I recently had a very interesting letter from a teacher named John, in Southern Ontario. He had retired last June after 25 years of teaching high school English — followed by seven years as a music educator!
In those last years teaching music, he says, he developed a passion for it that went far beyond his real enthusiasm for teaching English.
Now John volunteers at a local elementary school, where he has started a concert band. None of his students could read music when they joined the band, he says. Most of them joined “because it looked like fun, because they wanted to be with others who were doing it.”
The kids, John wrote, pulled off a laudable winter concert. But now, he said, “the honeymoon is over!” As the children reach a musical level where they hit significant frustration, they are starting to drop out of the band.
John is a big believer in practice. He knows that’s all his students need to make it past the hump. But he says that he can’t compete with the culture that surrounds them.
Athletics compete with music for kids’ time. A high-tech paradise entices and distracts them. And too few parents can be there to cheer kids on through those frustrating practice sessions in the six days between rehearsals.
In music, just like sports, you just can’t get away with not doing the practice. “You can rip off an essay from the internet,” this former English teacher says. “But no one can blow that horn but you!”
What do parents think of John’s dilemma? Let us know how you are handling the problem! We’ll mail a free copy of Fires in the Mind to whoever sends in the best comment on this subject.