Music is proven to improve kids’ lives in many ways, but that doesn’t stop some from wanting to drop music lessons and quit music programs. Something you hear from non-musical adults is how much they wished their parents hadn’t let them quit music when they were young. So, it’s safe to assume many of the students who choose to drop music now will regret their decisions later. For parents and music educators who want to prevent students from giving up on music, it’s important to look at the most common reasons why and to plan accordingly. While the following list doesn’t include every reason kids quit music, it covers the most popular ones and can help parents and educators spot red flags and create more suitable learning conditions for students.
Trouble balancing music and other activities
Modern kids tend to have much more on their plates than most adults did when they were young. Everything from after-school programs to private tutors can demand a great deal of time and energy on behalf of a student. This doesn’t take into account the fun things kids need to do to relax or have fun. If a music student is showing signs of disinterest or burnout, it could be because they’re being stretched too thin when it comes to activities.
To prevent a student in this position from giving up music, it’s important to get the full story of why they’re feeling overwhelmed. In some cases, changing up a child’s schedule can help get them in a position where they can focus on music again. Other students might have to scale back on activities they’re interested in to make time for music. There isn’t a single right way to steer kids in this position in the right direction, so parents and music teachers will need to do their best to take an understanding and empathetic approach.
Wanting to try sports instead
For middle-schoolers especially, there’s an overwhelming need for kids to carve out an identity and show it off to the world. While adults and most teenagers realize that people are complex and are allowed to enjoy different activities, kids often take a black and white stance when it comes to things like playing an instrument or being involved with sports. Many kids quit music to pursue sports because they don’t think they can do both.
If the young music student in your life is interested in picking up sports, let them know that aside from the risk of being too busy for music, there’s no harm in pursuing both. When kids believe an interest in sports or music sums them up as only one thing, it’s up to adults to encourage them to pursue their interests no matter what social group they think they’ll be put into.
Wanting to try another instrument
When the going gets tough in music, some students react by wanting to give up and pursue a new instrument. Agreeing to this is a good idea for some kids, but not all. If a music student is on their second or third instrument and wants to throw in the towel, it’s best to get to the root of why they’re having a hard time instead of supporting quitting. Much of the time, the problem comes down to a lack of focus during lessons and classes.
However, there are plenty of occasions when kids would benefit from starting over with a new instrument. Music should be a fun and challenging pursuit for kids, not something they dread. If a music student’s instrument isn’t inspiring and rewarding, allowing them to try another one might not be a bad idea.
It isn’t cool anymore
Some kids lose their interest in music when they no longer perceive it as socially beneficial or fun. This is especially common for students going through transitions from elementary school junior high or junior high to high school. When this happens, part of the problem has to do with parents and teachers and not music students. To make music an enduring part of kids’ lives, we need to tailor it for their interests. Doing this empowers students and makes them want to engage with music over the long-term, not just when temporarily cool or easy to. When kids learn about music in ways that are relevant to their lives, they’re far more likely to stick with it when doing so isn’t fashionable in the eyes of their peers.
No plans to go to college for music or play professionally
Music education benefits kids’ lives in profound ways whether they become professional musicians or simply take lessons for a number of years. It’s common for students to rationalize quitting because they don’t see themselves studying music in college or pursuing it professionally. In these cases, it’s important to emphasize how much music makes life better for everyone to a doubting music student. Musicians are constantly in demand, whether it’s someone needed to play songs at a wedding or for a friend asked to bring their acoustic guitar along on a camping trip. Not every music student goes pro, but all kids who learn music are given an invaluable asset that they can rely on and pick back up for the rest of their lives.