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  • Lynne Phillips

Is It Worth It?

Small child in a lab looking very messy, holding two beakers of blue and yellow liquid

Last Friday I got involved in the Guardian’s live chat on The Future of Music Education, and today I read Matthew Cainesroundup of the conversation.

It got me thinking all morning (as I often do) about the different reasons why children (and adults, but today I’m particularly thinking of children) learn musical instruments. It also got me thinking about the volume of parents who ask me, “Is it worth it for my child to do this?” And it’s that particular question that leaves me bewildered every time I hear it.

Perhaps the answer lies in the fallacy of ‘not being worth it’. Perhaps, if I fiddle about with the subject matter, I could demonstrate my bewilderment…

“It’s not worth your four year old playing with crayons, he won’t go to Art College.”

“Stop your daughter from joining that netball squad, she won’t be good enough to get into the Olympics.”

“Pack away that telescope, your son is not in the top percentile of young scientists who are likely to win a Nobel Prize.”

“Don’t let your daughter go to that creative writing group, she’s not that good at English, so it’s a waste of her time.”

Perhaps the above statements are technically true (it’s unlikely that every child in the netball squad is going to win an Olympic medal) but these (admittedly fictional) children obviously get something out of their groups or their activities. Should they stop because it might not be ‘worth it’?

The four year old playing with crayons is having fun, he’s being creative, and it gives him a sense of accomplishment when he’s finished each masterpiece.

The netballing teenager gains fitness, camaraderie, social skills, a sense of pride when her team wins, an ability to deal with failure when they lose, enjoyment, and an hour running around letting off steam.

The boy with the telescope achieves a sense of personal accomplishment and enjoyment in his wonder at the stars, confidence in his own abilities, and independence in his learning.

The girl attending the creative writing group is learning how to work by herself, and to practise independently. She feels pride in her finished articles, and her self esteem is boosted by the positive encouragement from the group leader and the rest of the group.

And the piano student?

Perhaps your child may not be the next Mozart, or Paul Lewis, or Nadia Boulanger, but they will achieve, and they will take many positive things away from their musical experiences.

It’s always worth learning an instrument, as long as it’s a process that is enjoyed.

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