Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to Help a Child Choose the Right Musical Instrument

If a child is lucky enough to attend a school with a band program, choosing the correct instrument can be a challenge. In addition to being an announcer on Classical 94.5 WNED, I am also a full-time elementary band director in the Depew UFSD. One of the most important things I do is help children select the right instrument.
In many school bands, it seems that more girls than boys play woodwind instruments (clarinet and especially flute), and more boys than girls play brass instruments and percussion. I’m not sure why these stereotypes developed, but they are usually not helpful. Instead, the choice of musical instrument should be based on three primary things – a child’s interest, physical characteristics and cost. If a child is really excited about a particular instrument, then we should do everything we can to make playing that instrument possible. Enthusiasm is the first step toward success! Secondly, we should consider the child’s physical characteristics. Petite children (boys or girls) are better able to handle smaller instruments over larger ones, while larger children can more easily handle larger instruments. Also, some children are able to “buzz” with brass mouthpieces while others struggle with buzzing. Other physical considerations may also apply. The band director is your best resource. Talk to him or her. Thirdly, buying and renting musical instruments costs money and some instruments are more expensive than others. Parents need to determine what they can afford. Also, some schools have instruments that can be loaned to students. You may want to ask about this possibility, especially if rental cost or purchase is a serious problem.
Finally, the best way to begin selecting a musical instrument begins long before the choice has to be made. Expose your child to musical instruments at an early age. Make sure they hear good music and see good performances as much as possible. One of the best places to do that is right here at WNY Public Broadcasting. We broadcast wonderful music programs on WNED-TV all the time where children can see and hear different musical instruments in action. Then, there is Classical 94.5 WNED radio where great music, played by great instrumentalists is broadcast 24/7. It’s here for you any time the conversation comes up. You can tune- in and discuss the instruments you’re hearing at that very moment!

Marty Wimmer is a program host on Classical 94.5/WNED and a veteran public school music teacher.