Help! Our Kids Quit Music Lessons!

Long before my children were even born, I desired to fill my home with music and to someday provide my kids with music lessons. I hoped that somehow I'd raise musical kids, just like my parents did with my sisters and me.

I look at my cousin Angela's triplets--Isaac, McKenna and Kayla-- now 9 months old, sitting at their piano in their home. I can't wait to watch these precious babies grow up. And I bet their parents have high hopes and dreams of giving their kids music lessons, and filling their home with beautiful music!

My boys took piano for years, starting at age 6.  When we got tired of fighting with them to practice, and the joy seemed to be gone, we let them quit.

I hear more and more stories like this.

Parents become frustrated when it comes to making our kids practice! It's a rare case when we don't.

My daughter, on the other hand, started Suzuki Violin at age 4. Well, at almost 4.

She started on a Kudos box with a ruler taped to it.  It was very important that she learn how to hold a violin with her chin, learn to respect her teacher and bow after every lesson, and listen before she actually got her first violin. It was a lot of work for ... me! 

Because with Suzuki, the parent is the home teacher.  

With the Suzuki Method, did you know that you learn to play by ear, rather than by notes? There are pluses and minuses to this method, if you ever want to email me with questions or you're interested in my thoughts.

But now 9 years later, I'd say with all of those years and trying every trick to get my daughter to practice, it has paid off.

With the boys we chose traditional piano lessons, where they learn to play by notes (my advice, don't start boys before the age of 6, girls at 5), and with Abby, Suzuki.

The boys eventually quit.  Abby has stuck with it.

BUT, this story has redeeming value, as I want to encourage you parents who gave YEARS of lessons to your kids who no longer play.  Maybe you feel like a failure because they quit.  Or you think of the money that you pumped into those lessons!

Back in December my son chose, on his own, to redeem his time in a more fruitful way.  

He set the laptop by the piano and found a website that helped him learn some amazing songs. And then the bug was caught. All the years of piano came back and he has taken off - full speed.

Last week my son and daughter played at the high school Variety Show at school.  They did it on their own.  They arranged their Cold Play piece, each learning it by ear, and performed before the school (very top photo - I love the way Abby is looking at her brother).

My son and his friends arranged their own piece with guitars and piano and performed as well.

In our home when we entertain, usually our kids will play for our guests. They enjoy it and our guests love it.

I'm curious to know if you've become frustrated as a parent, because your kids quit their music lessons?

If so - hang in there!  The results may show later in life!

What happened to our middle son with nimble, fast fingers that fly on the piano? The piano bug has not bitten him yet, but our prediction is - when his older brother goes off to college, he'll be tickling the keys with the laptop by his side. Time will tell.

Triplet side note:  You can view more of the beautiful triplets, 
here. And check out the wonderful photography from Catchlights NW! If you are like me, and you love babies, you'll get your baby fix for sure!


the BLAH BLAH BLAHger said...

I started piano lessons at 4 using the Suzuki method. I eventually switched over to regular lessons and finally quit at age 14 because I wanted acrylic nails. I think my parents were mortified.

Kathleen Grace said...

Two daughters, 7 years of piano lessons which they did very well in and practiced with very little nagging, they both decided to quit at about age 14-15, now they are 19 and 21 and have. not. touched. the piano since that day they quit. Exasperated, yeah, disappointed, yup. What are you going to do? You can't choose it for them. They have to want it.

Stacey @ The Blessed Nest said...

After years and years of several types of music lessons I haven't played since college (other than some light playing on the piano from time to time). But the true blessing from studying ANY of the arts, whether it be music, dance, art, theatre, etc, is a lifelong appreciation for them. Something deep inside of you is stirred, whether you still participate in that art or not. I could go on :), but let me say that these lessons were not a waste after all! :)

Kristi said...

Since I was a music teacher and have directed choirs in the past and present, I am a HUGE fan of music lessons :). I do not feel that lessons are a waste of time; I think they help a child be more well-rounded. I think that a child should have to stick it out at least a year, hopefully longer. Just do not ever let them quit in the middle of a year if possible. Even if music never ends up being "their thing," by providing music lessons they have had opportunities to gain skills, coordination, & discipline...not to mention a possible greater appreciation for the arts. Oh, boy, I guess you got to join me on my soapbox :). Sorry, but I could not resist!

JOY said...

I pictured filling my home with music - instead it was filled with nagging (me nagging the kiddos to practice) I eventually let them quit. Now my home IS filled with music - from our CD player! Not exactly what I imagined - but does anything ever go the way we planned?

meehan said...

really wonderful to give the gift of music to your children Sandy, how proud you must be them. Wish we could have heard that musical piece they did!

Suzann @ Lavender and Roses said...

My eldest son has played piano, trumpet, sax, and guitar. He seemed to catch on quite quickly and then quit. His favorite was the guitar. Someday, perhaps he will try again. My daughter danced. My youngest, no desires.

Freshly Found said...

How lovely to see how a life time of music has worked out in your family! I remember asking a musical friend of ours once whether he thought we should send our daughter to piano lessons. I remember how passionately he answered as he sat on the edge of his chair and stated that there was no choice! We were to send her for lessons until she was 18 years old and then after that she could decide whether she wanted to carry on or not!
I think the lessons only lasted 2 years - but I appreciated his passionate advice.

Astrid said...

I also can't wait to get my girls started on music lessons (they're ages 5 and 3). I played the violin for many years and quit when I returned from a year-long stay in Austria and couldn't find a teacher right away. I regret that I didn't try harder. Now I'm thinking of picking up the violin again (after 20 years). Playing music helps with brain development- or so I've heard (especially piano). My husband plays many instruments and also regrets quitting lessons (in particular- oboe).

Betts said...

My daughter is 7 and has't started anything yet, but she's interested, so when she decides what to play, we'll do something. I started playing clarinet at age 10. I tried to quit at 13, but my music teacher refused to let me. I'm so glad she did that. I loved playing in high school and I play in our community band now.

Heidi said...

It's very important to my MIL that my sons play the piano, so much so that made sure that when there was a piano left over from my husband's grandmother's estate, we got it.

Problem is, while my BIL (the one whom MIL made take lessons) now loves the piano and plays beautifully, I remember the fights, the yelling, the bad feelings, the anger. And though I'd never say this to my MIL, even now that I've seen the beautiful results, I'm STILL not sure it was worth worth all that conflict.

Your thoughts?

(BTW: I played violin until I was 14 and then quit, much to my parents' dismay. Just didn't work for me.)

Heidi said...

I should add that our finances are quite limited and frankly, if I'm going to drop 80 bucks a month on something I'd rather have it be karate lessons. I DO recognize the value of music and I come from a very music-loving (though only moderately gifted) family. If I could have my son play the piano without the fights or having to give up other lessons, I'd do it. I'm just not sure it's worth the fighting.

Heidi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heidi said...

Also, my husband is a ridiculously avid music lover and he feels that the kids should learn the guitar instead of the piano. He says it's more moving, more original, more portable, more personal, and it won't get them stuck with nothing but music callings their whole lives. LOL.

Hopefull said...

We love Suzuki viloin and piano! Kids go through stages of practicing regularly - kinda like me with excercise!!!
The big deal is the $$$ - reminding myself that the music lessons are an important investment.
My dad was looking over our budget recently and thought "wow- if your kids were not in music lessons, you could take a vacation...."
he said "we never spent that kind of money on you kids"
Then, a few weeks later, he was able to attend a recital. My son got up to play and beautiful piano piece. I looked at my dad who had a tear running down his cheek.

Hopefull said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GiBee said...

What is the website your son found? I'd love to know for myself. I haven't played piano in almost 25 years, and would LOVE to pick it back up!

tina said...

My son started guitar lessons after seeing the Jack Black movie School of Rock. He is now 18 yrs old and plays guitar constantly. We were able to get him into a citywide program that included lessons and shows. He also has learned piano but he doesn't love it the way he loves his guitar. He is a born performer, absolutely loves to sing and play with as many people watching him as possible!

He will be leaving for college in a few months and i tear up everytime i think of how quiet the house is going to be. I think besides our example, music has been instrumental at keeping our sons away from alcohol or drugs

love your blog!

Anonymous said...

I've had a similar experience - with the quitting. If they won't practie, I won't pay. However, they wind themselves back to it in their own time. I've just come to realize that what God needs them to do, He will call them more effectively to it than I can. I can try, but there comes a time when you've got to let that dog sit, so to speak. I enjoyed your blog:)

Tammy said...

I was a classical piano major in college so naturally I wanted my kids to play the piano. My older daughter was extremely gifted. She was taking from a celebrated teacher we could hardly afford. But after 7 years of it, we let her quit. She hated every minute of it. Waste of time and money? I don't think so. She gained experience in public performance and discipline, and she strengthened her cognitive abilities through music. She's 12 now, and I'm so encouraged to hear your son came back to it in his own time. I hope my girl decides to play again, too. But I've had to be careful not to force MY passions on her. Until she has a passion for piano, making her take lessons- which require 3+ hrs of practice a day- is like punishment to her. Above all, I just have to pray without ceasing to make sure I'm raising her up in the way she should go. That's where my true focus needs to be. :)

Myrna said...

All of my children had piano lessons, I required it, like swimming lessons. In school they all participated in band, the older 2 sang in choirs. Although not caring to perform, they each have an appreciation and enjoyment of all types of music----and the history---composers that come with it. They are quite well rounded people, and a knowledge of/experience with music is a key part.

Tamara Jansen said...

Oh, I feel your pain! I've been on the long road of music lessons with my 5 kids and it's been a HUGE adventure. They hate practising but we plough through it. We started everyone in Suzuki at 6 years old. Then we move into more traditional methods. All of them, with no exception, pushes very very hard to quit at around age 13. Must be a hormone thing. The boys both managed to get themselves KICKED OUT of lessons at that age since they knew I would never give up :) Today, they are all very accomplished. Our youngest is still only 15 and complains on a fairly regular basis but.....I'm a ROCK :) They must take lessons till the end of grade 12.

IT IS WORTH THE EFFORT, moms and dads, I PROMISE. Check out this story http://thegreenhousediaries.blogspot.com/2009/05/metamorphosis-of-virtuoso-violinist.html

MusickEd.com said...

The key (no pun intended) is to find a teacher who understands that music is a lifelong endeavor and the worst thing he (or she) can do is to create a lousy experience for a child. There is a fine line here but I have been teaching for over 30 years (gulp) and have many students who have gone into music as a major and finally as a career. They are the exceptions for sure. But many more students contact me each year and let me know that they still remember our lessons, laughing and learning and (here's the great part) they continue to love music, consume music, study music and consider it an important part of their (and their kids!) lives. It doesn't get better than that!

sweetfunkyvintage said...

I have just started my oldest daughter with piano lessons. She is six. The first few weeks, it was easy to get her to practice the piano. And then she got bored with it and didn't want to practice. I decided to challenge her. I began taking lessons, as an adult who NEVER took lessons as a child. I am LOVING it. And, she can't stand the idea that I practice and might be getting ahead of her, so she is practicing too... without me having to fuss at all!

Debra from Bungalow said...

WEll, I can't answer your question about frustration but my g'son has played since he was very little. He started on a keyboard and now has a beautiful grand piano. He's 18 now and I could cry whenever I see him play.
I think music lessons teach kids so much more than how to play an instrument....coordination, patience, discipline....
I'm interested in learning more about the Suzuki method, I'll have to check it out.

TeriLynneU said...

Great post, Sandy! And thanks for visiting me at Pleasing to You. My daughter takes dance and we face that same issue with practicing.

Mandy said...

Oh man do I have a piano "quitting" story for you! My son took lessons for almost 3 years and the last 6 months of it he hated it. I thought it was b/c it was getting tough for him so I encouraged, okay forced him to continue going. We recently switched piano teachers (b/c of a move) and this new lady was what you would call a diva. She thought very highly of herself and everyone should feel honored if she chose to teach you. Long story short, one day he (my son) walked in and she said take a seat. He told her no, I was mortified and his teacher said, "You may leave and you may never come back." And then ripped up a certificate she made for him in his face into several pieces! I was speechless. An hour later she left me a voicemail and apologized to me and said, "your son hurt my feelings". Yeah....anyhow, my son has nightmares about piano's now! I feel so bad about it now!!!

heidi said...

oh i hope that's the case. we gave up on the forced music lessons for ballet. the appreciation of music is there as well as culture. but i would love a player!

Cristine said...

I view music lessons as I do sports...to expect a child to not change their passion is unrealistic...as they mature their interests change and they should be allowed to explore new areas...I agree that they should make a commitment and stick to it until the time frame expires.

My youngest son, now 20 swam competitively and played water polo for 7 years then he decided he was done. It didn't take me long to realize why his quitting bothered me so much...it was because I was going to loss my 'pool' friends. I LOVED the sports, I LOVED watching him compete, I LOVED the travel time spent with the families but I LOVED him more to allow him to move on.

Which he did...to MUSIC...he, like his father and brother play guitar, and are self taught by ear. He was valedictorian in high school and choose to play his guitar and sing rather than give a speech. Yes the gift of music or athletics is a gift from the Lord and left to Him they are developed in His time to serve His purpose!
So I say let them explore all the dreams they dream!

Mimi said...

The rule in my house growing up was you played piano from age 8-16, no exceptions. If you wanted to play another instrument that was fine but you still had to play piano. I wanted to quit probably around age 13 or 14, but knew that 16 was the cut off point but decided to endure. So on my 16th birthday I quit.

However during that time I learned to appreciate music. Instead of listening to the radio my sisters and I were listening to the soundtracks for Star Wars and Indian Jones. My mom would take us to see the San Diego Pops every summer and we learned to love music.

When I first had children I thought about doing the same thing my mom had done for me but decided to let my children choose their instrument. My son took about 2 years of piano and then he switched to guitar. My daughter wanted to play the violin, she is also learning the Suzuki method. And guess what? All those years of piano helped me help my daughter during those difficult songs. I even bought a violin for myself a year and a half ago and started learning on my own.

Waste? I don't think so the rewards will continue to come even years later.

Thanks Mom!

Courtney said...

What a wonderful story. I can relate, but only from the child's point of view as my little man is only 2. But I took piano lessons and at first loved it and it just became another chore. I grew frustrated with the practice time (which was at school as we did not have a piano at the time). I quit. Now my parent's have a beautiful baby grand and I wish I stuck with it. But I like listening to my little bro play.

Bonnie said...

When I was in 1st grade, my parents started me with organ lessons. A genuine love of music and a desire to figure out how to make something that so beautiful for myself lead me to years of organ, clarinet and trumpet lessons. All of them I quit, though because I couldn't make music quite as wonderfully as others could. I preferred to listen than play. After several years (ok - a couple of decades), regret and mortification at my own laziness set in and I'm now taking piano lessons with my younger son (he was 8 when we started him). I'm thrilled my son loves it but part of that love is competition with me - who can get more stickers at their lesson each week. :) Whatever keeps him motivated, I'm all for it. And I have to admit...the music is so much sweeter being played by fingers I love so much. Me? I'm getting "passable." :)

Debbie said...

My daughter took piano until she was in the eighth grade, when she decided to tryout for cheerleader. Her piano teacher said, "you never see a 50 year old cheerleader, but you can play the piano forever." Well, she quit the next day and never looked back. Neither piano or cheerleading were ever a big part of her life, but she loves music. My son, who never took or wanted to take lessons, excelled in orchestra and had his own band which toured and made 3 CDs. I took piano my whole school career and can't play a note. They will find their way. They love it or it fades away.

Audra, Green Meadow Lane said...

Oh my! How I loooove the picture of the triplets at the piano! What a sight! I'd love to paint that picture! tee...hee..

a woman who is said...

I love how you open up to blogger mommies with the challenges you face as a mom, and bring encouragement to all.


Precious pictures of the triplets and your son and daughter.

Our Complete Family said...

What an awesome story, to come full circle with music love!
My son has been asking me for many, many months about guitar lessons. Since he is showing the interest it is something I am going to look in to for him.
Happy week ahead~ Les

Tracie said...

Ok...So I have to tell you that I don't think that I have ever spent more time on someones blog!! Yours is so great!!! I read all the way through January of this year and will continue to keep up to date. I L_O-V-E your Strawberry Beds!!! I will also be heading out to Costco tommorow for Binders...I use Binders for everything...never thought to put the kids (I have 3 too) stuff in them! Thanks! I also loved the tablecloths on the hangers!!! I have a front closet calling out to me for this project!!! Everything you cover is everything I also love...very inspirational! Thanks!!!
Tracie K. http://athousandblooms.blogspot.com/