Your Child’s Musical Life: Tween Years and Onward

This is the second article in my series “Your Child’s Musical Life” that began with the topic of “Getting an Early Start” (pregnancy through age 9). – Ruth

What are the best opportunities for my older child to pursue music?


In Upper Elementary & Middle School:

Middle school orchestra programs provide an entry point for many young musicians

Middle school orchestra programs provide an entry point for many young musicians

By around age 9 or 10, kids have a pretty good idea of what kind of music involvement interests them. Most middle schools (and some upper elementary schools) offer classes in band, orchestra and chorus.

Middle school music educators are highly trained to assess each student’s interest and ability, and will be happy to recommend the proper placement. If you have questions about your child’s involvement with their music program, don’t hesitate to ask these teachers, because they are some of the most patient people on the planet!

If your child is involved with band, orchestra, or chorus at school, they may greatly benefit from private lessons to supplement what they are learning in class. At this age, they may hesitate to ask for this support, so be proactive in offering to help them find an instructor they like and can respond to.

One of the most important decisions about whether or not your child will participate in their school’s music program is the level of interest he or she has in athletics or other extracurricular activities. It is often not possible to schedule all the rehearsals and practice sessions needed to be involved in multiple pursuits, and performance times may conflict. One example: you can’t be on the football team AND march in the band. However, individual music studies can continue in addition to most other demands on time and attention, and studying music can be a healthy outlet or balance to the rest of a student’s life.

In High School:

Marching band programs build musical skills as well as strong friendships

Marching band programs build musical skills as well as strong friendships

In high school, the options widen to include marching band, which often has the added benefit of performing in marching band competitions.

Also at the high school level, all performing ensembles present seasonal concerts, and participate in county- or state-level performance evaluations once a year. And most high schools have a strong theatre program that usually includes a musical theatre production (think “High School Musical”) at least once a year.

All of these experiences teach much-increased levels of musical skill, teamwork and on-stage courage for every member of the group.

In College:

Even if they’re not music majors, college students usually can take music classes and join performing ensembles on campus. A big bonus for members of a college’s marching band, in addition to the fun of music and friends, is that they can sometimes travel with the team. Individual performers and garage bands can often find trendy venues on campus, or in local coffee shops and restaurants, to get in front of a friendly audience.

Music majors are on track to become professional musicians. Career options include: music educator, private music instructor, music store owner, composer / songwriter, indie recording artist, touring band, and studio musician (usually in LA or Nashville). Usually some combination of these is necessary to build a reputation and make a living.

These last few career options are not for the faint of heart! You have to start with a whole lot of talent, and add lots of serendipity and persistence, to make it as a professional musician. Even blazing-fast guitar pickers are up against a whole lot of other guitar pickers in Nashville, for example, and those other pickers probably got to town a few years before you did. Nonetheless, for those truly gifted and motivated individuals who dream of nothing but performing, it can be a deeply satisfying dream come true to pursue a professional music career.

Family Band, for fun and/or profit:

One of the benefits of raising children in a family where active music involvement is part of everyday life is that they sometimes find they really enjoy making music together, and form a family band. This may be just for fun at holidays, or could turn into a career as a touring ensemble.

Here’s an example of a professional family band, the Franz Family from Arkansas (mom and dad and four children), with this beautiful recording of their bluegrass gospel song “Somewhere in Glory”.


Check back here for more blog posts in this series, “Your Child’s Musical Life”.

I’ll be talking next about the why and how of getting music lessons to work well for your child.