September 20, 2013 at 5:38 PMI'll admit it, this article, called Stop Forcing Your Kids to Learn a Musical Instrument, got on my nerves this week.
Not that I think people should "force" their children to play the violin or anything else. But I certainly do believe in the value of music education and literacy. Probably the most unnerving thing about the article was the author's underlying musical illiteracy, revealed in this comment, "Look, I love the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, but one could make the argument that Rebekah (his daughter) would be better off learning to play the Lumineers’ 'Ho Hey' on guitar."
Nice pop song. But it would take about five minutes to learn the four chords in "Ho Hey" on the guitar. I'd estimate that it would a person around 12 years of music education to learn the literally hundreds of skills required to play the Mendelssohn concerto. Guess what? If you have learned the Mendelssohn, you can get very easily to the bottom of that Lumineers song and just about any other music, no problem.
Why devote years to getting to the level of playing the Mendelssohn Concerto? For the same reason why you devote 12 years getting to Calculus class, or the reason you devote 12 years getting to the point where you can read Shakespeare and understand it. Education teaches you to think, and we do need adults who can think. It doesn't matter if you still play the instrument that helped you get an inside view of music, or if you still do the calculus problems that stretched your brain to the highest level of math, or if you regularly go back to reading the Iliad. You are an educated person for all these things, better able to appreciate culture, function in the world, and contribute to your community as a citizen.
And so. This week's vote:
Actually it is interesting that the responses to the original blog in the New Republic (which is not a website necessarily populated by a huge bunch of music teachers and classical music aficionados) were nearly universally protective of music education and classical music!
"Rebekah, for her part, will continue with ballet. And violin. Periodically, we ask her if she’d like to quit, and she always says no. That’s good enough for us."
As one who strongly favors music education and classical music, I agree that parents shouldn't force kids to play musical instruments. That doesn't mean parents shouldn't enroll a kid in lessons for a time to see whether or not the kid might like playing.
My own childhood experience bears this out. Our parents played classical music frequently on radio and recordings. They didn't force it down our throats. They just happened to like it. It caught on with me. At 7 y/o, every Saturday, especially in winter, I would play one classical LP -- forerunner of the CD -- after another for 3-5 hours.
That's when my parents decided to enroll me in beginning piano lessons. They wanted me to get some experience in playing an instrument. Since our family had a piano, that was a logical first choice. But soon a pro orchestra played at my elementary school, and the violin muse stole me from piano. Now I really wanted to make music, because I'd found the right instrument for me. I made the switch. My piano skill never developed beyond the basics.
One definition of a philistine is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
I am, on the other hand, for seriously trying to find a serious discipline the kid loves because it will teach him/her so many good life lessons and skills he/she will be able to use later on in life...
By the way, the Ho-Hey song analogy was so funny :)
Heck, I wrote a book just so parents could even try their hand at it.
I've never heard of The Lumineers before, nor sampled their latest endeavor "Ho Hey". Maybe I'll slip it in between Wicks' Sibelius and "Wozzeck". Sure.
I've never seen the movie "Dazed and Confused" either. Isn't that a movie about kids smoking a lot of pot? Um, no.
I'm sorry for his child. His repeated "are you sure?" suggests his support is iffy, at best. Kids pick up signals and signs. They are not stupid.
I'm a little surprised that someone with such a distinguished publishing and academic career doesn't appreciate the beautiful lessons of resilience (among other things) that the fine arts offer.
Puzzling, isn't it...
Is he one of *the* Oppenheimers?
I think that kids learning a musical instrument is a good thing. Just like sports or dance, a musical instrument is just another thing to expose them to. My sister did a ton of things when she was younger, in elementary school, some with me - swimming, piano, reading, dance, Girl Scouts, soccer, etc. - and she still did some musical things. Now, in middle school, she's focused on what she wants to do - writing. I think parents should expose their kids to as many things as possible when they're young. If they don't like to play music, that's ok! Don't force them to continue if they don't want to.
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