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Liz Lambson

Back to School: Music, Extracurriculars & Life Balance

September 4, 2013 at 3:53 AM


There are only so many hours in a day. (Photo by Dave Stokes)

Living a balanced life.

Easier said than done. Just ask the Kennedy Violins staff during back-to-school season; i.e. NOW.

Back in the day I remember having a high school schedule totally inundated with an overabundance of extracurriculars, especially during my junior and senior years. After all, college applications were due and I needed to beef up my resume. I was hoping for a music scholarship, so naturally I had to be involved in everything possible:


  • Orchestra

  • Wind Ensemble

  • Jazz Band

  • Pit Orchestra

  • Marching Band

  • Youth Symphony

  • All State Orchestra

  • All State Band

  • Western States Honor Orchestra

  • Solo and Ensemble


But what about that academic scholarship? Of course I needed to be involved in more than just music. So in addition to performing, I stayed busy with National Honor Society, lacrosse, the school play, Spanish Club, service projects, church activities, and as many AP courses as I possibly could fit in.

The world was mine. I could do it all . . .

. . . that is, until I found myself completely overwhelmed. One day in particular, I remember breaking down in tears, realizing I couldn't be in three places at the same time. I had just landed a great role in the spring production of Shakespeare's The Tempest after auditioning on a whim. Having never been in a play before, I was so excited by the possibility of acting on stage for the first time. But, unfortunately, rehearsals would conflict with lacrosse practice and my youth symphony's rehearsals and spring concerts.

What to do? I didn't want to let my team down. I didn't want to let my conductor down, or my section, especially as I was standing principle. But I also didn't want to let myself down and my own dream to try something new.

So a hard decision was made. I chose to do the play. And as torn and sad as I was to step aside from sports and music for a short season, I look back on my high school years and treasure being a part of The Tempest as one of the most rewarding, memorable, and just plain fun experiences of my life.

Of course, I haven't acted since . . . but I do still play music. So not all was lost. The truth is, you just can't do everything and do everything well—at least not at the same time. It was a hard lesson learned, but a truth I had to accept.

___________________


Later, I had a bass student who was in the same shoes I'd been in with too much on his plate. As far as his musicianship was concerned, he just wasn't progressing as the weeks and months went by. It didn't take me long to realize that he was too busy running from activity to activity (morning and evening swimming practice, Boy Scouts, service activities, family events, study sessions, etc.) to even have a moment to practice. He barely had enough time to squeeze in that weekly lesson; no wonder we weren't getting anywhere. It wasn't long before even lessons slipped through the cracks. Something had to give, which ended up being his musical training.

Truth is, lessons aren't really just a one-hour commitment per week. Every one-hour lesson requires hours of practice in between to be worthwhile. Music lessons not accompanied by personal practice end up being a waste of resources for all parties involved (the student, the teacher, and the parents). So while it may seem like you're doing your child a favor to enroll him/her in as many extracurricular activities as you can possibly squeeze in, remember that each activity has the potential of drawing value from the others.

And really, there are so many good choices: music (to which we're biased, of course), drama, sports, art, dance, clubs, student government, and more. For each individual's interests, there are good choices--then there are better choices, and the best choices. As Ghandi so well put it,

"Action expresses priorities."


No matter what you, your child, or your student chooses to do, consider where the heart lies. Doing what you're passionate about, what brings you fulfillment, and what leads you to your future plans plays a huge role in where you choose to invest your time.

So as the school year begins, and those choices present themselves, keep in mind that there are only so many hours in the day. Still, even with those limited hours, it is possible to achieve great, great things.

Happy learning, and best wishes. Let the school year begin!

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