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Avoiding the Seven-Year Itch

Avoiding the seven-year itch: A guide for band and Orchestra parents and students

So, your child returns home from school exclaiming they would like to play a musical instrument. What a great idea you think to yourself, but what do I need to do as a parent to allow my child to accomplish their goal. This is a common situation that happens every year and I would like to help guide you through the process with some tips on obtaining an instrument as well as why a musical education is a great value that will aid our children throughout their entire lives.
In most of the school systems the directors of the music program will hold instrument try out (or testing)" sessions for the following year's incoming students. While these meetings may seem like an added burden to your already busy schedule, they are important for many reasons. It is possible for any child to leam to play a musical instrument, however certain physical traits and characteristics may dictate that one instrument will be more difficult for them to master. This is not to say they cannot ever learn that instrument, it is more of a general guideline directors are taught to look for during their training in order to avoid obstacles that may discourage kids from continuing with an instrument. The following tips will help guide both student and parents through the initial process of testing, obtaining an instrument, what to expect along the musical education path, as well as some reasons why learning to play an instrument is essential for developing good discipline in the future.
You will need to obtain an instrument for your child to play. There are several methods by which to get an instrument but for this article I will only be discussing the three main methods we see every year. 1) A family member or friend has an old instrument they are willing to let your child play. This is perfectly acceptable but we do recommend that the instrument be inspected by a qualified repair technician to ensure your child does not face a barrier while learning to play. 2) Purchase out right a new or used instrument. In most cases it is rare that a family is certain their child will stay in the music program, and as a result spending that money upfront may not be the most economically beneficial option for you at this time. 3) By entering into a rent to own contract you will be ensured the instrument you pick and will make monthly payments until the term of the contract is fulfilled. At this point you will own that instrument. The rental program is very beneficial in that it allows you to see if your child will enjoy their music experience and desire to continue on in the program. We hope they will continue with their music education at the very least through their 8th grade year, and as their abilities grow so will their need for better equipment. In all, the rental program may be seen as a life lesson for the child in that it promotes goal setting, dedication, and responsibility which are characteristics they will use throughout their lives.
The life lessons learned from a rnusic education are attributes that relate to other aspects of life after school. For example, many successful people in society were part of bands or orchestras, and the lessons they learned from their experience directly effected their future. Some of these examples are Albert Einstein who played the violin. Stephen Spielberg played the clarinet, Neil Armstrong played Baritone/Euphonium, and Aretha Franklin played the tuba. These are just a few examples of people who have gone on to have amazing careers that began in a band or orchestra classroom.
It is our belief that making it through the beginning year is crucial to the success of the student. It has been our experience that parents will need to encourage the student to continue their music education through at least the 8th grade. This allows the child to participate in a full band or orchestra experience involving attending contests as a complete group that they will only experience until the seventh and eighth grades. As a final note I would like to add that while there are many other activities in todays world children can participate in, and should your child join the band or orchestra, we would like to encourage you, the parent, to help them avoid the seven year itch by quitting their musical endeavors too soon. The fun is just beginning!

Written by : WM1st