What do you think about classic music education?

Jun 14, 2018

Few days ago, my daughter (6 years old) visited an exam at music school. I was there. And I remembered the atmosphere of my childhood. When I was 10, I was studying at Music School.

It was time of musician-friends, nice time after school... Also it was 3 hours of piano playing per day (and it was very boring compositions). Solfege, where we tried to repeat very incomprehensible parts from Gluk music. 

And I'm sad about it. I made the decision: If she passes the exam or not, I'll not let her attend music school. On the contrary, I'll hire a personal teacher. And this teacher will not only teach her play, but teach her love to play. The goal is not to bring a world-star pianist. The goal is in 12-15 years she should be a music lover. She should love to play in 17-18-19 years old. Not to be like a 90% of graduates, who hate to play music after music school.

But it's about Russian musical school systems. But for me it's interesting: What's with Europe music schools?
Is it as boring as in Russia? Have you a problem, that 90% of children hate playing music after music school?


This is a really interesting question. I personally think that a lot of the problems children face in music institutions comes from finances. Who pays for the very expensive music education: government, parents, etc...? No matter who pays they usually want something in return. Is the child worth the the money invested in them? Well, lets do exams to see that! It is not a very healthy situation for a child.
Get A private teacher I think. It is better for A person to love it than be a virruoso. And as they develop they might even choose for themselves to practice hard.

Also in America at least not all music schools are like that. Mine is built for people to develop at their own pace. It is A part of the Suzuki method.

Music schools aren't bad, but they cannot be competitive. If they are it sucks you dry and takes the fun out of it.

Generally most of the time I can get away with an hour a day, maybe a bit more if I have free time on my violin.

I hope your daughter will love the piano even at a old age.

I hope this helps!
In Sweden, we absolutely don't have this problem I think. We students often have great passion for our art and thats why we don't quit. We also have great teachers. I'm currently studying at one of the best musical gymnasiums in Sweden, so my view may be a bit biased. I often talk to american students who seem to have really bad education. For example in counterpoint classes, they are taught Palestrina-style counterpoint without ever learning why. It makes many students very close minded and I think it's great we don't have this in Sweden
A lot depends on the chemistry between the student and the teacher. Even the world's best teacher isn't the best teacher for everyone.
Never push You child to music school for specialised education if he is not addicted to music beforehand. Is Your child singing all the time, is he playing piano and look for tutorials in YT or apps(even in 4, 5, 6)? Does he likes the teacher who prepared for musical school, is he artistic - enjoying to express himself to You, to public, etc? These are indications which tell alot. Don't push if child does not have any of this.
From my little experience, if You see that child loves to be in and generate music, buy a piano(or digital for starters) as soon as possible and see how it progresses. If child has his favorite songs, help him find tutorials, pianorolls and see if he tries to figure out how to play it. It's how kids are developing natural rythm, articulations, etc.
I live in Australia, and I think Russian schools are really different. we don't have selective school at such a young age. for your Childs first term at school don't get any piano teacher, unless she really wants to. don't push the private teacher on her let alone music school. but allow her to go to music school in high school if she wants, it will be a good experience.
Having lived in several countries and worked with local ensembles it has been very interesting to observe the different styles and approaches to music education. One observation is that since most music education programs tend to be publicly funded, they are driven by specific outcomes, with curriculum designed with the outcome in mind.

The Russian system, for example, produces incredible musicians, arguably some of the best in the world. It seems that this system is designed to achieve that result. It starts very early, is very strict and seems designed in a way to where those who are strong enough to make it through will certainly become a top musician.

While the Russian system is very exclusive, the US system in contrast, is quite the opposite. It is designed less around musical outcomes, but more social outcomes, similar to sports programs. There is a very wide range of curriculum and an even wider range of outcomes (except for Texas... :-) ).

One of the more fascinating systems I have seen is the Belgian system. The government has actually supported the development of an extremely detailed system for every instrument that walks through every level and it produces some pretty amazing results.

I don't have much first hand experience with systems in Asia, Australia or South America (apart from El Sistema), but would be very curious to learn more about these.

But, what I think a lot of these systems are missing, though, is that while they are focused so much on the quality of outcomes, they miss the issue of quantity. How many people are they affecting? How many new music enthusiasts and music hobbyists are they creating? So many students have an interest in learning music, yet either don't start or start and don't continue.


This seems to be where an interesting opportunity is, to create new approaches, content and community for music education where growth of participation and retention - on any level - is just as important as the quality of the result.
The point of quality versus quantity is a very good one. Most systems are created not to serve the top of the iceberg but to serve the few snow flakes at the very top. (I believe this is a problem not only in the world of music but in sports, too.) In Finland about 5% graduate from music school and about 1% continue studies to become professionals. Well, I belonged to the 1% and am quite happy teaching the piano nowadays but almost all of my fellow students who became professionals and who have practiced their profession for some time have seriously considered studying something else, turning their mind to other professions. The disillusionment of the music world becoming apparent, the hard realities of getting jobs and the jobs themselves being not as rosy as one might have thought when starting studies, they look for other possibilities in life.

What about the 95% who don't finish music school? There must be many reasons for this. Perhaps studying is too difficult, too involving and time consuming. When I speak with the parents of my students for the first time they very often are afraid that I want to turn their children in to professionals (which I don't try to do). Why are they afraid of that? I think that concern speaks a lot of our music institutions (in Finland anyway). There really should be better opportunities for the 95% to study music at their own pace and at the level they want.
BTW Russian/Soviet/Postsoviet school consist of 2 levels:
1. Complete full-time integrated into/with secondary school, which has the highest requirements for candidates. These schools are for most motivated, interested, talented, usually very rare, 1 per large area. Usually, process and environment is quite motivating and stimulating to keep student's competitiveness. 
2. An evening school for secondary primary age, sometimes with integrated secondary high school programme. These schools are more frequent and not as high level and demanding. Although, because of location, there are also very talented, competitive with the first level school students which are also welcomed to join 1st level school when achieving results at competitions. These schools are also more diverse speciality wise.
In Latvia, we have just one 1st level pseudo-Russian style school sponsored by the government, while there are about 100 local musical schools backed by local councils just for 2M population(Like New Mexico or Nebraska).
My old teacher is Ukrainian who studied in Soviet Union. He told stories of students locked in practicing rooms with no other way out than learning Tchaikovsky's concerto No.1 perfectly by heart! I wonder if they still have same methods in Russia these days.
 I am pretty sure that they will only get out of there today when they have assembled the instruments on which they play the score from the bones of opposition members who have starved to death and died of thirst in the room next door.
Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised. Things are getting harder and harder nowadays in the former Soviet Union...
sorry, but this is a myth and provocation from your teacher.
There were a lot of problems in USSR, but in EU/NA loves to exaggerate it (like in USSR loved to write horrors about life in the USA). But that not true.

It's a very difficult to learn music In our Music Schools. But not so strong
Well, what I know is that he was forced to emigrate from the Soviet Union so he probably held some grudges and so I wouldn't be surprised if he added some color to his stories.
I would say to just get a private teacher. I would say that it's a good way to introduce her to music.

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