One of the questions I get asked the most when I speak to groups of parents is “What happens if my child gives up?”. It’s a fair question when you’ve just been told that your child has “got into the music programme” but now you have been told you need to buy them an instrument which seemingly is going to cost you a small fortune … and right at the time when you have all the other “back to School” costs. What will happen if they give up?
Early in my days of retail, the lens I was looking through was one of one of complete bias based on my personal experience: “Why would they give up? I mean look... I didn’t!”. My vision (or more correctly, my perspective!) has become more pragmatic over the years and I realised that, in fact, most kids will give up ... at some point ... and that very few will go on to become professional musicians.
So ... if they do give up, is it all a waste of time?
As I questioned this, I came to the realisation that, while even my own kids all gave up learning their musical instrument ... they also eventually gave up basketball, hockey and soccer! And NO ONE questioned it at all? Following the same logic, was them playing basketball for a few years also a waste of time? Was sport in general a “waste of time?”. Of course, not... in some ways, playing teams sports wasn’t that different from learning a musical instrument... they learn to cooperate, to self-discipline, that “practise makes perfect’ (or at least better!), to appreciate music AND... they get to play on a stage and perform!
Something I especially like about playing a musical instrument in a School Band setting is you don’t have to be the “best in the class” to ‘get a game’ or to be important ... even the 3rd clarinet or 3rd trumpet has a critical and important role to play in making the entire band sound “right”. It is one of the most inclusive activities they will ever participate in, and that’s without even mentioning how critical music is to brain development (Google it, the research is astounding!).
So, back to the opening question: what if they give up? So what?! Of course it would great if they do play for the rest of their lives, or even pursue music as a profession, but in my opinion it doesn’t really matter if they don’t ... the tragedy would be if they never had the chance to enjoy the experience of playing a musical instrument and the joy of making music just because “they might give up”. It makes no more sense to me than if you told a child they couldn’t play basketball at School because they might not go on to consider a career as a professional sports person
And one final point to finish - when I think about all that that expensive sports equipment that was worthless after one season and mostly had to be thrown out or given away ... I remember that at least my sons trumpet was still worth more than half what I’d paid for it when he finally stopped playing it!