Music teachers, especially teachers of beginners, deal with the constant awareness that a certain percentage of students are likely to quit at some point in their first few years. Parents and teachers often ask “What can I do to keep my student from quitting music?” Here are a few ideas:
1. “You’re not allowed to quit.” To an adult, this phrase might not make complete sense, much like “You can’t fire me; I quit!” But elementary students may hear this from an adult and really take it to heart. For junior high or high school musicians, they need to be aware that quitting will affect their grade and their GPA.
2. “If you quit now, you won’t be allowed back into the music program.” Some students want to quit because rehearsals get too hard, expectations get too high, or the music calendar gets too boring or too busy. Some students might just need a reminder that they can’t do the fun things at the end of the school year unless they put in the effort all year long.
3. “If you quit, you’ll give up your school instrument for good.” In my district, a high percentage of students depend on the school to provide an instrument. I make clear to kids and their parents my policy that that quitting means giving up your school instrument for good. When demand is high for borrowing school instruments, I can’t afford to assign them to students who have a history of quitting.
4. Remind them of the short-term benefits of being in music. For example, music students may get to be excused from classroom time to come to music lessons. They wouldn’t get to participate in music events with their friends. Younger students may tend to quit just because the music is getting a little tough, and they may not be considering the other aspects of participating in the music program.
5. Remind them of the long-term benefits of being a musician. Students might need to be reminded that being a musician goes way beyond just playing at school; it can be part of your life forever. This is where having other adult musicians work with your students can pay off. When students see other classroom teachers, parents, or community members playing music, it helps reinforce the concept that you don’t have to be a professional performer or music teacher to keep music part of your life.
6. For private students, if they decide to quit, they forfeit their lesson time slot. Some families may want to take break from lessons because of a temporarily busy schedule or some other trivial reason. But parents should understand that there may be other students who want the their time slot, and you can’t promise to reserve it.
This list is just the beginning. All you music ed bloggers must have a ton of other great ideas and strategies. Voice them here!