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Thoughts of a Granny

A granny brought her granddaughter for lessons. She said that the way I teach is very different from her piano lessons when she was growing up. I explained to her about my views about the focus of “traditional” piano lessons on note reading which leads to high attrition / dropout rate. The granny went on to share that her children did years of Irish traditional music lessons where they learned everything aurally and participated in competitions annually all over Ireland. However she was slightly regretful (my interpretation of her unspoken feeling) that her children stopped playing their musical instruments when they became adults. I told her my theory about students who stopped playing their musical instruments because they were taught mainly to read notes is flawed as her children obviously played mainly by ear and they stopped playing music as well.

The conversation with that granny stayed in my mind. Why do children stop playing a musical instrument when they become adults? To be fair, I played the trombone for years – four years in my secondary school and another about two years in the band when I was with the army. I never quite like the trombone. I showed up for band practice on my first day and the conductor asked me what instrument would I like to play. I said I had no preference and he assigned me the trombone. I had played the trombone for years then.

I actually played another Asian folk instrument called the Erhu as my parents/I could not afford piano lessons. I actually went for two years of lessons and even joined the folk orchestra in the junior college for about two years. I stopped playing that instrument completely as again, I never quite liked it.

The piano is another matter already. I love the sound of the piano. I have always gone back to it even after years of not playing it.

I wonder whether children/adult stop playing a musical instrument as they are not playing music that they like? Or that it just involves too much time and effort which most adults don’t have due to the busy modern life. Something has to give in a busy life, sometimes with rearing kids and a high stress job. Why not let go of playing a musical instrument which requires work and time?

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