Thiis is a question which I received via email a few months ago – It took me lots of careful consideration and research for my reply below, as I believe this is a very important topic affecting many parents. Your comments are welcome below, as I would love this to be a forum for discussion on this topic.
Should the Band Director be selecting the instrument for my 6th grader child and
what should I do if I don’t agree with the instrument selected by the band director?
Joining a school band is an exciting and inspirational experience for any child. Not only will they learn to play music, but they will have the opportunity to learn it in a fun, friendly and a nurturing environment. They will make special musical friendships with teachers and tutors and students and will have opportunity to play in major school and community events. The feeling of importance and value that a child can gain by playing in a band can make a huge difference to their schooling and self confidence.
Great band directors have always got the child’s best interests at heart. Their whole life is to care for and provide an inspirational learning situations which will bring out the best in every child. They have hands on experience with working with children playing music day in day out and know what works best in the most tried and tested situations.
It looks really easy to stand up there and work with 50 or more kids at a time at rehearsal at a concert, but let me rest assure that it is definitely not as easy as it looks. Their ability to make it all look easy is paramount to being outstanding at their job. In reality however, there is enormous pressure placed on them and becoming a band director is a highly specialized job. From making sure that the children are able to play their parts correctly to ensuring that the correct instruments have been chosen for each child there are pressures placed on these people who work tirelessly to make sure that it all comes together.
It can be a real juggling act for a band director to find the correct instruments to suit each child. Most programs will assign instruments to their students based on the factors surrounding their circumstances. Factors such as the size of the child,the work ethic of each child (as some instruments are harder to learn than others), the amounts of instruments they have available through the program and the happiness of the child to play the instrument are taken into account.
Some band programs may have a little interview with each child, others will use a musical aptitude test and some will find out a little bit about each student from their other teachers. Most band directors won’t know very much about each child and their families until they have begun to work with them. The process of picking an instrument can be tedious and is really only the beginning of a child’s musical journey.
As a parent, you have to live with the decision that is made and need to be happy with the choice. You will be the one who has to support and encourage it so that your child can receive the maximum value and significance out of the activity. You are the one who will need to enjoy listening to it in the background every day- and that will wear on you if it’s an instrument that just doesn’t fit your family lifestyle.
My advice would be to ask the musical director some questions if you are not sure about the choice with an outcome in mind. Be real and truthful about the reasons why you’re not sure about the decision and tell this to the band director. They may well have a very clear reason why a particular instrument was chosen for your child and may be able to share an insight with you that you may not have seen before.
Also as I said before, a great band director will always have the child’s best interests at heart and wouldn’t intend to make it difficult. If your outcome is to change onto a different instrument, I would have some solutions in place for the band director so that they had no reason to say no. Talk about the options of buying or hiring the instrument of your choice from another provider.
I know that my opinion is only one, and many band directors, teachers and parents may have a different perspective on this, so please feel free to add your comments to this discussion below.