Practice Required

If you think you can inspire kids to be musicians by providing music lessons and education in schools, and also improve their math and academic scores—well, you’re right. It’s a proven fact.

My friend and musician PC, who teaches trumpet ten to 12 year old kids in a local public middle school, was telling me that he very much enjoys working with the kids. He said. “Sometimes they have a hard time building a tone, but they seem to have less problems with rhythm, and I use that to get them interested in playing and their instrument.”

I mentioned that you had to really practice to be a good musician; do the kids practice a lot?

Here’s his problem: the kids can only access their instruments at school. They don’t get to take their instruments home with them to practice. So how can anyone get really into playing when they can’t even practice their instrument at home because they don’t have one?

PC says that if he sees that a child is interested, he sends info to their parents about private lessons and the address of pawn shops where they might be able to acquire a cheap trumpet. Yes, kids are careless and lose instruments. They could also be stolen or damaged. But…not having an instrument to practice on is really a shame. When kids don’t have an instrument they can call their own the potential evaporates to develop kids’ early interest in music. I know from experience that having my own instrument (in my case, a guitar) made me eager to practice and explore music. Having my own instrument engendered the discipline to practice. I was lucky, though. I had parents who were willing and able to buy an instrument for me to use.  So many local kids do not.

If children don’t have access to an instrument in their own home, how can they become the musicians of tomorrow?

How do we solve this problem? Is there a fund that can provide (and insure) instruments for kids who show promise in wanting to learn music? Some of the local music programs for kids do give them the ability to take their instruments home (e.g., Roots of Music). This is a challenge for the New Orleans public school system as a whole—is there an entity in the New Orleans Public School System and in charter schools that can possibly work on an ongoing basis with the private sector? To keep our music strong and out musical culture growing, we have to find a way—on an ongoing basis—to provide instruments for these young people.