What’s the right age to start voice lessons for kids?

I regularly hear from parents looking for private singing lessons for their 5 or 6 year old. The child loves to sing and would like to get better at it. In America, when we think about getting better at something, we think about taking lessons, getting a tutor, hiring an expert.
That’s not a wholly bad strategy, and private singing lessons are rarely the best idea for a 5 to 10-year-old.
We mostly get better at singing by singing with people who are good at singing. We pick up on their good habits, we imitate their sound, we find new and more comfortable ways to hold ourselves. We learn by imitation. This is easier when the people we’re imitating already sort of sound like we do, and nobody sounds like elementary school kids, except elementary school kids.
We also get better at singing when it’s a relationship-building activity, when we’re with people we already sort of understand or like. We can relax and have fun. We can hear that it matters that we’re there. Singing is so much easier when we’re happy to be right here, now, creating something together.
It would be wonderful if every family could sing together in a way that felt good, and I know that’s not the world we live in. So thank goodness for children’s choruses. With caring and competent direction, kids can learn to sing well, and become amazing musicians, well before middle school.
Here are a few to consider: Piedmont East Bay Children’s ChoirKairos Music AcademyPacific Boychoir Academy. Go to one of their concerts! See if you like the music. La Peña Cultural Center also offers singing classes for kids, and the Community Music School at the California Jazz Conservatory offers vocal performance classes for teens.
I don’t mean to say that private voice lessons for young people are never a good idea, after all, I teach them.
The kids who do well with me tend to be incredibly sensitive and deeply curious about music and themselves as music makers; they enjoy one-on-one attention from a playful adult; they’re willing to try new things, and they have a sense of adventure.
I have helped students prepare audition material for school plays, talent shows and musicals, for moving up a level in SF Girls Chorus, for admittance to Oakland School for the Arts, main stage shows at Berkeley Playhouse, YMTC, ACT, CCCT, and also for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
I can help children who sing wildly out of tune, who yell rather than sing, who sing beautifully with the radio and make up their own difficult-to-follow songs on their own, and not all of these children want to be helped, fixed or figured out. Kids often sound fine to themselves, and that positive opinion is an important part of their developing sense of self.
Yes, children can damage their voices with excessive yelling and other kinds of abuse. Most children do not. Most odd, irritating, “regrettable” vocal patterns do work themselves out. As for tunefulness, my own fifth grade teacher asked me to mouth the words for the district music assembly. Apparently, at age ten, I could play the violin, but I couldn’t sing, at least not in a way that she appreciated.
While I don’t have any after-school and Saturday openings in my schedule right now (late 2016), I do keep a waiting list. If I sound like a good fit for your child, please sign up for it.

Michele is one of a kind. She gave our daughter confidence in herself, helped her explore her passion for singing and get accepted to Oakland School of the Arts. She is gentle, fun, positive and above all, incredibly professional. – Yaron