How to stop students from quitting music lessons?

Teacher and Pupil via photopin (license)
“Do I have to?”

Parents hear this question countless times from their kids. Parents who have children in music lessons might hear it the most. Although many people pursue music well into their adult lives, it is sometimes tricky getting students to stick with their music education.

Music comes naturally to some. When I was in first grade, my parents started me out on the piano. No matter how hard I tried, I could not progress as quickly as the other students enrolled in the program. My mother told me that I had to be able to look at the sheet music and have the notes flow out of my fingers. After five years of lessons, I never got to that point. I got frustrated with the effort, and I quit. Once I started playing the viola, I progressed much more quickly. Sometimes, students just need to find the instrument that speaks to them.

Even for students who have been practicing their instrument for years, it can be a monotonous process. Scales, drills, and the same old concerto can get old very quickly. It helps to spice things up, whether that’s assigning a piece from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack or letting them improvise for a few minutes and seeing what happens. Realizing that music is more than a Suzuki book is a freeing experience for students, especially younger kids.

Violinist Jason Yang famously covered the Game of Thrones theme song on YouTube, which inspired thousands of copies of sheet music and video tutorials. While it’s not typical repertoire, it’s interesting and ties in with interests outside of music itself.

Music can also be a way for students to interact with people who have similar interests. While band camp isn’t necessarily for everyone, community orchestras and ensembles are very popular. I’ve met wonderful people through groups like these. It’s rewarding to know that your hobby is shared by other people. Knowing that quitting music also means quitting rehearsals or jam sessions with your friends makes the prospect much less appealing.

Music should be a fun experience for students. Although students can feel fed up with their music education, it’s important to shake things up a bit. Musicians work hard, but they also have to have fun, and that is especially important for those musicians who are just starting out.

Image: Teacher and Pupil via photopin (license)

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