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

Answers and a Conclusion 

Well, you've made it this far, congratulations!  I know it was a long read but I hope it was worth it and opened up insights for you.  The second through fifth blog installment went into detail about the four big reasons as to why parents and their children quit music which can be summed up into four words: Dismissal, Over-scheduling, Underexposure, and Ignorance. 

Now as a parent, here are some things you need to start doing TODAY:

  • Take music seriously.  It’s a subject JUST like any other that requires patience and hard work from EVERYONE to improve.  

  • Before signing up for lessons, budget time for both the music lesson AND the practice time it takes EVERYDAY to improve from week to week. 

  • Listen to all kinds of music.  All the time. 

  • No matter how much your child begs you to stop lessons.  Don’t listen.  See this through to the end.  Wait until your children are old enough to make informed decisions about their music education on their own (yes, even if you are paying for it)

Every single adult I’ve spoken to over the age of 18 that has quit music lessons when they were children regret doing so.  And the ones that stick with it were glad that their parents made them practice when they were younger.  

Music is everywhere.  All the time.  It enriches our lives, helps us achieve goals, and makes us better rounded.  It is as necessary as schooling.  Music must be a big part of your child’s life.  They will thank you for it later. 


and practice SMART!




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

4 - Children Don’t Know Any Better 

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

“Well, why?” 

“Well, Michael’s not practicing.  He just doesn't want to do it anymore.

Last time, I touched upon how important it is to expose your child to music outside of the lesson to help maintain their interest.  Now on to the final reason.  And it isn't going to be pretty.  Let's call this the 600 pound gorilla in the room.

This is probably the single most important reason everyone overlooks so pay very close attention: 

 “Children don’t know any better”.   

Hurts doesn't it?  But it’s true and you needed to hear it.  They don’t know any better and they never will.  Sure, children are perceptive, and smart in finding the simplest answers to be the correct ones.   However, they lack the judgment that teenagers and adults have.  This is what separates a child from an adult.  Parents forget this.  

If you want the answer as to why Michael isn't practicing, it's because he's seven.  Children don't practice not because they don't have interest, but because they don't have patience. 

In general children do want to become better.  Even if your child does practice every day, it’s because they like playing music.  They don’t understand the long-term effects of it or the process of educational development.  Almost every child I’ve taught wants to be good at music.  So this tells me that they understand the result; they just don’t understand the process.  Parents who don’t know that education is a process, not a single event, often echo this lack of understanding. This is misinterpreted into the desire to quit lessons all together. 

Parents do your job and fill in the gaps.  Be involved with your child’s lessons and practice time.   Ask questions.  Ask them what they’re learning and have them show you what they’re learning.  Encourage your children and force them (if needed) to practice every day.  Show them that there are consequences for not practicing.  Take away their iPad until they put in some practice time.  If even after all of this, they STILL don’t practice, take pride in the fact that they’re learning during the time of the lesson.  They may not be retaining the information, but music can be therapeutic.  This could be the only source of music education they ever have in life.  Take advantage of it.  The light will turn on eventually. 

So when should Michael call it quits?  When he realizes how much work it takes to be a musician.  When he can quantify how much practice he REALLY needs to, not only improve from week to week, but to achieve long term goals.  If this is in line with his kind of thinking, then he’ll start to work…or stop completely.  There is no gray area here.  None of my high school aged students practice less than 45 minutes to an hour a day.  They’re doing it because they want to at this point.  Essentially, Michael will decide for himself when it is time to stop when he’s old enough to reason. 

Parents are quick to ending lessons because they don’t want to force their kids to practice and they feel it’s a waste of money.  They feel that it’s agonizing and that it’s damaging the child/parent relationship.  It’s not…this is what parenting is all about.  If you want your child to practice, ending their lessons is NOT the answer.  The only thing that Michael will learn from ending lessons is that it’s OK to quit. 

Don’t cater to what your child WANTS today.  Cater to what they will NEED tomorrow. 

Well, there are the four reasons.  Stay tuned for my four solutions next time!

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

3 - Not Enough Exposure 

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

“Well, why? 

“Frankie just doesn’t seem to have any interest in music” 

In the last installment, we learned that activities played a major role with parents stopping their child's music lessons.  But what about the child's interest level?

A few weeks ago I asked one of my violin students who is 14 years old and in 8th grade, if he listens to music.  He blankly stared at me for a couple of seconds and shrugged his shoulders.  I asked him if he likes music.  He responded with a monotone “yes”.  Now, it could’ve been he was too embarrassed to answer until I started mentioning artists like Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Beck.  He had a VAGUE recollection of who these people were.   

So we put down our violins and I took out my laptop from my bag, went to YouTube and we started listening to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gavotte in G minor played by Hilary Hahn.  This was the piece that my student was currently working on.  I told him to follow along in his music.  After listening I asked him what he thought.  He was very impressed by her sound and ability to fleetly glide from one string to another.  At the conclusion of the lesson, I gave him a listening assignment where I wanted him to find four more recordings of the exact same piece played by different artists.  I wanted to see if he could discern their interpretations and also tell me which one was his favorite.   

The following week he came back to me almost anxious to show me the different recordings.  So we discussed them.  He played the piece again for me on his violin.  The difference was overwhelming.  Not so much from an academic standpoint where his technique improved, but there was feeling behind it now.  In the playing itself, there was a desire to be better and a desire to learn more.  He won’t outwardly express it.  He’s a young man of little words, but I can sense it in his playing. 

The moral of the story is for parents to expose their child to music outside of the lessons.  All kinds of music.  Classical, Jazz, Rock, Hip-Hop, R+B, Pop, World music, Cultural music, Soundtracks from shows, movies, video games.  It doesn’t take much effort to do this.  Show your child the methods in which you listened to music growing up.  Show them how a Walkman, CD player and a record player work.  Have your children read about different kinds of music.  Take them to a live show with professional musicians performing.  Take them to an orchestra concert.  See what’s around.  Don’t let their music lessons, private and in school be the only exposure they have to music. 

Let their teacher show them how to be an ACTIVE listener.  Not just listening to the lyrics, but listening to the sounds.  How they interact with each other.  Exploring different instrument combinations.  Talk to them about the sounds they like and the sounds they don’t like.   Have them develop an opinion without casting judgment.  The more they listen in conjunction with their lessons the better idea they will have at how music is constructed.  This way, they will have a way to mold their own progress to better tailor their instruction.  Listening to music outside of the lesson will highly increase the chances of the students sticking with music and developing quicker than those who aren’t. 

In addition, listening to music also has its health benefits.  An article by the details a list of positive effects music has on the mind and body.  You can see the full article hereAlso, please check out the blog on the importance of music education for kids.  These are all points that steer children in a positive direction with proper exposure to music.  

Reducing stress, improving memory and heart health are just some of the reasons why everyone should listen to music on a regular basis. 

So turn off the iPad, computer, and TV and turn on the radio.  Get listening!  

What's the difference between intelligence and wisdom?  Which age groups have what?  Find out next time!