I am a reasonable violin player (diploma level) and a piano player of lesser ability, while my wife has no musical training. We were both keen for our children to have the opportunity to learn music, as part of ensuring exposure to artistic as well as intellectual and physical pursuits. Based on my own experience, I believe that children who persist with music lessons over several years will reap the benefit of a very satisfying hobby in adulthood.
As with any extra-curricular activity, though, especially in the pre-school and early school years, our emphasis is squarely on enjoyment rather than proficiency. Music can be especially challenging, because the discipline of regular and structured rehearsal is necessary for progress, but can be a disincentive to continuing with lessons.
My 6 year old son and 4 year old daughter have been taking piano lessons for several months now. Whereas my own initial music tuition (I started at age 7 years) was rather dry and traditional, theirs is aimed squarely at young children, with amusing mnemonics and fun activities (such as coloring in) to help consolidate their theoretical knowledge and technical skills. My wife and I encourage them to practice on most days, without forcing the issue if they really do not feel like it, and we make a point of providing a lot of positive feedback about their effort and learning. On occasion (every couple of months or so), they will stage a very brief performance for friends or relatives. The rehearsals and the performances are a significant component of our parent/child “quality time”.
It is clear to me that my children are not musical prodigies, but that is no kind of disappointment. Music is a tough vocation even for the most talented performers and, as I mentioned previously, the rest of us mere mortals can derive great pleasure from dabbling in musical performance in our spare time. Many of my friends do not so dabble, either because they never took lessons (or did, but not for very long) or because they feel too embarrassed to demonstrate their skills, even to themselves. That seems a great shame; among friends, music is a fantastic shared activity, where enthusiasm is valued far more than ability. For instance, the musicians at my wedding were friends and relatives rather than “faceless” professionals, and the few blemishes in performance were outweighed by the fact of their contribution to the ceremony.