angry girl
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Most public school students will begin playing an instrument if there is a music program to facilitate this. However, one or two years down the line, more than half of them quit. As a result, they do not gain the full benefits that music education has to offer.

There are typical answers you will get when you ask parents or students about the reasons why kids quit their musical instruments, as Tony Mazzocchi shares:

  • The student is not musically talented (or at least thought they weren’t).
  • The student is too busy with other activities.
  • The student hates practicing (or the parents grow weary of begging the child to practice).
  • The student doesn’t like their teacher.

…and there’s more… Via Music Parents Guide (MPG)

girl playing violin
Image Courtesy of NPR

However, as Tony argues, most students are unable to fully understand the actual reasons why they quit playing their instruments. He believes that the blame lies largely with the parents and teachers of these students. It’s their job to create the ‘magical moments’ in the early years of study that will keep the students coming back in subsequent years.

Here are the eight major reasons why students quit their instruments and what parents and teachers can do to prevent them:

  1. Parents treat music as less important than other subjects

Even when school administrators and non-music teachers don’t find music to be of equal important with other subjects, parents should not make this mistake.

Besides, you wouldn’t let your child quit math, would you?  Many kids would jump at that opportunity!  Music is a core subject…period.  The more parents treat it as such, the less students will quit. Via MPG

  1. Students don’t get the help they need to get better
music class
Image Courtesy of Montgomery Schools

Students don’t know how to get better, and without proper guidance, they become frustrated and want to quit.

It is the role of music educators and parents to give students ownership over their learning.  Teachers must teach students why, how, where, and when to practice, and parents must obtain minimal knowledge about how students learn music in order to properly support them at home. Via MPG

  1. Parents think their kids, like them, aren’t musically talented

Parents need to understand that playing a musical instrument is a craft that demands more practice than it does talent.

As long as students know how to practice and that it needs to be done regularly, they will get better.  Many parents who speak to me and claim that they aren’t “musically talented” simply had bad teachers and little home support with music practice. Via MPG

  1. Parents don’t encourage their kids to keep playing during their summer break
summer break
Image Courtesy of The Guardian

Just like reading, students that don’t play their instruments over the summer will really struggle once schools open.

A year of musical instruction can quickly go down the tubes over the summer vacation if students do not find small ways to play once in a while. Picking up an instrument for the first time after a long layoff can be so frustrating that a student will not want to continue into the next school year. Via MPG

  1. Instruments are not attended to

It’s important to always be on top of repairs whenever they are needed, as this could have a serious effect on a child’s playing ability.

Sometimes the malfunction is so subtle that the student thinks they are doing something wrong, and frustration mounts. Via MPG

  1. Teachers don’t provide enough opportunities for students to perform
Music students perform
Image Courtesy of TriCreek

Giving kids the opportunity to perform during the year provides a major motivation boost that can’t quite be replaced by anything else.

Weeks or even months on end of practicing without performing for an audience gets old very quick, and students will definitely quit.  Teachers should schedule performances every six weeks or so in order for students to stay engaged and practicing.  Parents can help by creating small performance opportunities at home — a Friday night dinner concert or a planned performance for visiting family members are great ideas. Via MPG

  1. Kids are not encouraged to practice the music they actually like

It’s very important for parents to be aware of music that interests their child, because it exists in sheet music form for download or purchase. It’s important that all students play music that is aligned to their interests in addition to other pieces that are worked on in school. Via MPG

  1. Other activities are prioritized over music

There’s just too many things that kids are involved in, and parents often get tired of having one more thing to add to their schedule.

Parents need to understand that the enduring social and psychological benefits of music are as enormous as those of sports — in the same and different ways.  Also, if music is a class in school, then school obligations should be priorities.  Budget time accordingly and children will have 10 minutes a day to practice an instrument, for sure. Via MPG

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