How to nurture your child’s talent in music

Interlochen Arts Academy parents and faculty offer four tips for developing a confident, successful musician.

Private viola lesson at Arts Academy

Raising students with musical talent requires a high level of commitment from their families. From hours spent practicing and traveling for auditions to facing stiff competition and high standards of excellence, the discipline of music is undeniably demanding. But with the right support and encouragement, music can become a deeply rewarding, collaborative, and creatively fulfilling pursuit.

Here, we offer a few tips for supporting your student’s musical talent and encouraging both personal and artistic growth.

Find a community for your student of likeminded peers.

Unlike team sports, the practice of music requires considerable time alone, which can lead to feelings of isolation. It helps to have support from other musically-inclined friends who understand the commitment that music requires.

“You don’t have to explain why you’re spending all this time doing something, because everybody else is practicing on their own as well,” explains Carla Wheeler, whose son, Julian, recently graduated after studying cello for four years at Interlochen Arts Academy

Being in a diverse community of peers also helps spur creativity, Wheeler notes. Her son, for example, started a rock band at school and had fun creating humorous videos with several other friends. “You have all these really talented students together who express themselves in lots of exciting ways,” she says.

Likeminded peers can also help expand your student’s musical artistry, adds Angela Kodsi, whose daughter, Jessica, recently graduated after studying classical voice for four years at the Academy. 

“You’ll be challenged and you’ll be inspired to do better, because you’ll be surrounded by people who are just like you—and some who are even better musicians,” Kodsi says. 

The added bonus of building a group of likeminded peers is that their parents can be great resources as well—creating a full community of support. At Interlochen, parents have found creative ways to support each other. 

“We have our own Facebook page for parents,” explains Kodsi. “Everybody’s there for each other. For example, if somebody gets stranded at the Atlanta airport on their way to or from the Academy, families are quick to jump in and say, ‘Oh, we can go by and pick them up.’ It’s a close-knit family support system. We’ve really bonded with a lot of the parents.” 

Support your student’s personal development in addition to their artistic growth. 
It’s incredibly important to nurture and enrich every aspect of your student, not just the musical side. Confident students are happier and more secure, free to challenge themselves more, take more managed risks, and achieve greater success.

“These students are phenomenal artists, but it’s so important to remember that they’re young,” says Interlochen Provost Camille Colatosti. “Like all other students, they need time to rest, explore, and have fun in order to truly flourish.”

If at all possible, it’s helpful to select a school with a variety of resources for students’ personal growth. For example, Interlochen Arts Academy prides itself on emphasizing The Interlochen 5. Among these are mindfulness, wellness, and resilience. Teachers actively work to ensure that students challenge themselves in a way that is sustainable not just in the short term, but for a lifetime. Students of Interlochen can avail themselves of psychological, academic, and college counseling as needed. 

In addition, music students should take advantage of their school’s wellness facilities and resources. Interlochen’s Dennison Center for Recreation and Wellness offers recreational programming for all students. The school is situated between Interlochen’s Green and Duck Lakes, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities. 

Balance artistic achievements with academic demands.

For many pre-college musicians, there aren’t enough hours in the day to manage the seemingly conflicting demands of music and academics. Parents may wish to consider having their students attend arts boarding schools, which can help ease some of these challenges.

Teachers at arts schools are fully aware of the academic and artistic demands placed on their students, and as a result, they are often willing to adapt their schedules to accommodate events like auditions and midterms. 

“Interlochen teachers know if it’s tech week, or an opera performance,” Kodsi says. “They all work together to support the students.”

Since students don’t need to travel far between their various commitments, they can maximize their time for study. 

“When you’re at Interlochen, everything’s there,” Kodsi explains. “Because you don’t have to drive all over town for different music lessons, you can focus more on your art and on your academics.”

Connect your student with experienced and inspiring mentors.

One of the best ways to set your student up for success is by finding mentors whose knowledge and experience allows them to identify your student’s unique talents. Since they have undergone similar training, these mentors are well suited to help your student reach the highest artistic aspirations.

Both Wheeler and Kodsi noted that their students developed strong relationships with their music teachers, who ultimately brought out the best in them.

“Jessica has had four years to soak in all this amazing support and growth as an artist,” Kodsi says, adding that Jessica’s relationships with her teachers also opened doors for her within the musical and academic communities. In January, Kodsi was nominated for a 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts award, the nation’s highest honor for young artists.

“The Interlochen faculty was able to make connections based on her needs and her opportunities to develop further. The growth that I’ve seen in Jessica—it’s unbelievable.”

Raising a creative student comes with challenges, but the journey is worth it. Following these tips will ensure that your student stays active, balanced, and engaged in the process. With a little extra support, your young musician will be ready to thrive during the school year and beyond.