There’s a lot of music going on in this house. And most of it isn’t the sit down the young man and don’t get up until I’ve heard an hour of Hanon type stuff, which is why I think it’s working.
Oh, I started off trying to do it that way. I am a believer in starting kids off on the piano so that they can get a feel for reading music, using both hands, having more than one thing happening at once. Unfortunately there’s no easy way to learn the piano, it’s a bit of a slog for a couple of years and that at an age when they’d rather be doing almost anything else, including cleaning their rooms. If you can stick that out, and I highly recommend using quite a lot of bribery, you’re away.
You then need to get them involved in group music, and that could be at school. At the first school my kids went to, there was just the choir. And there was only a choir because me, another mum and a passing piano teacher decided that there would be, none of the actual teachers thought they’d like to be involved. It was quite painful for me, as I don’t actually like children that much en masse, every rehearsal I was worried I’d end up tied up in a cupboard somewhere while the kids set fire to the hall. It did get quite a lot of kids performing music, though, so the aim was achieved.
It’s much at easier at the fancy private schools I ended up sending my kids to. You have to make an effort not to be involved in music at these places. Because I’d put in the slog and my kids could read music, they had no trouble picking up the clarinet, the flute and the bassoon in descending order. The Moose didn’t join the choir initially because he found the public school one almost as traumatic as I did, but by the time he’d reached high school he’d got over that. The other two joined immediately, plus every other ensemble on offer. The Moose didn’t really enjoy the clarinet either, even though it got him into the jazz band. He campaigned long and hard to be allowed to learn the drums. “When you’re in high school”, was my technique for putting him off. What do you know, eventually he did go to high school, despite my confident prediction that one of teachers would slaughter him by halfway through sixth grade, and I had to come good. Now he’s playing percussion in the jazz band and the intermediate wind orchestra and loving it quite a lot.
What I’ve discovered is that once you’ve given them that initial push and then encouraged them to look at what’s available, you then let them choose. Muffet has quit her choir because the singing at her high school seems to be run by a series of unimaginative old bats and it’s no fun, and I’m behind her all the way. What is fun at her school is the really excellent pipes and drums band that she’s had a couple of pops at. Initially she had a go at the drumsticks that have fluffy pompoms on them that you twirl and get tangled up behind your right ear if you’re the Muffet. That didn’t work out, so she took a breather for six months. Then she decided to learn the snare drum and, despite the agony of listening to her practise, I’m all for it. It could have been a lot worse, she could have chosen the bagpipes.
Between the three of them, they’re playing ten instruments if you count piano twice and percussion three times. I went to a middle school concert last Thursday, a RockFest last night and am attending a junior school concert tonight, which is why I’m eating a bowl of vegetable soup at half past four in the afternoon prior to picking up the Muffet from pipes and drums practise, inserting some sushi into her and taking her to the boys school so she can be a supportive sister and make many superior comments about the lax techniques of the flute and sax players.
I also had a rehearsal on Monday night and have a committee meeting for my own choir on Thursday night, because I love being involved in music myself. It does take a fair bit of parental commitment, and can be expensive if you’re going the private lesson route, but most choirs are cheap and a lot of school bands don’t require you to be having ongoing lessons. It’s probably good for some parts of their brain if you’re doing a cost benefit analysis, but the best bit is it keeps them off the streets, they hang out with kids older and younger than them, and they love it. If only I could persuade them to sing madrigals with me…