Sunday, March 29, 2015

Generating Interest in Music

Music is an important part of education.  The problem with music is getting children interested in music and keeping them motivated day after day to practice.  There are numerous opportunities to do this between K and 6th grade.  It would be nice if they developed a life long love of music and played in the Symphony while writing award winning musicals and headlining a Jazz fest, but technically 3 or 4 years of music is going to jump start their academic career and after that I don't care.

Here is my how to guide.

Occasionally I talk to parents who ask their children if they would like to play an instrument.   This is a mistake because the answer is "yes for the next 5 minutes and then never again after that" because that is how kids think.  If the child knew how much practice was involved, then their answer is definitely no.  So don't ask.

A better question to ask is "Which instrument are you going to play?"  I ask my kids this in 4th grade.  The options are join the band and play any instrument, or join the guitar club and play guitar.   I ask this question after 4 years of playing the piano.  I never asked if they would like to play the piano.  I ask questions like "Would you like to go downstairs and play (after piano practice)?",  "Would you like to have desert (after piano practice)", "Would you like a box of tissues to get through piano practice?" etc.

A bright child might wonder why, if playing an instrument is so wonderful and important, his or her parents don't play one every night.  This is a legitimate question and I side with the child on that one.  This is why I practice every night or at a minimum sit next to my son at the piano enjoying his practicing.   Last night, the 3 of us (me, big son, small son) played Merrily We Roll Along on the trumpet, saxophone, and clarinet. We were horrible because I forgot where the notes were on the saxophone and our clarinetist can't cover the holes with his tiny fingers.  But it was lots of fun and from now on, I'm cutting piano practice short so that small son can join me and big son for band practice.

How hard is it for an adult to pick up an instrument starting with a beginning book?  Very easy.

Every boy I know who practices an instrument has a parent who picked up the instrument at the same time or a parent who used to be in band.  So there are lots of parents in my neighborhood who are playing guitar every night with their kids and enjoying it, one dad who started playing violin, and me with Woodwinds.  A mom called me for some music because she is picking up the trumpet again after a 30 year hiatus.

There are lots of parents who would like their child to practice 3 hours a day.  This is the minimum level requirement for music majors and symphony members.  This won't work unless at some point the child on their own falls in love with music and dedicates their life to it.  I'm not sure my kids want this and we're not really headed in this direction.  If they chose to dedicate their life to music, I will dedicate my life to making them practice when they don't want to.  I owe them this, because if if weren't for them, I would quit my job and join a and go teach in an inner city school for no money, or be a monk.

At some point, my children will pick up an interest in something other than Video Games and Jokes, and I'm not going to help them at all pursue this new interest because I've been showing them how to pursue interests like music, reading and math (aka my interests) their whole life.  Plus, any involvement on my part is just going to ruin things.


  1. Great post. Curious about what's your plan for summer? Any special summer curriculum or activities/camp? What's the main focus of summer? In my experience, I used to have some kind of grand plan or schedule and then end up wasting previous summer days. I definitely need a different plan for this summer.

  2. I plan for the summer like teachers plan for the school year. It's been in the works for the last few weeks. Will share soon.