Reader Really Resents Recorder Requirements

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Dear Miriam,

Why haven’t schools figured out that playing the recorder is slow torture for everyone involved? My daughter just brought a recorder home with instructions for nightly practice. Any suggestions on getting through this? Do I have any recourse for telling the teacher this doesn’t fit into our lives?

Signed,

Resisting Recorder

Dear Resisting,

Schools have figured this out. Everyone has figured this out. But music is important, it’s good for young brains, and accessibility is crucial. For better or worse, probably worse, recorders are cheap and, relatively speaking, easy to teach. They’re painful, sure, but so is any instrument at the beginning, and the school can afford for some recorders to go missing or broken. It’s all around a logical place to start.

I hope you can find the internal strength and patience to support your daughter’s practicing, every night if possible. Grin and bear it. Encourage and congratulate her on every note that sounds even a little bit like music. Celebrate the process, because that is what will cultivate a love of music in your daughter. But even more so, your encouragement is what will cultivate your daughter’s comfort in trying new things, taking risks and learning and trusting the educational process in her life and at her school.

Please do not say anything to the teacher. If the requirement is something unreasonable, like practicing an hour or night or forcing the neighbors to listen, you can ignore the specific instructions in favor of more general practice. But please don’t push back against the idea of the recorder. Trust that your daughter is in a school with sound educational practices, and then let the school do its job, as much as you possibly can, without interfering.

If you need to set limits, you can outline specific times and locations for practice. You can allow exactly one of those full throated, hard-as-you-can blows per day. If you think there’s other music on her future, you can tell your daughter that the recorder is a gateway to other instruments, not an end point itself, and help her explore options. You can listen to music together and compare and contrast the recorder to what you’re hearing. Your daughter will not play the recorder forever, but how you respond now could impact her relationship to music moving forward. Also, earplugs.

Be well,

Miriam

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