Thursday, March 09, 2017


I read this post at Segullah, recently, and I really liked it a lot.

Background for you (that you may or may not already know):

I was a well-rounded teenage girl. I had some talents, yes, and they gravitated toward music. I played the piano rather well, but I also enjoyed other aspects of music, and so I was involved in a lot of music classes like choir, band, and drama. I loved being around other like-minded kids, and it was fun to be able to try out new things.

I remember my sophomore year of high school. I was involved in marching band, choir, S.A.D.D., Tri-Hi-Y (mock government), National Honors Society, drama club, percussion ensemble, music theory, pep band, and then I was asked to join Jazz band to learn jazz piano. At the time, my current piano teacher told me I needed to find another teacher, as I was surpassing all she could teach me. Wanting the best, I went and auditioned with a highly reputable teacher in another city. I passed the audition, and she accepted me.

I remember it was a 40 minute drive. I didn't have my license, yet, so my mom drove me until a friend of mine, who also took from this teacher, would pick me up (she could drive). My teacher would sit at her baby grand piano while I sat at the other baby grand piano, and she was very demanding. She was very good! I really respected her talent and her authenticity. But she expected at least 3-4 hours of practicing a day. I didn't know how in the world I was going to fit that in, and honestly, I couldn't. So, I started to resent practicing. I started to resent lessons. I started to resent the piano, itself.

Now, if you know me, that doesn't sound right, because piano is my favorite thing.

After 3 months of this, I started canceling lessons. I did a no-show once. That was not like me, at all! My parents weren't sure what to do because they'd never had to struggle with me and piano before. After another cancellation, the teacher called and told me that if I couldn't' take this seriously, I'd have to find a new teacher, and then she hung up on me. I was so relieved! I told my parents I hated this and couldn't do it anymore. I wish I had just been brave enough to quit before I started acting like a brat, though...

A few weeks later, my mom told me she heard of a friend who was willing to take a few piano students. She wasn't as well known as my previous teacher, but she was just as educated. She lived 10 minutes away and would be charging for less than half what the other teacher charged us. She didn't care how much I practiced, as long as I didn't waste her time (i.e. learn the music and learn it well!). I remember driving to her home (by this time, I had a license) and looking forward to all the lessons. With her help, I managed to win the talent portion of the local Junior Miss Pageant, as well as the graduating senior scholarship competition (there were only 3 of us competing, but still!). I ended up practicing about 1-2 hours a day. And not because I was compelled, but because I just loved playing! I enjoyed practice, I enjoyed lessons --I enjoyed that I could live my life without making piano the sole focus of it.

See, I went on to be the drum major of the marching band for two years. I was still in all the clubs and all the music classes. One semester in high school I split one class period between Symphonic Band and A capella Choir! I did AP Music Theory for four years. I also was heavily involved in church projects, plays, and activities. I accompanied, on average 25 separate solos and ensembles for the music festival every year. I accompanied a lot of the choir performances, too. And I had a job! An after school job where I worked for 2 years (at a dental office). I also ended up with a 3.75 GPA and an acceptance letter to BYU!

But most of all, I was happy. I had zero pressure to decide my life's purpose at 15 years old and I had all the support in the world to have fun. I went on dates, hung out with friends, and did random things like accepting a nomination to be a representative for our mock government trip to Boise (we took over the capital and basically ran a session of Congress amongst ourselves). I got to play jazz piano, audition as an Alto II for All State (and got in!), and write music. I had a wonderful high school experience, and I really believe it was because I got to do what I wanted to do without the expectation that I should do only one thing perfectly.

I have to say that I hate the rise of inflexibility of teachers, parents, and programs that don't allow kids the chance to be well-rounded. It's like this idea of, "Jack of all trades, master of none" is to be completely rejected, just for the fear that not being a master reduces employment opportunities. And they are bringing up these worries before the kid has even reached high school. I mean... wha??

The average change of majors at a university is three. Three. Most people change majors at least once in their life time (my husband did! I did! Granted, I couldn't get into my major, but whatever). A lot more don't even make money at what they majored in, either. So, I find it interesting that 13 year old kids are being told to hurry up and decide on a career. What's the rush? Seriously, who cares?

There's nothing wrong with a Jack--Jane --of all trades. I mean, seriously, look -- "This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" and "the glory of God is intelligence" and "what we attain in this life will rise with us!"  -- Aren't we to learn all we can? A good well-rounded life means someone is learning new things. Focusing on a career can be important, but let's wait until adulthood before that pressure, okay? Let's let our kids be kids, explore, learn, and enjoy being able to experience a lot of great opportunities so they can actually discover their talents and find what it is that they'd like to do with their lives.

Were you a Jack/Jane of all trades? Did you focus on one talent? Do you think kids these days are being pressured into deciding their futures too early? 


Diane said...

I had a schedule similar to yours. I wanted to be well-rounded. I did band and art and key club and art club and a job and early morning seminary and swimming and track one year and dance another. But I would hate it if any one of my kids had a schedule like that. What that meant was I never had much time with my family. And now that I am older it doesn't surprise me that I never had much of a relationship with my family either. So my opinion is, spend time with your parents and siblings while you can. The high school years go so fast and relationships are so much more important than a preforming talent and early career development.

Anonymous said...

I see a lot of pressure to be master of all things, and that's just not realistic, either. There's such a high-pressure focus within schools that students aren't really allowed to be generalists, unless they're generally perfect in all ways--so many programs assume that the student is ONLY focused on that, and it leads to overburdensome task lists instead of learning and passion and joy and failure.

In high school I was on Varsity dance & drill all four years; kept up college prep class loads, worked 20 hours a week at a pharmacy; was active in church/music; coached a community youth soccer team... and played the cello with passion and very, very little skill.

I was seriously horrible.

At the beginning of my second year of cello lessons, my teacher very gently asked me about my "goals for the instrument"---and I told her I realized I was still very bad, and not really improving, but that I loved practicing, and I loved my attempt at playing.

She agreed that I was not making progress or getting better, and that given what she knew of my practice determination, that was truly unique... but that she was willing to stand it, if I wanted to keep going.

I explained that of all the things in my life, I could utterly stink at cello, and nothing bad happened. My scholarships weren't at risk. My college fund didn't decrease. No one else (but her) suffered. It was ONE thing in life I could be REALLY BAD at, and still enjoy, and it was very cool.

I played VERY BADLY for four years, and enjoyed every second.

Sometimes there is huge value in being awful at things, as well as being a well-rounded generalist, or being a specialist.

HUGE agreement in letting youth use their youth to EXPLORE all the options, with low-risk of long-term consequences, and loads of room to be good, bad, or mediocre!