30 January 2019
Written by Anthony Mazzocchi
Why Students Really Quit Their Musical Instrument (and How Parents Can Prevent It)
by Anthony Mazzocchi
Article originally posted on the Parents’ Music Guide, National Association of Music Education
Every year almost 100% of public school students begin an instrument through their school’s music program (if a program exists). One or two years later, more than 50% of students quit; unable to enjoy all that music education has to offer for the rest of their K-12 schooling, if not beyond.
During my time as an educator and administrator, parents and students have shared with me several reasons why the child quit their musical instrument, including:
…and there’s more…
But the real reasons that students quit is often beyond their own understanding. It is up to teachers and parents to create moments for students to want to continue on their instrument during the early years of study in order for the child to be successful and stay with the craft.
Here are reasons students quit, and ways to combat them:
Students don’t know how to get better. Without the proper tools and practice habits to get better at anything, students will become frustrated and want to quit. It is the role of the music educator and the 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.
Parents and students think they aren’t musically talented. Sure, there are some kids who pick up an instrument and sound decent immediately, but they will hit a wall later and have to work hard to overcome it. Most everyone else won’t sound that great at first. Playing a musical instrument is a craft that, if practiced correctly, is something that all children can find success in. As long as students know how to practice and that it needs to be done regularly, they will get better.
Students discontinue playing over the summer. Statistics show that students who do not read over the summer find themselves extremely behind once school starts. The same goes for playing an instrument. 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.
Much like any worthwhile venture, practicing a musical instrument has its ups and downs. Kids need to be reminded to practice, of course — but they should not be constantly pushed, and they should not be completely left alone. It’s a balancing act where sometimes the parents will need to give their child a break for a few days and other times will need to bribe them to practice. Either way, all children are capable of thriving with a musical education, and students will indeed thank their parents for not letting them quit.