By David Bornstein
With school underway, I asked my eight-year-old son this week if he had any interest in learning guitar. He said he’d prefer the piano. I was pleased, but hesitant. I had my own stint with after-school piano lessons at age eight — plinking out notes from classical pieces that were foreign to me. My progress was agonizingly slow and I gave up within months.
Music education hasn’t changed fundamentally since the 1970s. Students are still taught to read notation so they can recite compositions that they would never listen to on their MP3 players or play with friends. The four “streams” in music education — orchestra, chorus, marching band and jazz band — have remained constant for four decades, while a third generation is growing up listening to rock and pop music. And my experience as an eight-year-old is all too common. Many children quit before making progress with an instrument, then regret it as adults. Others play violin or trumpet for the school orchestra or band, then drop the instrument after graduating from high school.