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Ideas on Learning

Quitting the violin. Who’s responsible?

A friend who had a 20-year career in banking came to a realization. “I spent years climbing the career ladder only to find it was leaning against the wrong building.” She eventually quit.

Children quit the violin because of difficult obstacles. But adults stop playing the violin because playing the violin does not match up with their life goals.

Kids quit on the way up the ladder. Adults stop playing because the ladder they climbed leaned against the wrong building.

So, who’s responsible?

The burden of responsibility for the early years of learning the violin — the ladder — falls on the teacher, parent and community. Helping kids overcome the small, predictable obstacles is a function of managing expectations, capacity and keeping the music relevant. It is routines, rewards, managing predictable protests and modeling how music works in our lives (that’s where the community comes in). Teachers and parents need to work closely together to get past the many hills that occur.

Having the right goal in mind — what building your ladder is leaning against — falls more on the teacher and the student. Teachers are responsible for checking in with students and being sensitive to the signals they send us in lessons. And making sure the skills taught in the early years work for a variety of musical destinations.

It is the best way to make sure that students don’t graduate from high school, move on to their next chapter in life and stop playing because they can't see how playing the violin fits in with their life anymore.


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