Guest Author: Simon Reich
There we sat in the dark. My Mum and I had been looking at the local Church hall for half an hour now and nobody had arrived, the building still in darkness.
I could tell my mum was getting more and more upset as the minutes ticked by. But to understand the full gravity of the situation, we now found ourselves in, we need to go back in time a little bit.
My mum loved talking and telling stories.
In fact she’d taken elocution lessons as a young woman, and worked as a telephonist for the government phone exchange. Because of her thespian talents, mum entered eisteddfods and performed recitations at events.
As a small child, I would watch her tell a story or recite a poem in front of large crowds, not really understanding the content of these recitations (some were between 15 and 20 minutes long, with flawless memorization and amazing emotional delivery) and be fascinated that grown adults would be reduced to tears at the content of her oration.
With this background in mind, I think Mum began grooming me to follow in her footsteps. And so it was that I began learning recitations and poems to perform at family reunions and community events.
When a local talent contest was advertised, mum entered me and I flawlessly learnt the recitation I was to perform.
This is how mum and I ended up in the dark, staring through the windscreen at an empty hall. These were the days before mobile phones and Google calendars, so it wasn’t till we drove home and Mum rang around some contact numbers, that we realised the talent quest had been the night before. Mum’s disappointment was palpable and in retrospect understandable.
Just another subject?
It’s quite possible that some parents live vicariously through their children’s music education and performances, but at the same time they may only view music lessons as another subject to take in their child’s schooling years. Much like learning art, or participating in sports.
Do parents even think that something like music could be a career or a lifetime enjoyment? A seed planted in young fertile ground that may only produce fruit many years down the track?
The limited amount of statistics that I could find on the subject showed that the percentage of the population that produce music for a living is only 2 to 3% (this does not include music teachers), but a higher percentage would be those who have played music all their life in a semi professional or amateur role – even though it would also still be a small amount of the total population.
I would love to question parents on their reasoning for enrolling children in music classes? Do they feel it would enrich their child’s mind or be a potential stepping stone to a future career?
In many countries, Government-run schools do not provide music in their curriculum. Private and Church run schools do seem to pride themselves on these faculties, so this can also influence parents school choices and how they perceive the importance of music in their child’s life.
In the case of reading music, it’s very similar to learning a foreign language. So we all know how quickly children can absorb information early in life, and even accomplish multiple languages with seemingly minimal effort.
My personal opinion would be to have music as an integral part of all Government education. If music were inserted into the primary school curriculum, maybe a wave of previously untapped musicians could be coaxed into either a potential career, or a lifetime love of an art form that not only enriches them, but those who listen to their creations and performances.
A Stepping Stone
My mum had a skill as a orator, and she encouraged me to follow a similar path possibly to reflect back onto herself – but also, possibly to know the joy she felt in moving a crowd to feel the full gamut of emotions.
Through the trickle down of natural talent and her guidance I not only took on her skill for public speaking and storytelling, but transferred the shared prowess into music
Some people bemoan their parents pushiness into a pursuit they didn’t want to perform. Or, out of pure rebellion, stopped doing something their elders enrolled them into. Thankfully my story had a happy ending, as the elocution prompting – and then also the piano lessons I was sent to (which I really didn’t enjoy) – turned out to be a grounding that would benefit me all my life.
Parents and music teachers can provide such an important stepping stone to children left in their care.
In a world of alienating technology, music can provide so many tangible, positive results, that it almost seems a no-brainer to allow as many children the opportunity to participate in its many riches.
Even if only a few go onto a lifelong relationship with music, the benefits for all participants far outweigh any positive negative results.
Simon is a pianist and award-winning composer from Victoria, Australia.
Further information : Simon Reich Music