Does music grow on the family tree?

Guest Post by Simon Reich

I would imagine, many creative and serious musicians, would love their children to follow in the same footsteps? Well interestingly enough, it doesn’t always turn out that way.

Take my own four children for example…

The first three…

My oldest son definitely had music in his veins, but he just couldn’t handle the discipline of learning to read music and preferred to fool around on the piano and then gave up lessons altogether. He reminded me of myself, so I thought he may eventually have a “Road to Damascus” experience and come at the craft from another angle. Even though he became a celebrated hip hop freestyler for a few years, he’s now given it all away and hasn’t dabbled in music for many years.

My second son has an appreciation for music but had no interest for lessons or picking up an instrument.

My daughter went to piano lessons and played flute at secondary school, but her heart wasn’t wasn’t in it and after a few years of begrudging lessons, has also not touched an instrument for many years.

And the fourth…

My fourth child and third son never showed any music inclination until he was compelled to take up an instrument in secondary school. (The school’s policy is that ALL students learn an instrument for one year with supplied, in class lessons, then it’s up to the student, if they want to continue after that) His instrument of choice was the saxaphone and before I knew it, he was blowing the horn like a teenage Charlie Parker!

He picked up the musical language of reading music, very quickly, but also exhibited an uncanny knack for improvisation. I ended up recording him on after of my jazz and funk tunes and he also played live with my blues and classic rock band. Here’s the recording:

Basically, this kid was the complete package and he was only 14 years old!!

So the fact that he quite suddenly stopped all playing, including his spot as the lead sax in the school band, came as a bit of a shock.

Granted, he wanted to put more time into study and was widening his social circle, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t dabble with the instrument for pure fun and relaxation? As of writing this article, he has not touched a musical instrument for many years.

I’m not a pushy parent and have let all my children find their own interests and careers. My only wish for them is they’re happy. So I know that pushing and high parental expectations, have not been the cause of my childrens’ relutance to embrace musical instruments in their life.

Reflections…

In a way, this article is allowing me a cathartic outpouring on the mysteries of musical gifts, musical learning and the pursuit of music as a lifestyle.

I suppose for me, the most baffling example of not heading down a musical path, was my youngest son. He had a total grasp of theory and understanding of written music. He was brimming with natural talent and was able to exhibit improvisational, “on the fly” musical abilities in unstructured, ensemble situations. At 14 years old, my son exhibited skills few musicians twice his age had and yet he gave it all away and has never some back again.

It seems mysterious to me, because I just can’t go without playing an instrument and creating some type of music on a daily basis. I don’t want to apply any pressure on him, so he’s never heard these thoughts expressed to him. (Just in case you think I’ve raked him over the coals about this situation).

These thoughts I’m writing are not just a conundrum to a father but as a musician as well.
I may never have an answer why a thoroughly gifted musician, with aptitude on both the left and right brain usage of music, could walk away from (in my view) such a fully rewarding pastime, a great way to achieve a natural high, enrich other lives through performances, create music far outweighing the sum of all parts when improvising in ensembles and a way to control or unleash your own emotions through personal playing.

None of my children may ever pick up an instrument again, but my hope is, that the door will always be open for them, that if they change their mind, the world of musical expression is waiting for them.

It would be fantastic to elicit some of your own stories along the lines of this article…

I’d love to hear from parents and their stories about their own children, but I’d also love to hear from teachers who have been involved with quite gifted pupils, who they thought would go onto big things, only to find out later (or during their own tenure) they’d thrown it all away and don’t now touch an instrument.

Simon Reich

Simon is a pianist and award winning composer from Victoria, Australia.
Further information : Simon Reich Music

2 thoughts on “Does music grow on the family tree?”

  1. If you listened to what children want, they wouldn’t get in the bath and they wouldn’t get out of the bath. A degree of pushing is essential for music, every child at some point will want to stop doing something, stop playing piano, stop playing football etc. I remember kicking the piano and refusing to practice, but quitting wasn’t an option. We had to at least get to grade 5 then we could make our own decisions on continuing or not. And I can’t thank her enough for making me continue playing. My life now revolves around music I now teach piano and am at university studying music.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My father was a cathedral and church organist and choirmaster. When I was about 10 years of age I was offered violin lessons which I did for ONE term only! I hated every minute of them, that’s another story! My older sister was allowed to have piano lessons and went on to join several choirs along with my younger sister. During my teens I strummed a guitar, it was after all the 60’s, but that’s it! I am now 67 years of age and taking piano lessons for the first time, and I can’t quite believe that I’m doing so! Only since doing some family research recently into my ancestry, have I discovered that my paternal grandmother, who died before I was born, played the cello, and my maternal grandfather who also died before I was born, played the violin, probably the fiddle! There was always music in my home whilst growing up but only in my 60’s did I learn of the musical talents of my some of my ancestors!
    Yes! I do believe that music grows on the family tree!

    Liked by 1 person

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