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To think that he shouldn't be forced to play the violin.

(51 Posts)
123andaway Wed 07-Oct-09 09:11:42

DS2 is 8 and in year 4. Since returning to school after the summer, the whole class of 36 children have started learning the violin (I can only imagine the noise!!!). This is done in lesson time and is compulsory. The school have provided violins, and the children can bring them home to practice.

To start with I was really pleased about this, and thought it would be a wonderful oportunity for DS2. Im musical myself, and get alot of pleasure from playing insturments.

Unfortunately DS2 doesn't appear to have inherited the musical gene! He is really disliking the violin lessons, to the point he's not wanting to go to school on the day they happen. He grudgingly brings the intrument home each week, where it sits and collects dust in a corner (dispite huge amounts of encouragement to practice/show me what he's been learning etc) and then gets grudgingly taken back to school the following week.

AIBU to think that while it's fanastic the children are being given this opportunity, playing an instrument should be something that is done for pleasure and enjoyment, and not something that is forced upon you. Surely if there are half a dozen children like DS2 in the violin class its going to spoil it for the other 30 who really are keen to learn the instrument. WIBU to speak to the teacher, or should I just tell DS its part of school and that he has to get on with it.

diddl Wed 07-Oct-09 09:20:58

Depending on how long it is for, I would be inclined to tell him to put up with it,TBH.

But pehaps find out from the teacher how long for & what´s the point-as in what are they trying to achieve.

I´m sure for a while at primary school we all had a go at the recorder.

But violin´s a whole different thing!

omaoma Wed 07-Oct-09 09:27:06


i count myself a pretty musical person and did loads of music/dancing as a kid but i was FORCED to continue the violin when i HATED it and by god it was painful. for everybody, including the teacher i suspect. didn't do me anything other than ram home how useless i was at it and make me feel stupid in public when i had to play it! sympathise hugely with your son. what a waste of everybody's time and effort and a BIZARRE policy of the school's! (has somebody there seen one of those terrible meryl streep real-life movies where she cures a ghetto via mass violin playing???) Bet there is something else he would really love to do instead that he could usefully do with that time (even another instrument potentially - i longed to play cello! violin made my arms ache). can you canvas other parents in the class and see if there's a break-away group who could suggest lessons in guitar or drums or something a bit more fun if they're determined to do music?

if all else fails - i was bribed with chocolate to go to the hated lessons and can testify that it at least makes something about the day good! find something you can do to make that day a bit brighter and let your son know you are on his side and it won't last forever (can you find out when he can jack it in and start a calendar or something?)... but sometimes you have to do stuff you hate and try and be stoical.

123andaway Wed 07-Oct-09 09:27:54

It's for the whole year. I do think it's great for the kids that want to do it - I would have loved to have music lessons at school - but think that it should be optional.

omaoma Wed 07-Oct-09 09:30:17

oh and agree with with diddl re politely finding out what they hope to achieve with all this...

123andaway Wed 07-Oct-09 09:36:19

Oma grin about the meryl streep film! Last years yr 4 learnt the trumpet TG we missed that!!!!

I think the issue is going to be that if they have a few kids not doing the violin they then have to find something else to do with them, which will mean an extra member of staff.

Tidey Wed 07-Oct-09 09:39:01

It should definitely be optional. Not everyone can read music, some people just don't have the patience or interest to play an instrument and I don't see how the school forcing this on any child and making them miserable is an opportunity for them.

I had violin lessons as a child, I begged and pleaded and my mother eventually let me. I never learned to read music properly and the sounds I produced were like a cat being tortured. It's simply not for everyone.

Talk to the school and explain how your son is feeling. I'm sure he can't possibly be the only one.

LadyoftheBathtub Wed 07-Oct-09 09:45:52

My god what a terrible idea. It's great to have a chance to learn an instrument but instruments are very, very different and suit different people, and the violin is an extreme example - you need strong fingers, good posture and also you need to be very musical as there's no guide to getting the note right. Completely daft to make the whole class do it!

I had violin lessons at 5/6 ish and gave up (luckily my parents were OK about it) because I just couldn't get on with it. I did find instruments that suited me and have been in bands all my life and got loads out of it. So this doesn't mean your DS won't play an instrument.

I would mention calmly to the teacher that you don't think the violin suits him very well and he's not enjoying it much and you wonder if this is really the best instrument for the whole class? But it's just for a year you can also jolly DS along with it. Tell him this shows the violin is not for him and see if you can get hold of other instruments to try, eg borrow some from friends. Practice with him and have a go yourself. Set a timer to 5 minutes, do it together and have a reward afterwards. Tell him when the year is up, if he's still not into it, you will let him choose another instrument?

RustyBear Wed 07-Oct-09 09:49:42

We have this at our school - all of year 4 are learning an instrument this term - one class are doing either the violin or viola, the other the trumpet or the baritone. Last years year 4 all played the fife & even those who weren't keen at first grew too like it over the term & were very proud to play in the concert at the end of term.

Our lessons are provided free by the Berkshire Maestros, who give subsidised instrument lessons to children in the county - if yours is a similar set up I'd say it's very unlikely that they would be able to provide a different instrument for some of the group - with our scheme it depends on which teachers are available to give the lessons -last year it was only the fife that was available, this year they are able to offer a choice.

I find it interesting that because it's music, you are even considering that he might to be allowed to get out of it - some children don't have a talent for Maths or PE but they have to do it - and if they weren't doing this they would still have to do music as part of the curriculum anyway.

hotpotato11 Wed 07-Oct-09 09:55:08

I think its just something he will have to put up with.You can't pick and choose which lessons you will and won't do ! But the thought of 36 beginner 'vile-dins' in one room !!
Also I have to say I am not sure if it would be a very good way of introducing anyone who was serious about playing the violin.I would have thought in a group of 3O some bad playing habits would develop which , after a year would be hard to break.
At our school the Y4/5/6 class were all taught together on a variety of instruments which was good in that they got some choice , but bad in the fact the teacher had to be a jack of all instruments and a master of none (or maybe one !)

ChopsTheDuck Wed 07-Oct-09 09:55:30

A agree with rusty re the curriculum. I live in Berkshire too, and we have the same thing at our school. Last year they were learning the bugle. Not sure what is happening this year.

The violin is bloody hard, so I know what you mean. Is there any way you could inspire him a bit? Find some music in a style HE likes to play. Learn to play it with him? Show him the terrific duo that were on Americas got talent, or escala and show him it doesn't have to always be boring. Or worst, comes to worst, bribery usually works with mine! wink

123andaway Wed 07-Oct-09 09:58:02

Rusty - maths is a necessary skill, and a GCSE in maths is required for many jobs/further education. PE is important for keeping fit and general health. I can't see what necessary life skill or physical benefit DS2 will gain from playing the violin other than enjoyment, which doesn't seem to be the case for him.

Pyrocanthus Wed 07-Oct-09 09:58:42

Free taster sessions are fantastic, but I suspect that this sort of compulsory herd music isn't going to do much for anyone. Children who take to it aren't going to be able to progress far (though they might be inspired to ask for lessons) and children who don't are going to be miserable. And as for the rest of the school while they're playing...

Maybe it's inspired by schemes like the Venezuelan Sistema and the Soweto string orchestra, which have had a tremendous social impact. From what I've seen of them on the telly though, the children have to decide for themselves to do it, then the teaching and practice regimes are very rigorous. Not much question there about the 'right' instrument for the child, though - if you're musical and extremely poor, you'll probably find that a violin is absolutely fine...

36 children, by the way? We thought our school was taking the mick with a class of 34 a couple of years back.

sunnydelight Wed 07-Oct-09 10:01:55

I can't really get past the horror that must be a whole class of children learning the violin at the same time to come up with an intelligent response. Is there a "shudder" emoticom!!!

ChopsTheDuck Wed 07-Oct-09 10:05:48

music does give life skills - self esteem, motor skills, it has been shown to sharpen memory and the mind, it teaches self discipline, it's a great reliever of stress. Children playing in an orchestra learn teamwork.

I relaly wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it.

LadyoftheBathtub Wed 07-Oct-09 10:07:35

Yes but all that is only true if it's going well Chops. Forcing children to do it in the wrong way could put them off for life.

RustyBear Wed 07-Oct-09 10:08:57

123andaway - so do you think children should only do subjects at primary school if they like them are going to use the skills directly? Possibly the government agrees with you, which is why it is squeezing subjects like History out of the curriculum.

Bramshott Wed 07-Oct-09 10:10:10

I think it sounds like a great opportunity to develop musicality, even if the violin is not really your DS's instrument (but then maybe I am biased as I work for Buskaid - the Soweto String project that Pyrocanthus mentions!). It also doesn't sound like it would really be practical to opt out! In the same way that some children are not naturally gifted at football but still have to play it at school if that's a part of the curriculum, your DS should probably just accept it as a part of school life and something he has to do for this year. Hopefully he'll get something out of it by the end of the year which can be transferred to another instrument!

babybarrister Wed 07-Oct-09 10:14:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hando Wed 07-Oct-09 10:21:18

"YABU I hated ball sports - but guess what I had to do it, year after year after year. No-one ever asked what the school hoped to achieve with that".

PE and music are totally different. PE is done to keep children fit and healthy.

Music doesn;t teach them anything if they hate it! Playing an instrument is for enjoyment, if you do not emjoy it then it will be a horrible experience and a pointless waste of time.

YANBU Op. Having said that our school charge £17 per half hour for 1:1 violin lessons, which I wanted my daughter to have but we cannot affordat that price. So I am a little envy

LadyoftheBathtub Wed 07-Oct-09 10:22:29

But I don't think the question is "should children learn about music at primary school" - of course they should and there are loads of ways to do that. The question is was it such a good idea to make a whole class of 8-year=olds learn a really difficult instrument and what the OP should do about the fact that her DS hates it...

123andaway Wed 07-Oct-09 10:48:48

LOBT - yes thats exactly what I am asking, but put much better than I would have done - thanks!

Hando angry it's so expensive for your DD to learn. It would have been my dream at 8 to have got free music lessons at school, and I am sad that DS2 isn't enjoying it.

Pyrocanthus Wed 07-Oct-09 10:50:07

Oh wow, Bramshott, that's a cool job.

I'm in two minds about many of the musical initiatives that I've observed round here. It's brilliant to get music into schools, and give all children a chance to try instruments, but it often seems to be just a little too half-hearted - everyone has a little go, some people like it, but there's not much follow-up. If you try the violin and like it a bit, you can have lessons in school, but that's £5 a pop and you have to buy an instrument after a year. I understand budgetary restraints, and don't think that's bad value at all, but nobody's going to be lifted out of real financial or cultural poverty by it.

And then, when you pay your fiver, you find that there's no obligation for your child to practise, so most don't, then find that they don't get very far and give up because it's too hard. I had a long discussion with my DD's violin teacher about this a couple of years ago, when DD was thinking of packing it in after more than two years because she was in a group of 4, where the other 3 never practised and rarely remembered to bring their music, and DD was finding it boring and repetitive. Now, DD is never going to drag her family out of poverty with her musical gifts, but she enjoys playing and is happy to practise regularly if she feels she's getting somewhere. She'll never qualify for free individual lessons, or be spotted for any sort of development scheme. The teacher said that participation was the priority of the music service, that she wasn't allowed to insist on practice, and that her time in our school was allotted according to the total number of children playing, not the sort of groups she'd like to teach them in, so she had to arrange them as best she could. She started giving DD 10 minutes on her own in her lunch break each week to give her a go at her Grade 1, then we moved her to individual lessons at weekends at £10 for 20 mins. Similarly for DD2 on the cello. This is a stretch for us, but we have been lucky that DD1 has a good violin on loan from a friend, and the music service loans cellos out for free. There are free groups for them to play in, and they're both enjoying themselves, but we do have to be able to find the money for the lessons.

I've got into a bit of a ramble, but what I'm trying to say is that if you want music to be truly inclusive, and for all children to be able to make the most of their musicality, resources need to be available to follow up these projects with really good group or individual tuition, otherwise these initiatives are in danger of looking like a bit of window dressing. And of course, resources are a bit thin on the ground at the moment...

I'd love to hear of any really good musical initiatives in this country, where children who might not otherwise have had the chance to play are able to sustain their interest. Other than those involving Gareth Malone (and when did he ever say, 'No need to bother with practice anyone, just turn up when you like and hum along'?)

diddl Wed 07-Oct-09 10:52:49

A whole year-that seems a lot.

If they were trying lots of instruments so it was a few weeks at each.

I used to play the violin and loved it.

But I´d still be a bit [hmmm] at having to do it for a whloe year.

And am shockthat a school has provided them all with a violin.

Is that it-the school have been given a truck load of violins and are determined to use them? grin

123andaway Wed 07-Oct-09 10:57:31

I say school, but it's actually a music service that comes into the school. They send the violin teacher and lend a violin to each child.

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