During a long conversation with a parent of a 7th-grade cello player, we discussed the possible reasons behind her lack of practicing. The school she attends is fortunate enough to provide students with instruments, which they can sign-out and bring home as they please. Being both reasonable and realistic, the parent only asked for her to bring the instrument home on the weekend. Conveniently, the child “forgets” to bring the cello home.
To summarize our entire conversation, students in the 6th-9th grades are very concerned about their image. Toting a large instrument case, or any size for that matter, may not be the “coolest” thing in the eyes of their peers. Unfortunately, they care deeply about what their peers think of them at this age. In this particular case, the 7th-grade also student rode the school bus, which brings on an entirely different set of physical challenges that add to the existing image concerns.
Ultimately, the parent asked if I thought it was worth purchasing an instrument for her to keep at home so that she wouldn’t have to take the cello back and forth. In this situation, my answer is definitely “Yes.” It’s always good to own the instrument, so the child knows that you have invested in their extracurricular activity. This may inspire them to take it more seriously and not just see it as a class they were forced to take. Also, by having the instrument at home, accessibility is no longer an issue, so 30 minutes of daily practice should be incorporated into their daily schedule.
However, if you have purchased an instrument because the school does not supply one, I do not think you should purchase a second instrument just so the student can leave one at school. Most students do not have this luxury, and eventually should grow to appreciate their new interest, embrace their hobby, and have pride in being a part of the school band or orchestra. It will take some time (some longer than others), but please keep them motivated and it’ll all work out.
Here’s a list of ideas that may help speed up the process:
1. Take students to see professional band and symphony concerts whenever you have the opportunity
2. Listen to music that features the instrument he or she is learning to play
3. Find similarities between instrumental music and their favorite music genres and relate it to their everyday lives
4. Have them learn about famous people who play their instrument
5. Always try to make it fun and keep them engaged