that down because that’s a pretty long story, and the idea of this podcast is to have short, easily digestible episodes that you can listen to quickly, get a few tips as a parent and move on. I mean, we all have busy lives, and there’s a lot of things we could be listening to. So I hope I can keep this not only entertaining but educational for you. I want to keep it short and brief. I don’t want to share my whole story in one go, but I was thinking about what it was like, as a child growing up in a house of musicians.

My dad was the only person who wasn’t a professional musician.
He played up through college, and he still played around the campfire and at parties and stuff like that. He loved playing guitar and singing. He was a lot of fun doing that. Everybody else turned out to be a professional musician. My mother taught voice and piano in the house as I was growing up. That was cool. I would always hear some kids plugging away on the piano and playing mostly classical. She would help us with our contests at school when we would have musical contests. She made it easy to prepare. Having a musician Mother gave us a little bit of an advantage, I think. I’m the middle child. I have an older brother and a younger sister. We’re all musicians. And I’m not sure that was the plan, but that’s kind of how it worked out. There was just kind of a time when you were supposed to choose an instrument in my household. I remember choosing the drums because my brother was a drummer, and he was kind of my hero. He was older, four years older, and he was a really great drummer. I thought it was amazing, and I wanted to do that.
He didn’t like it, and he beat me up.

And, yeah, that’s a whole other story, but he was really upset that I had chosen to play the drums, so I decided not to endure that kind of pain anymore, and said well, that I’m not going to learn an instrument, I was just super rebellious at that time. Luckily we had an excellent choir at school, so I sang in the choir, and I learned a lot. The good thing about schools that have music programs is that you’re learning every day as part of the school, and you’re getting a grade for it. I love that. So I was learning all the vocal warm-ups and all the scales, and all the vocal techniques. I was with my friends, hanging out, singing silly songs that our teacher would choose for us. Classic tunes and some fun stuff around Christmas. I still remember all those songs that we learned. They were great for learning harmony and learning how to sing in unison. And then, you know my family, we would, you know, put on the radio. My dad was a real country fan. He loves country music, and my mom is a classical fanatic, so they didn’t get along musically. I thought that was pretty funny, and when we would go on family vacations, the common ground was the Beatles. We would play the Beatles during our entire road trip. And we would sing, sing harmonies, makeup harmonies for it, and it was a lot of fun.
And my dad played guitar, and my brother played drums and trombone, my mom played piano, and my younger sister played piano as well. And I learned to play guitar later on in my 20s, after having a successful band where I was the frontman. Then starting another project, and being tired of being dependent upon the other players to write songs, so I picked up a guitar. I bought one for $35 and bought a chord book and started figuring it out on my own, and it wasn’t later until I had guitar lessons, but that’ll be another part of the story.

I guess what I wanted to tell you about childhood is that somehow music was just fun for me, and I think that’s the main point. When you’re working with your child around music, just allowing it to be a fun experience and not too laborious, you know, we’re all like, oh, we should practice, you know. A student should practice. At Bandaid School of Music, we have practice guidelines: 30 minutes a day, five days a week 150 minutes. People rarely hit those marks. Having that kind of demand, I think, is good for some kids. Some kids excel in situations where they have demands put on them, and they like that. They need that. So if your child is like that, then, by all means, you know, help support them by having that kind of discipline. Most kids in my experience (we start at age four, at Bandaid) up until their teens are not super driven to practice and play a lot, and so it’s got to be fun. It just has to be a fun experience. So the songs that you help your child choose that you’re, you know if you’re in private lessons that your teacher helps them choose they’re going to be important. It will be crucial for them to learn technique and theory and everything that goes along with the song. Making sure that it’s a cool experience for them is first and foremost. If you have to choose between forcing your child to practice and just allowing music to be a fun experience. Go for the fun experience. If that means they walk past the piano and they’re not practicing every day, then that’s what it means that when they do sit down, they enjoy themselves. And they plunk around, and they experiment, and they sound horrible, and they sound good, and you know it’s supposed to. It’s supposed to sound all kinds of ways. They’re supposed to be lots of mistakes, getting to know the instruments.
If they’re a singer, getting to their voice, feeling awkward and shy in front of people. All of that stuff is all part of the process. Don’t sweat that too much. As a parent, I would err on the side of allowing them to explore the instrument and have fun, and if that means, you know, they sit down, and they play for a couple of minutes, and they’re done, so be it. Because if you’re playing the long game, you want your child to enjoy music.
So that is going to wrap up this first blog. I hope you liked it. I hope you come back, and you can find more information about me at bandaidschoolofmusic.com. If you’ve got any questions or comments, shoot them there at [email protected]. I’ll get those comments now to make sure that the following blogs represent the kind of things you are interested in learning and how you want to help your child succeed in music.

All right, I’m James Mays. Thanks for reading.