To Commit or Quit: A Six Part Introspective on Music Lessons

1 - Taking it Seriously

“I think we’re going to take a break from lessons for now”. 

We’ve all heard it.  It’s like when your girlfriend breaks up with you by saying, “Let’s take a break”.  We all know a “break” means permanently. 

“Well, why?” 

“Jimmy has a lot of school work 

Let’s talk about schoolwork, or more broadly, other subjects which usually involve homework that needs to be completed every day from class to class for the student to progress in the subject and to maintain good grades.  

The rise in standardized testing has dramatically increased the amount of work for both students AND teachers.  It greatly decreases the amount of creative, out of the box teaching styles that teachers can implement in their classrooms, while students are stuck down a singular path with almost no margin for error that keeps narrowing with every new test. 

An article posted by the mentions that the average amount of standardized tests a student today will have to take could be more than 60 from kindergarten to high school graduation compared to 10 starting in the year 2000-2001.  Read the full article here. 

It’s also stated that there is an astronomical amount of preparation behind each test, which believe it or not, get in the way of education that should be the overarching purpose behind schooling. 

The general perception that teachers and parents have about school in today’s society is that it’s supposed to primarily prepare students for an adult life.  As valuable as this may be, it can also be detrimental because it’s usually at the expense of learning for the sake of knowledge.  Do children really need to know about imaginary numbers to file taxes?  Do they need to know about the tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet” to give a presentation at work?  No.  However, if one is to be culturally impacted and enriched, it is wise to learn these things.  They expand the mind and make it more creative, positively affecting a child’s adult life. 

Music is no different.  Most students who take a musical instrument in school are not preparing to go into the field of music, which is why they usually stop to make room for preparation for their careers.  What’s more alarming, is that they don’t continue music after graduation to any degree, even though they may have enjoyed the experience in school.  Most student musicians quit their instrument for the rest of their life.   

This can be psychologically damaging.  An article by presents studies that show greater brain development occur in those that not only start a musical instrument before age nine, but that start or continue an instrument as an adult.  These studies also show that engaging in music lessons at any age can increase long and short-term memory and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  Read the full article here. 

Most parents don’t realize that music is a core curricular subject with core curricular standards to which students and teachers should adhere as guidelines.  We all know the benefits of a music education to support other subjects and increase test scores, but not enough emphasis is placed on why music is a viable subject on it’s own.  And this is why it doesn't carry as much weight with parents as other subjects.  So instead of casting aside music to make room for other subjects, parents should be supplementing music with other classes and vice versa.

Activities: A culture, or an epidemic?  I’ll touch upon that topic next time.