Spring is here and in the music lesson business that is not always a good thing. On one hand it is a great feeling when the snow melts and the bird chirp and (at least here in Winnipeg) you don’t need a hazmat suit to go outside. Many music schools are planning their recitals and we plan our year end recording sessions.

It is the time of the year when we in private music education lose varying percentages of our students. Now music student attrition is nothing new for music studios but something about the nice weather really drives the exodus. This is also not the time when we lose the non practicing type student it is the time we lose the music students who are doing well and fully intend to return in “the fall”. I put that in quotes because of the irony. When we quit something in April ‘for the summer’ we are actually stopping in early spring and when we start something in early September it is actually late summer (and our summer is too short to be chopping any part of it of).

I think the number one reason for turnover at this time of year is a new outdoor sport taking over. I like sports but what message does it send our kids to be able to quit something long term like music (10 months per year and a life time of enjoyment) to take up something short term (6 weeks spring football or soccer)?

Now if the student is not doing any sports and show some interest around spring then I would be first to say sign ’em up and add that activity to the school/music/life mix. But most times the kids are already over burdened with school sports, homework and then on top of it hockey, martial arts, tutoring, dance etc. and so when they want to add a new sport something has to be forfited. And never in the history of families has anyone said to a sports coach “my kid has to stop playing for your team because he is too busy with his music”. Logically if a person is doing 3 sports and one art (music) then if they want to add another sport they should exchange it for another sport and not replace the only art in the mix!

Now we all are aware of the benefits of physical activity and of team sports but lost in the shuffle are the benefits of arts and in particular the benefits of music.

  • Early musical training helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning. It is thought that brain development continues for many years after birth. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.
  • There is also a link between music and spatial intelligence the sort of thinking necessary for solving advanced mathematics problems
  • Students of the arts learn to think creatively and to solve problems by imagining various solutions, rejecting outdated rules and assumptions. Questions about the arts do not have only one right answer.
  • Recent studies show that students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT. They also achieve higher grades in high school.
  • In music, a mistake is a mistake; the instrument is in tune or not, the notes are well played or not, the entrance is made or not. It is only by sustain attention and work that a successful performance is possible. Through music study, students learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence and the concrete rewards of hard work.
  • Music study enhances teamwork skills and discipline. In order for an orchestra or band to sound good, all players must work together harmoniously towards a single goal, the performance, and must commit to learning music, attending rehearsals, and practicing.
  • Music provides children with a means of self-expression. Self-esteem is a by-product of this self-expression.
  • Music study develops skills that are necessary in the workplace. It focuses on “doing,” as opposed to observing. Employers are looking for multi-dimensional workers with the sort of flexible and supple intellects that music education helps to create as described above.
  • Music performance teaches young people to conquer fear and to take risks. Dealing with it early and often makes it less of a problem later. Risk-taking is essential if a child is to fully develop his or her potential.


(the preceding was paraphrased from http://www.childrensmusicworkshop.com/advocacy/12benefits.html )

Now I get the attraction of the sports over arts scene:

It is immediately social for both the child and the parent. The kid is amongst peers for games and practices and the parents socialize on the sidelines. With music there are one on one lessons with the parent in the waiting room alone.

Sports activities have early defined boundaries you show up for ‘x’ numbers of games and practices for a predetermined period of time. Music lesson have one session per week with no obvious end in sight and the real work is done at home (hopefully) with adult supervision and encouragement.

But life is supposed to be about balance. It also should be about commitment.