In high school, I loved playing the board game, Risk, with my friends. We spent many Friday nights around the kitchen table trying to vanquish competing armies and dominate the map.
That childhood memory now seems old-fashioned. The abundance of entertainment options for kids online has made board games feel obsolete.
Playing board games and playing music rely on some of the same fundamentals — people making time to gather together to share an activity.
The songs and skills I teach and the activities I offer are designed with one primary outcome in mind: When my students leave high school — for college, work, or adventure — they’ll be excited to bring their violin with them and have the confidence to play with others.
But will there be ‘others’ to play with?
Most of my students who are now in college have found musical friends to play with. Others have reported back that it is not easy to find others who can play music. That is a problem that I did not anticipate.
A few years ago, a friend who works at a college described a different landscape than I remember. Her work dealt specifically with helping freshman acclimate to life on campus. She described each incoming freshman class as less and less interested in leaving their dorm rooms. Whether it is social media or an abundance of incredible shows available to watch, there are definitely more options today to pass time on our own.
It is no wonder that 1 in 4 18-30 year olds report feeling lonely.
But lately I have been getting some signals that something is shifting. My kids, and their friends, have been describing a pushback to a digital life.
One interesting indicator is the sale of board games. Board game companies are reporting strong sales increases in recent years -- even before the pandemic!
And while it is definitely easier for students to learn how to play Risk than learn to play the violin, if this resurgence in board games and non-digital interaction is real, than I think the long-term outlook for recreational music is good.