“I hate music.”
That was what a fifth-grader told me on the first visit to his classroom — before we ever sang a note, before I ever had a chance to win him over with charm and charisma.
“I’m not doing band, either,” he said.
Nobody had asked him to.
His older siblings had been a part of the program. Somehow, though, this young man wanted to display his masculinity on our first meeting by telling me he not only hated music but didn’t want to be in the band.
My response: “That’s fine, but I am not here to talk to you about band.”
Of course, the kid slumped down in his chair and mumbled something. But his point was made: I want to be a real man, and as a real man, I’m not doing this prissy stuff like singing or playing an instrument.
In my years of teaching, I have had to learn not to have my feelings hurt when someone doesn’t want to participate in choir or band. That’s fine; it isn’t for everyone, although as a music teacher I firmly believe everyone will reach a point in their lives when they wish they knew how to sing, play an instrument or read music.
What gets old are the excuses or the conditions.
For instance, “I am quitting choir because I am going to focus on (fill in the blank).”
OK so, baseball, wrestling, basketball, et al meet during a class period? What school are you attending where those sports meet during the day?
Here’s how many performances you have to attend to participate in choir: two. The Christmas concert and the spring concert. That’s it. You don’t have to be in one of our show choirs unless you want to be; those are volunteer groups, and yes, they do meet after school. But the class itself doesn’t have anything to do with that.
In band, the same applies. If you choose to be in the band, you come to the band class. Nobody is going to make you be a part of the side groups, like jazz band, that meet and go places. You don’t even have to be in the marching band and go to all those football games and parades. You can just take the class.
And how many performances are required for band? Two. The Christmas concert and the spring concert. That’s it.
All we ask of you is that you try. Nobody is expecting the next virtuoso musician to emerge from our little town, although that would be great. We just provide the opportunity for a student to speak from his or her heart through performance in the fine arts.
The next time someone says they hate music or they are quitting to focus on their professional career in something else, I will just have to remind them while we accept their decision, please do not talk bad about us on the way out the door.
Music is as important a class as anything, and it means so much to a lot of people. Half of our student population is enrolled in a music class. Choosing not to participate is up to you, and nobody will criticize you for it, so please don’t make fun of those who are still there. You might actually enjoy hearing them the next time you attend a school assembly or ball game, even if you “hate” music.
Michael Bird is a music teacher for Tallassee City Schools and a weekly columnist for The Tribune.