October 18, 2011

Music Lessons or Life Lessons: Should students quit when they feel challenged?

So the other day I received a message from a mother of a student that I teach.  She was sharing how her son doesn't practice his piano unless she pushes him and that she felt it was better to stop piano lessons.  Now as a music teacher I have a few things to say about lessons ending before the end of a month.  It is nearly the end of October and I feel the student could at least go to the end.

And it made me sad to hear that there has apparently been so much frustration at home about practicing.  I have been teaching for many years and rarely have students or parents just quit.  Of course each circumstance is unique but the boy has shown aptitude for music and completed nearly a full year of lessons. 

At the beginning he couldn't play anything and now he is learning to perform pieces that sound like something.  Another issue that bothered me was that I had asked the student multiple times if he understood everything and if he was enjoying lessons.  He always said yes. I always write down assignments and send them home with him.  I even hunted for music that would be fun so he wouldn't be bored.

But students could have excellent teachers and still not progress if they are not encouraged at home.  The other side of the coin are parents who don't push their kids to continue even when at times they may be frustrated. And this last thought is what I'm trying to get at.

I have been seeing more and more students leading their parents by the nose.  The children get whatever they want even if it isn't the best for them.  And its not just in music.  Its almost as if children these days feel entitled to do or have whatever they want when they want it.  And if they can't then they feel entitled to not give any effort and/or give up.

What kind of lesson does that teach the kids?  That if you complain enough, act up enough, or just be plain naughty they can get what they want every time.  And worse, if parents don't want or don't care to be the parents in their children's lives how are kids going to learn to respect authority? Or heck, we can just take authority out of it all together and wonder whether-or-not kids even know how to show respect these days.

In the case of my student I really can't do anything to change the decision the parents have already made.  I can only hope that he doesn't come to regret the choice to give up as so many of my adult students tell me they feel.  And there are many of them.

In my opinion music lessons are a healthy way for kids to express strong emotions and can even provide them with side income in the future should they excel well enough at playing any instrument.  Music lessons also encourage students to learn how to use their time wisely and helps them learn how to work towards goals, such as a recital or a gig.  

Its okay if most students have no intention of going into a career in music.  I'm not suggesting that all students must become virtuosos.  But I do strongly believe that students shouldn't quit when they feel challenged.  It has been my experience in all areas of life that when things get difficult it is always just before a break through.  If I had quit every time I felt stressed or frustrated I would have nothing right now.  But I guess that is a lesson this student and his parents will have to learn the hard way.