A friend who had a successful career in banking described her unhappiness as a banker. “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. 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 they climbed up the wrong building.
So, who’s responsible? Teachers, parents, community or students?
(Before I assign blame, let’s be clear. Quitting music is not a high-level fail in life. It is a missed opportunity.)
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).
Having the right goal in mind — what building your ladder is leaning against — falls more on the teacher and the student.
Teachers need to be open to the idea that their destination for the student may not match up to the student’s goals. 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, head off to ‘music-after-lessons-end’, only to stop playing because it no longer meshed with what they wanted in life.