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Should Music Lessons Be Forced?

To:  Parents

Many people have been forced into playing Piano and i hate it. I’m gonna start a petition if you agree with me then sign this petition and make a difference!


The Undersigned

I snickered when I read this, for such conversations are prevalent at the home of one of my children. Rebecca and her son, Nathaniel are having many such lively discussions.

Nathaniel is eleven years old, sweet, tenderhearted, bright, strong-willed (!) and musically talented. For a year or so, he took drum lessons, which he loved, and when Rebecca told his instructor she was switching him to classical piano lessons, his teacher said he understood, but he hated to lose Nathaniel as a student. “He’s a very talented young man.”

Nathaniel loved drum. He hates piano. (He still has a fine drum set, practices and plays for an occasional youth service at his church.)

“Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have a student such as Nathaniel; someone who hates it so much” his teacher recently told Rebecca. “But he is so talented, I want to keep teaching him.”

Rebecca and I have discussed this at length, and I know she has asked other people’s opinions. Our thinking about music lessons are these:

1. Is great discipline.

2. Is a gift the child will appreciate to a greater extent when he is older.

3. Creates an additional opportunity to use natural talent in the work of God.

4. Studies have shown intellectual benefits from music lessons:

Music lessons can help children as young as four show advanced brain development and improve their memory, even when it sounds like a budding musician is banging out little more than noise, a new Canadian study suggests.

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton used magnetoencephalography (MEG) brain-scanning technology to compare the developmental changes in 12 children aged four to six over the course of a year.

The study, to be published in the October edition of Oxford University’s neurology journal Brain, found that those who took music lessons showed more changes in brain responses.

Even when parents hear only what sounds like random notes or nonsense, it’s likely their children are developing their brains in ways that could enhance their overall thinking, said professor Laurel Trainor, who led the study with Takako Fujioka, a scientist at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.

A site named posed the same question. I’ve brought over a couple of the responses.

So, were you forced as a kid to play the piano or the violin? And more importantly, would you pass that onto your kids? Niniane was, and she didn’t like it one bit:

(This is an interesting link…lots of comments.)

The merits of learning a musical instrument are oft repeated by the well-intentioned parent: learning discipline, enjoyment later in life, Mozart makes you smarter. Rarely have I heard anyone discuss the damage done by forcing the kid. I can state it in one sentence: By thwarting the child’s natural inclinations, day in and day out, you teach him to stifle his intuition.

I e-mailed the link to all of the writers on 8Asians, and a lot of conversation came from it; so much so that it deserved its own blog entry.

Ernie: Oh, I have SO mixed feelings about this. I played piano at 4, violin at 10. I played piano until I was in high school and burnt out at 15, but ended up playing for the church choir and a HS jazz choir. I have no regrets about doing it, honestly – it’s kind of nice to be able to read music and be able to plink out a melody on the piano, something which other people take for granted. But not if I was young.

Ben: amusingly enough, I started late. 11 (piano) and 12 (violin). Quit after senior year of high school since I had college to look forward to prep for. lol. I’m actually looking to start composing music again now if I can find the time to do it. Wouldn’t mind picking up electric guitar either. I think overall, if you look at a lot of asians, even like pop stars like Jay Chou… we all on some level took up those instruments in some fashion. Not really sure why, but it does teach discipline if not anything else.

Rebecca and Nathaniel know I am writing about this, and we’re anticipating your response. In particular I’m curious about:

1. Did you take music lessons? Are you glad? Why? Why not?

2. If you did not take lessons, do you wish you had?

3. Should Nathaniel be forced to take classical piano lessons? Aren’t percussion lessons good enough? What about theory, etc.?

4. What about jazz piano lessons?

Last week we were home in Crestline; Rebecca came up for the afternoon, and Nathaniel talked her into letting him spend the night with Pappy and me. Saturday morning, on our piano upstairs, he expertly played a piece of classical music for me. It was beautiful.


My devotional blog is here.