Begging for Music Lessons

I grew up in Boise, Idaho in a modest home with hard-working parents. My mother was very talented and our home was filled with music. She was my inspiration and encouraged me to learn something that would become a major part of my life. I recall sitting at our Wulitzer upright piano with my dolls on the floor behind me as I pretended to play for them. Therefore, it was no surprise when I was begging for piano lesson at the age of 3.

Kathleen at age 3, begging for lessons.

Classical music filled our home and I looked to my mother for guidance. She worked outside the home to provide piano lessons for my brother and me and I will always be grateful. In those days, piano lessons cost just one dollar, but in the 1940's that was a sacrifice for my family. These are special memories I hold dear to my heart.


I thought it would never happen but at the ripe age of 5, my dream came true. I could hardly contain myself!! Studying the piano opened a whole new world that I never stopped exploring.


Kathleen, age 5




I will always be grateful to Mrs. Gorton for teaching me the correct skills and techniques critically important when learning to play the piano.


Bad habits such as improper hand position and fingers on the keyboard are hard to correct and will greatly affect the success of any pianist. I was very fortunate to study with such a gifted but strict piano teacher who lovingly guided me through many years of lessons. When I was in my teens, she and her daughter, Stella (a talented violinist), died when a semi-truck hit their car head on when returning to Boise after teaching at a summer music camp in Pocatello.

Famous Pianist, Paderewski

Having grown up with music, it became a very important part of my life so it was only natural I wanted the same for our own children.


Our oldest daughter began singing at a very early age and each of her younger sisters wanted to sing with her. Before we knew it, we had a quartet of girls and upon requests, our family began performing at events in our community and state. As their interest in music began to grow, they were begging to learn instruments ranging from the piano, harp, flute and violin. (That could be a whole different blog entry!)




I've been asked many times, "When is the best age to start children with music lessons?" My response has always been the same,"It's not necessarily the age, it's when they are begging for lessons." So often parents push their children to start music lessons before they are ready and then it becomes a nightmare. However, a good age to start is around age 8 because their fingers are strong enough to stike the piano keys.


Music lessons can be a wonderful experience. It teaches children discipline and gives them the responsibility to learn something new. However, it is very important that during the first year of musical instruction that the parent sits with them while they practice. In this busy day and age, that's a real challenge, especially for working parents. If you want your children to succeed, it is a very necessary step! Challenge your child to practice and then challenge yourself to learn a duet to play with them. Many piano books have an "accompaniment" for either the teacher or parent to play.


I always told my students to practice in 20 minute intervals twice each day and to COUNT. That small amount of time is usually the max a young child can focus. If they sit at the piano much longer, they usually fill time on the clock as they repeat measures they already know over and over again. Therefore, encourage a child to take one small section and to be able to play it perfectly before moving on. Consistency is the key!


This past fall, our barely 6 year old granddaughter was eager to start music lessons. My daughter called asking for advice and after a brief discussion, I encouraged her to look for a music teacher. However, the request was not for piano, but for a stringed instrument! My granddaughter was consumed with the idea of playing a violin but later settled on the cello. Taking her to a music store was quite the experience because Audrey could hardly contain herself! When she saw the cello, she grabbed it and squeezed hard! To say the least, I was thrilled because I knew she was ready, enthusiastic, and couldn't wait to start lessons.


Children respond to music naturally and don't usually take coaxing to respond when they hear a song they like. However, some are more inclined at an earlier age to learn than others. It doesn't mean the other children are any less talented but there is a readiness factor you have to consider carefully.


Open a drawer in your kitchen and see what happens.Here are a couple of photos of that same granddaughter with her older sister. If you give a toddler a pot and a wooden spoon, he instinctively begins to pound in the effort to express himself. The same happens when they sit at a piano.

Now back to our family and the importance of music in our lives. Through the years as our family continued to share, we received a wonderful honor. In 1987, America's Music Conference awarded our family as "America's Amateur Music Family of the Year". We received a beautiful wooden plaque for each member which states: "In recognition of their outstanding commitment to family togetherness through music-making and for sharing their love of music with countless others in their community, state and nation."


To say the least, we were thrilled and honored to be featured in magazines, newspapers around the world, the Paul Harvey radio show and specials on TV. I share this not to boost but to say that music brings families together and creates some positive memories we'll never forget. I miss the music-making with our family and would love to go back and relive them. Music is a world in itself.


If you are interested, read on. Otherwise, scroll down the page.

Article from "Woman's Day" Magazine
Holyoak sisters singing the National Anthem for Phoenix Suns Basketball





















The photo at left was taken for the newspaper one evening at a local school. A few days later, the photo-grapher called and said, "Out of all the many photos I took, there was one I liked the best. However, we have a problem . . . there is a dog in the photo! What shall we do about that?"


When I heard this, I laughed out loud!! This is the story: the evening the photos were taken, our pooch (Misty) was with us and without any of us realizing, she was running around the stage. Afterall, she was an important member of our family so we were tickled she had posed herself in that photo. Without hesitation, I told the photographer to go ahead and use it and then he laughed!


In the previous blog entry, you may have listened to the song I wrote about her entitled "Mystery Gal" and if you missed that post, you can listen to it in my SHEET MUSIC section.

(Now scroll down to read more)



As I conclude, I want to share another one of my songs. We are currently facing some very challenging and stressful times, but through prayer and faith in a Higher Power, we can be strengthened and help one another. We have a purpose in this life and when we join together as we did last Sunday in world prayer for a healing of our world, it gives us hope. Click the image to listen to "He Strengthens Me" and know that better days are ahead.




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