Speaking of bandwagons.... decisions about orchestra

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Registered: 01-05-2005
Speaking of bandwagons.... decisions about orchestra
9
Mon, 08-20-2012 - 9:42am

All the talk about bandwagons has me stressing about ds10 returning to school on Thursday. We will nearly immediately be faced with the decision to join band/orchestra. I know that there are MANY violin players on this board, and among gifted kids, but there seems to be a real dearth of (what I would call) recreational players.

Here's whence my angst comes -

dd21 (back when we couldn't believe anyone had lessons before joining school orchestra, or even paid for a private teacher :smileywink:) started violin in 5th grade. By 7th, we and her teachers knew she was incredibly gifted. She had caught up with all the kids who started at age 5 and surpassed most. We were told we needed to "commit" if we wanted her to go pro - better violin, better private teacher, etc. She ended up leaving violin for art in HS because the competition was too much. Dd19 played cello - and although she enjoyed it, she was always a better singer/actor and moved in that direction in HS as well - she didn't want to commit to orchestra unless she could be at the top. Ds12 - well, we thought he was too uncoordinated to ever play, but we tried out bass almost on a whim and he LOVES it and is pretty successful. I could definitely see him being the only one to go on and play in college. There's almost no competition at this age with the bass and he plays for the love of it. It's become our new favorite instrument - it just seems so fun and relaxed. I love what it does for him!

Ds10 is probably more likely to talented (in spite of the bells failure, lol!). He has great rhythm, great timing, good fine motor skills....  But - of course, he wants to play violin. Now that I'm more observant, I realize that most violin players here have played for years by now. I'm sure ds12 would never have been recommended for violin (kids are required to go to a number of intro classes for band/orchestra and then receive a few recommendations from which to choose. However, being that we know the orchestra teacher at MS, who runs this, well, I'm sure she'd let ds choose whatever he wanted). And ds is pretty laid-back - he'd rather be outside than inside practicing. He's on a baseball and soccer team this fall, and will have at least somewhat more homework since he's taking math at the middle school. I see him being gifted at it -possibly- but I don't see him practicing like ds12. I also know that we need to save for our retirement and for dss' college (we hope both girls' educations will be paid off by the time dd19 graduates in May, but we have two more coming up) and we can't afford to go crazy. I am SO reluctant to get on the "rat race" of being a violin parent. And, even though ds is laid back, he's used to being the best. I envision a huge wake up call when he realizes he's middle-of-the-road or even further behind, depending on what percentage of violin players have already studied.

Ds12 took a jazz camp this summer with the MS band teacher and we only half-jokingly told her that we were encouraging ds10 to play some obscure band instrument that we could buy off Craigslist, and for which there was always demand... Am I being unfair? Do I tell him no to violin and save us what I perceive as a future headache and money-sink, or do I let him pursue it? I just don't know if I have the energy for this and dh is both frugal and would much more quickly see the value in an engineering class than a music class. Sigh ;(

p.s. I hope I haven't offended all you violin players/parents out there. I LOVE(D) listening to dd21, dd19 and ds12 play. I value what music brought to their lives (even though dd21 eventually dropped it, she always thought it was a wonderful experience).. and the middle school teacher is AMAZING - talented, kind and smart as a whip (undergrad and grad degrees from Northwestern). Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006

...chiming in to say "let him play violin".   You don't have to make any decisions (nor does he) about his eventual fate as a musician at this point.  I started violin a couple of months before my 14th birthday...and I didn't really like violin (not knowing anything about it).  I would have preferred piano, but jumped at what I thought was my only instrument option...I didn't have high powered teachers or an instrument or bow at my level for years, but I learned to play and sometimes even make some money at it.  But the whole point of music...the WHOLE POINT...is (IMHO)...making music with friends and communicating with people.  it's not a race, it's not a competative sport.  Even some who become pros manage to avoid falling into that trap...as parents, we can help our kids keep focused on why it is that we(as a species)  are driven to make/enjoy music.

Deborah

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Registered: 01-05-2005

My older daughter started at ten after seeing her sister's beginning Suzuki lessons, and within just a few months - and entirely without the help of private lessons - she had not only caught up to, but had begun to surpass the others in her class. Last year, at 13, she auditioned for and won a place in the prestigious European Honors Orchestra.

Wow - that's amazing!  I definitely have no aspirations for him to be a solo violinist, but it's cool to hear about kids like your dd who have such success in a short time. It's my older ds who has some strings experience, not ds10, but I guess there's no time like the present to get some. Thanks!

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Registered: 12-06-2010

I'd let him play violin. Ten is not late at all - not unless you have hopes of him becoming a solo violinist, and even then it's not impossible. My older daughter started at ten after seeing her sister's beginning Suzuki lessons, and within just a few months  - and entirely without the help of private lessons - she had not only caught up to, but had begun to surpass the others in her class. Last year, at 13, she auditioned for and won a place in the prestigious European Honors Orchestra. I believe her experiences will help her in a number of ways as she gets older and starts thinking about her future, even though she will never be a solo violinist. She is musically talented, loves making music, is a valued member of her orchestras and will probably go on to play violin at university. What has been ciritical for her, though, is learning that you can start off at the bottom of the pack and through your own hard work and perseverence end up on top, having gained the respect of fellow musicians and teachers along the way. Her achievements in violin have contributed greatly to her self-esteem. "I can face and master challenges when I want to" is a powerful mojo for a young teen.

Bottom line? Therer's nothing better than a motivated kid facing a challenge. If your son understands that he'll be at the bottom of the pile for a short time while he finds his bearings, I'd let him. He already plays strings with success and clearly has musical talent. And I have to say, the violin *is* a wonderful instrument - so expressive and so full of emotion! He should view the learning process as a game of self-discovery, and I'm guessing he'll find the whole thing easier than you may expect.

But then again, it's a mother's lot in life to worry, isn't it? I remember bringing my older DD, then a baby, to the pediatrician (father of five and in is mid-sixties at the time) and saying, "You know, I hate to bring her in, I'm sure I'm just worrying for nothing." He answered almost sternly: "You're the mother and it is your JOB to worry about this child." Oddly, that was a very freeing statement. :smileywink:

Avatar for turtletime
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Registered: 05-13-1998
That's where our kids differ... DS idolizes his sister but he never puts himself in the position of competing with her. He'd spend too much time obsessing over not being "as good" at violin even if he was better!

and... the band misses more school than the orchestra lol.
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Registered: 01-05-2005

While I think that ultimately, the most important factor is that a child play the instrument they are personally invested in, it's OK to make sure they've been exposed to the other options, know the benefits of choosing a rarer school instrument and understand the finances of it. If he's really passionate about the violin and only the violin, you can rent a decent one for cheaper than buying one in the beginning.

Well, originally, ds10 wanted to play bass like his brother, but I just can't agree to TWO basses - they are huge!  And he will take the 3-week program starting next week and they'll make him try both band and orchestra, so I guess that's good (and maybe he'll develop a love for trumpet!). I thought he'd prefer band for the exact same reasons as your son, but I think he idolizes his older siblings. :smileyhappy:

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-05-2005

My first question is how much does he want this? Why is he choosing violin over the band instruments? Is he willing to make the commitment to practicing?

I think he's just heard so much over the years - someone was playing in orchestra pretty much his whole life! I don't really know why he's so decided on violin. Today he told someone, "I'm a violinist and brother is a bassist." Yikes - he hasn't even started yet!

I am not sure why it will be more expensive than any other activity. Are you thinking the instrument itself or the cost of lessons or of camps and orchestras? It seems to me that the sports equipment and teams are even more expensive these days.

Yeah, I think it's the whole shebang - right now we pay $60 a month to rent the bass and $100 a month for private lessons, plus books, a music fee ($180 at our middle school, and that's just to be in middle school orchestra), small group fees, etc...  It's easily over $2500 a year.  I still remember the fancy camp that dd21 attended for violin when we felt really pressured by her teachers - about $1000 AFTER tons of scholarship (and in Michigan, which isn't exactly close). Ds10 plays soccer and baseball, but in low-key, semi-competitive leagues that are about $150 a year, and we get his stuff at a sports resale shop. So cost-wise, there's no comparison.

What would they say about your youngest's choice? They want him to play, but they are biased, lol. The girls think their brothers are amazing in all things, and ds12 would love to have ds10 in orchestra with  him.

THANK YOU for your reply - it actually helped me to hear from someone whose kids are really enjoying/benefiting from it and aren't future professional musicians or prodigies. I'm probably overthinking this and should just let him try it for a year and see how it goes!

Theresa

Avatar for turtletime
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Registered: 05-13-1998

Oh, you aren't going to offend me. My eldest is a recreational violin player and played in the school strings program. My youngest is in his school band and afterschool jazz band playing the trumpet and LOVES it. He specifically wanted to be in band because they march in parades and perform more than the orchestra. Plus, they play more modern music (like movie theme songs) and that's more interesting to him (and cooler in his arts focused middle school.) We already owned 2 quality band instruments and so those were his options. He chose trumpet over flute. Of course, in his case, he just wanted to be in band... I don't think he cared too much what he played. 

In our district, in elementary, the instructor starts everyone on either violin, trumpet, flute or clairenet (unless they've already started something on their own.) In middle school, he  starts shifting kids to other instruments for band/orchestra balancing. There are lots of bonuses to playing the lesser known instruments... often the school has them to borrow rent free. The larger instruments often mean you have one that lives in class and one that lives in school... no daily transportation issues unlike trumpet and violin. More opportunities for solos. More opportunities to be in music audition based programs outside of school where competition for those violin spots can be fierce!

While I think that ultimately, the most important factor is that a child play the instrument they are personally invested in, it's OK to make sure they've been exposed to the other options, know the benefits of choosing a rarer school instrument and understand the finances of it. If he's really passionate about the violin and only the violin, you can rent a decent one for cheaper than buying one in the beginning.