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(The New Republic)   Can we please stop forcing kids to learn how to play an instrument?   (newrepublic.com) divider line 200
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10520 clicks; posted to Main » on 17 Sep 2013 at 1:37 PM (42 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-09-17 10:00:47 AM
I dunno. I had (like everyone in my family for generations) 2 years mandatory piano beginning at 9.
Taught myself guitar, mandolin, and write my own music now.
 
2013-09-17 10:15:57 AM
Kinda wish my parents had forced me to stay with the guitar at 12 years old. I have a lot of time to make up for and a lot less free time to do it in.
 
2013-09-17 10:23:30 AM
I wish my parents had *let* me take piano when I was a kid. I begged them, and because my Dad was forced by his musically inclined father to learn violin, he refused. I didn't get to learn until I was 17 when I could pay for it myself.

I still play, so there's that. But learning to read music is like learning to read anything. Imagine starting learn to read at 17. That is me: I read music like I am 7 years old, and I more or less always will.

I love my Dad, but I will never forgive him for that.
 
2013-09-17 10:24:44 AM
You do what you want with your kid.  Home school them and teach them that the earth is flat.  But don't cry to me when they can't do math, have no discipline, no skills, and no joy in their lives.
 
2013-09-17 11:10:25 AM
We need to replace music classes with gun classes.

The American Way.
 
2013-09-17 11:23:34 AM

vudukungfu: I dunno. I had (like everyone in my family for generations) 2 years mandatory piano beginning at 9.
Taught myself guitar, mandolin, and write my own music now.


I was not forced to play an instrument. I can't play anything, and don't really even like music.

Everyone's different. Expose your kid to the world and let them investigate what they'd like to know more of. THEN you force them to follow through.
 
2013-09-17 11:25:28 AM
Do what you want, Sparky. No one is forcing you to teach your kids. Classical training in music is indeed a status symbol, but it has benefits. Ballet teaches discipline. Music teaches discipline. Just like sports. Dance teaches kinesthetics. Music trains the ear, as well as coordination as well as trains the mind. My daughter wanted to do ballet. She realized she wasn't very good at it, but the lessons taught important discipline. She has a learning disability that makes sight reading music problematic, because it's a spatial issue, and made leaning an instrument difficult as well. She loves music though, and has taken to singing, because the spatial issue is not a big thing, and she has trained her ear to make the leap to translate, a bit, musical notation. Coordinating fingers, arms, AND reading music all at the same time, that was a ticket to frustration, but singing comes to her naturally, and she has an amazing ear. She has good breath control, she is a natural performer, and loves the classics. OK, she also has a thing for Broadway musicals, but her mother and I were both theater minors, so she comes by that honestly.

Arts education is NOT necessary, but for the folks who want their kids to succeed, it's not a bad start. More people go on to have a career in the arts, than athletes go on to play sports professionally. You have a much better chance to make a living in the arts than playing sports. Yet, we spend an awful lot on our school budgets for kids to play sports, and tout the "discipline" that goes into such education. There is a real world application for arts education, and it translates to not simply a career, but opening a new world for kids. For expression, for history, kinesthetics translates into day to day benefits, not to mention a skill that can actually be marketable.

Music is universal. People play games, and they make music together. It's social. It's a way to bring folks together. What it boils down to is the impression that the arts education is "elitist", save that playing an instrument brings folks together. From a band playing fiddle tunes at a barn dance, mountain sings, choirs, to orchestras or the band at a football game. We use music at such events, because its common cultural experience. Musicians play an important part in our lives, from the music at our weddings, from the bands at our dances, to attending concerts--be they classical or a pit or a fiddle and jug performance at the local watering hole. Music is only "elitist" in that not everyone does it, and it takes hard work and dedication to be any good at it, and in that, musicians and dancers HAVE that dedication to craft. And it as much craft as it is art. My own arts education was in singing. I spent many long hours learning pieces, training my voice, and it pays off. I project well. I have breath control. Part of that came from martial arts training as well, and the applications cross over boundaries all the time. My dedication to drawing and painting translated to hand skills. My martial arts training comes in handy for dance and understanding where the body goes and how it moves. My daughters dance improved immeasurably after she started taking karate. And that was her choice, not mine. If it had been MY choice, I would have gotten her into jujitsu classes, but she wanted karate. I teach her on the side, but the training itself has benefits beyond just learning how to hit folks and not be hit.

You train hard, be it in music, be it in dance, be it in pottery, be it in painting, sculpture or even woodworking, there are benefits that cascade, as you train yourself and discipline yourself to your art. The same way that training for football and basketball have benefits off the field, or spending time on the mat if you train to fight. The important part is the dedication to improving oneself and one's art, and learning the craft behind these endeavors.
 
2013-09-17 11:51:24 AM

gilgigamesh: I wish my parents had *let* me take piano when I was a kid. I begged them, and because my Dad was forced by his musically inclined father to learn violin, he refused. I didn't get to learn until I was 17 when I could pay for it myself.

I still play, so there's that. But learning to read music is like learning to read anything. Imagine starting learn to read at 17. That is me: I read music like I am 7 years old, and I more or less always will.

I love my Dad, but I will never forgive him for that.


I started at 33. If I have a string of notes above or below the staff, I have to concentrate so hard that I drool a little.
 
2013-09-17 12:26:57 PM
Of course you'd suggest practicing their atomic bombs is a better alternative to picking up the banjo, eh Oppenheimer?
 
2013-09-17 12:28:16 PM
thumbs4.ebaystatic.com
I am still waiting for my Recorder lessons to pay off in my adult life, I have faith!!
 
2013-09-17 12:29:19 PM
By GOD my child will learn to play the Clarinet. If I had to, my child has to too.

/Although I really wish my parents had made me learn the piano or guitar.
 
2013-09-17 12:31:30 PM
That being said, I wish I'd taken REAL music lessons as a child.  I picked up guitar in my late teens but lacked what is best termed "talent" and was too "lazy" to make up with hard work where natural talent failed.  I learned enough to read tab, but never learned to read music or apply musical theory.  I think a better early musical education might have helped.
 
2013-09-17 12:35:38 PM
I like my daughter in ballet, it combines sport and art.

Would like it even more if her grandmother(my mother inlaw) still payed for her tuition...

My oldest son just started playing french horn.
 
2013-09-17 12:41:49 PM

Ennuipoet: [thumbs4.ebaystatic.com image 225x225]
I am still waiting for my Recorder lessons to pay off in my adult life, I have faith!!


You could play for us, the song of your people...
 
2013-09-17 12:45:29 PM
I don't force my kid to play saxophone, but I encourage her. She's in marching band, does solo competitions and will be joining jazz band soon. We just got her a Cannonball yesterday, she'd better stick with it.

Being in a school system that values musical education is wonderful.
 
2013-09-17 12:52:22 PM
Yeah, they can learn the skin flute all by themselves
 
2013-09-17 12:54:06 PM

ytterbium: I don't force my kid to play saxophone, but I encourage her. She's in marching band, does solo competitions and will be joining jazz band soon. We just got her a Cannonball yesterday, she'd better stick with it.

Being in a school system that values musical education is wonderful.


I think that's the way to do it.  Encouragement is great for any activity your kids want to try. That can mean firm encouragement from time to time if they're getting discouraged about something that they usually enjoy and are contemplating quitting just out of frustration.  On the other hand forcing them to do something they despise isn't going to be good for them.

There are plenty of artistic and other extracurricular pursuits to try out.  Let them get their toes wet early on and see which ones they gravitate towards.  I always loved music and theater, but I've never enjoyed drawing or painting.  My little sister never wanted to play an instrument, but she's a great painter.
 
2013-09-17 01:29:36 PM
Everyone should learn to play an instrument, even if just rudimentarily. The joy of playing music with other people is well worth the small struggle it takes to learn a guitar chord or 5.
 
2013-09-17 01:34:13 PM
If you're going to make your son learn an instrument, at least make it one that can get him laid.
 
2013-09-17 01:40:54 PM
No. Kids should be forced to learn an instrument and start learning a second language before the age of 10 because after that it gets a lot more difficult
 
2013-09-17 01:41:42 PM
Make my kids learn an instrument?  I have to put on the Dad Voice to get them to stop playing.
 
2013-09-17 01:42:27 PM
Our daughter Rebekah, who is in second grade, takes three after-school classes every week. On Monday there is violin; on Wednesday, Hebrew; and on Thursday, ballet. One of these classes connects her to a religious tradition going back three thousand years. Two Three of them are pretty well pointless.
 
2013-09-17 01:43:40 PM
Is this not the same as taking an instrument in school? I started the saxophone in 4th grade and played through high school (alto then tenor). Learned how to read music and a bit of theory. Never bothered with the sax afterwards, but have started teaching myself guitar recently and the music background helps a little. Other than school I haven't had any kind of private lessons or other formal training.

As it is when I first started messing with the guitars my son (three at the time) was interested, so I got him a cheap little kids' guitar for his 4th birthday. He lost interest in it pretty quickly but I keep it around; for me to bang on and in case he or his little brother show any interest down the road.
 
2013-09-17 01:43:48 PM
I'd say it's more likely that kids are forced to play organized sports far more than they're forced to learn an instrument.  I know a ton of musicians and I've never heard one of them complain that they started playing at an early age.  It's usually more beneficial in the long run.

On the other hand, I know a ton of people who don't enjoy sports as adults because their fathers tried to force little superstars.
 
2013-09-17 01:45:08 PM
This is satire, right? It's got to be satire.

Our daughter Rebekah, who is in second grade, takes three after-school classes every week. On Monday there is violin; on Wednesday, Hebrew; and on Thursday, ballet. One of these classes connects her to a religious tradition going back three thousand years. Two of them are pretty well pointless.

I mean, where do you even start?  You spelled your daughter's name wrong.  Violin and ballet are pointless but teaching her Hebrew for the sole purpose of "connecting" her to a religion isn't?

Imagine we took ten girls (or boys) who had studied ballet from the ages of five to twelve, and then quit, and mixed them in with ten girls (or boys) who had never taken dance. Let's say that we watched these twenty tweens move around their schools for a day: around the cafeteria, the library, the gym, passing notes, sneaking out behind the middle school for a smoke, all the stuff tweens do. Does anyone really believe we could spot the ones who had spent seven years in weekly or biweekly ballet class?

This might surprise you, but I'm pretty confident I could.  I just so happen to know a few dancers. Once you know what to look for, it's fairly easy to spot someone who has spent a significant amount of time training in dance.  Just like it's not terribly hard to spot someone who spent a similar amount of time involved with sports.

/What a dumb twit.
 
2013-09-17 01:47:16 PM
You know - as a desperately underutilized trombone player, I'm upset at not being able to pass this curse onto my children.
 
2013-09-17 01:47:33 PM
I'm not particularly musical.  Haven't picked up an instrument or looked at sheet music in years. But, you know, I wouldn't trade in those 8 years of last-stand viola playing for anything.  School sucked enough without having an outlet class or two.  The other orchestra nerds were my social circle. There's something truly awesome in being a bit player in a 200-piece symphony hitting Tchaikovsky (at multi-school events... I went to a school barely big enough to have a strings teacher).

I'm glad my parents knew it wasn't going anywhere for life and didn't push it (though I'd honestly consider being a back-row viola in a free community orchestra... such things are rare these days).  But, I'm glad they supported it, too.
 
2013-09-17 01:47:45 PM
God forbid that kids actually learn anything about the arts.  If they do, they might become one of those dirty libs, what with their fancy edumacation and book learnin...
 
2013-09-17 01:48:12 PM
So why are so many children taking ballet, violin, piano? Lately, I have been asking my fellow middle-class urbanite parents that question. About dance, they say things like, "Ballet teaches them poise," or, "Ballet helps them be graceful." And about violin or piano they say, "It will give them a lifelong skill," or, "They'll always enjoy listening to music more."

It does not take a rocket scientist, or a Juilliard-trained cellist, to see the flaws in these assertions. First, as to ballet, I propose a test. Imagine we took ten girls (or boys) who had studied ballet from the ages of five to twelve, and then quit, and mixed them in with ten girls (or boys) who had never taken dance. Let's say that we watched these twenty tweens move around their schools for a day: around the cafeteria, the library, the gym, passing notes, sneaking out behind the middle school for a smoke, all the stuff tweens do. Does anyone really believe we could spot the ones who had spent seven years in weekly or biweekly ballet class?


Saying "I don't believe we'd see any evidence" is not seeing a "flaw in an assertion", jackass. Maybe this is why you're a "blogger" rather than a scientist.

Either that, or the fact that in the next sentence, you disagree with yourself:
I do not doubt that a ballet teacher or dance aficionado might spot some tell-tale moves-a slip into first position here or there, a certain elegance in a jump during a game of ultimate frisbee. And probably one or two of the ballet students, the best of them, really would appear more graceful than the others.
 
2013-09-17 01:48:23 PM
No No No
It is 2013......these kids should be learning how to create an EDM, dubstep, techo electro or house track with Ableton Live or Reason.
Get with the program people.


Ok......I am being sarcastic.

I do own those software apps etc.
Fun stuff.
 
2013-09-17 01:49:13 PM
The intro paragraph brought up, as if it were more critical, something that definitely shouldn't be forced on kids.  They don't need your damned religion.  If it's so necessary, they can figure that out themselves.
 
2013-09-17 01:49:32 PM

Carth: No. Kids should be forced to learn an instrument and start learning a second language before the age of 10 because after that it gets a lot more difficult

 
2013-09-17 01:49:47 PM
As a piano teacher I even have to agree. If you are forcing your kids against their will then give up already. If they want to learn then pushing them by imposing some discipline is what it's all about. If they hate it then it's a waste of time and money.
 
2013-09-17 01:50:09 PM

Sybarite: If you're going to make your son learn an instrument, at least make it one that can get him laid.


That's why boys should be pushed towards ballet. It'll make them strong, fit, and graceful, and whether they turn out heterosexual or homosexual, they'll be surrounded by nubile and willing partners.
 
2013-09-17 01:52:04 PM

Sybarite: If you're going to make your son learn an instrument, at least make it one that can get him laid.


So I guess don't teach him bass, then?

/kidding
//bass player
///well, faffing around with a bass, anyway
 
2013-09-17 01:52:31 PM

Russ1642: As a piano teacher I even have to agree. If you are forcing your kids against their will then give up already. If they want to learn then pushing them by imposing some discipline is what it's all about. If they hate it then it's a waste of time and money.


That argument applies to virtually any kind of education, and only in the realm of music/art do we consider it a valid instruction.
 
2013-09-17 01:53:15 PM

Honest Bender: This might surprise you, but I'm pretty confident I could. I just so happen to know a few dancers. Once you know what to look for, it's fairly easy to spot someone who has spent a significant amount of time training in dance. Just like it's not terribly hard to spot someone who spent a similar amount of time involved with sports


I know, right? You go to the nudie bar, there's a huge difference between the dancers and the other strippers.
 
2013-09-17 01:53:35 PM
Music teacher here.

Yes, it helps with brain development, discipline, learning how to master a skill to some extent. Yes, I'm aware that most of my students will not do anything with the instrument when they get older.

The other problem is the oversaturation of talent. There are just so many good players out there, and too few places for them to actually do anything with it.

I actually disagree with the idea that most parents have: Give their child 6 different activities, and, "then when you get older they can do anything they want." Nonsense. You really want your kid to have a shot in hell of doing something as, say, a classical pianist? Start them as young as possible, and have them spend every spare waking moment on it. Then, maybe they've got a shot if they also have some natural talent. Same with ballet. Same with being a professional athlete...and of course that's likely to pay better.
 
2013-09-17 01:55:40 PM
Ballet training is to make girls sexy
1) "slender" with muscle tone
2) coordinated - able to walk without shambling.

99% of dance majors in college who get jobs in dance wind up teaching aerobics or ballet to little girls. Its self-perpetuating.
 
2013-09-17 01:56:38 PM
Haven't played sax in 30 years, but I greatly value my 7 years of music classes. I am now a video producer, and can actually talk to a composer intelligently when scoring soundtracks. I have a sense of rhythm that translates well to the visual side, along with concepts like phrasing and dynamics.

So FU article writer. You are a D-Bag and a shortsighted fool.
 
2013-09-17 01:56:41 PM
When I was in elementary school, everyone was signing up for band or orchestra. You could choose one or neither, but not both. Many of my friends were forced into one or the other and told they were going to play a particular instrument. My parents are both musicians. I told them what was going on at school and they asked me if I wanted to play an instrument and, if I did, which one. I said I wasn't interested. They said ok. Later, on my own, I picked up bass guitar. Now I can also play guitar, a little keyboard/piano, some drums (I can keep a beat, at least), and I sing. I think my parents forcing it on me would have had a detrimental effect, which is why they didn't do that. I thank them for it.
 
2013-09-17 01:56:47 PM
Quit goofing around and get back to work!
i40.tinypic.com
 
GBB
2013-09-17 01:57:43 PM
Having just started learning guitar via Rocksmith, I really wish I had the opportunity to learn, or at least exposure to it, 20+ years ago.
 
2013-09-17 01:58:08 PM
Teaching your kid how to play the violin won't help them on the assembly line!
Ah, the gentlest of class warfare...
 
2013-09-17 01:58:08 PM
I already am - and I'm sure I will continue - to force my kids to learn tons of things that they won't have an interest in. Farking math...learn it.

I'm surprised it's news to the author that so many parents never use their musical training any more. So? That's probably the case with 80-90% of everything you learned through high school. You received general education, you remembered what you ended up needing to use and apply, and you forgot the rest.

Ask a room full of people if they remember much cellular biology, and if they continue to use it - the one doctor or maybe nutritionist might raise a hand. So stop teaching kids cellular biology, right?
 
2013-09-17 01:59:09 PM
If your kids express an interest in an instrument, some genre of dance, or a sport, then by all means encourage and enable that interest.
But don't force them to do it to the point where they start to hate the activity.


My parents were really good about it. My father went to every home soccer game that my brother and I played in high school, and he hates the game. After we graduated, he never watched another minute of soccer.

If you've got kids, be like that.
 
2013-09-17 01:59:59 PM
I was never forced, but in retrospect I wish I had been, if only at a basic level. It would be much harder for me to learn at this point and my time is far more limited.
 
2013-09-17 02:00:04 PM
3rd Grade. Brought home a violin. Even then, I knew violins were for nerds. Didn't want a violin.

Mom and Dad let me drop out of music.

I honestly think that was one of the worse decisions of my life, and one of the worse decisions my parents made.
 
2013-09-17 02:01:07 PM
All I saw was "kids wanna play pop music, not classical". Wah.

Kids don't want to spell words properly, form complete sentences, or perform multiplication without using a calculator.
They are kids, they are stupid. We force them to do these things because they are good and useful. Maybe their brain forms in a better way long-term and they are more successful at whatever they ultimately do as an adult because they had exposure to these ways of thinking, being, doing, regardless of whether they stay active as musical performers of any kind.
 
2013-09-17 02:01:26 PM

error 303: Our daughter Rebekah, who is in second grade, takes three after-school classes every week. On Monday there is violin; on Wednesday, Hebrew; and on Thursday, ballet. One of these classes connects her to a religious tradition going back three thousand years. Two Three of them are pretty well pointless.


I wouldn't really call learning Hebrew pointless for a Jew...

/Not a Jew.
//But guess who is?
///Hall of Famer Rod Carew.
 
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