It can only get better | Living with Gleigh

My neighborhood girlfriend, who is ten years younger than I, with children still in elementary school, called me the other day to ask my advice about her oldest daughter who must choose a music option next year: How does the program work? What instrument should she play? Band or orchestra? Where to get an instrument? Future music career advice?

She may have been sorry she asked or grateful. I guess it’s all in how you look at a parent who has held her opinion in about early music education for eight years.

My oldest daughter is graduating from High School this year and is finishing her 8th year in band. When she was in elementary school, music option started in 5th grade. I think it was nicer for them to start in 5th grade, because when they get to middle school, they can do so much more with two years under their belts rather than the single year they will have going into middle school these days. But it is what it is.

I learned a lot about instruments in that first year. We were fortunate to be gifted with an old flute by a friend of mine. I spent a couple hundred dollars to have it overhauled. Seem like a lot? Do the math on a rental for two years and you’ll see I made out like a bandit and she played it for six years with only a few minor repairs. She wore it out and her grandmother gave her another overhauled one to finish out her high school music career.

So when my youngest daughter chose to play the trumpet in her 5th grade year, I got one on Craig’s List for $125, because I had done the math on two years of renting a trumpet, knowing that’s probably as many years as she would play. She chose band as the least of the evils – in her opinion – with orchestra coming in second and choir as the “option never to be named in her presence.”

After going to many concerts over the years, my personal preference for a child's music option is band. And I want to precede this next statement that my opinion is not the opinion of this newspaper or any of the staff or administration involved with this newspaper: Orchestra is painful for parents; not only is it painful in the first year, it’s painful for several years. On their behalf, there are up to six strings to keep in tune and the tuning is dependent on many external and internal aspects from temperature of the room to the ability of the student to hear whether it’s in tune or not. Strings are fickle beasts, ones that I am very happy my children never chose to battle.

Band instruments also need to be tuned and are also dependent on the temperature, but to the untrained ear (like mine), an out of tune band instrument isn’t nearly as difficult to listen to. What is difficult is in the first year they have very little music to play; sometimes just one line of a song. So a parent may be listening to a single line or two of music for months on end.

When one listens to “Hot Cross Buns” twenty times a day for four weeks, without the student completing the song, it can grate on the nerves. Torn between supporting our child’s musical career and smashing the darn thing on the refrigerator, we always chose the former to the detriment of our own sanity.

It’s a sweet, sweet day when the first concert arrives where you don’t have to grit your teeth and smile like you’re enjoying yourself, because you really are enjoying yourself. Parents just need to keep reminding themselves early on in their child’s musical career that it can only get



Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington and  is still listening. You can read her column every week on under the Lifestyles section.. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website or “like” Living with Gleigh on Facebook.

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