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A belated thank-you for all the feedback, was it only last week? Just a mere 47 impeachment news cycles ago? Anyway, thanks for all the feedback/advice/commiseration on whether we should let Noah quit the saxophone.

(I didn't realize CAPS LOCK was on when I typed the original title of that post, then I decided to just keep that way for funz, and now here we are a week later, stuck with it again because STYLISTIC CONSISTENCY.)

Your comments were all  (mostly) very helpful, and I hope that it speaks to my growth as a Blog Person that FOR ONCE, I was able to read a ton of conflicting advice from the Internet without my head exploding like an anxiety balloon and/or me getting all snippy at people because THAT ADVICE IS NOT RELEVANT TO OUR SITUATION BECAUSE OF REASONS I COMPLETELY FORGOT TO INCLUDE IN MY POST. THIS COMMENT SECTION IS RESERVED FOR OMNISCIENT BEINGS ONLY. 

One of the background details I didn't include (because the post was already rambly AF enough), was that Jason played the saxophone as a kid. As did his big brother before him. His parents bought a really, really nice Yamaha sax for his brother, who quit at some point in middle school. The sax went to Jason, who ALSO quit in middle school.

That same sax was then passed along to Noah, along with his father's deep and fervent hope that he would NOT quit in middle school. 

Jason never took private lessons and was never required to practice at home, and once he hit middle school he realized he was really far behind everybody else. And he quit more out of self-consciousness than a lack of interest. He lied to his parents and told them he was quitting band because he'd rather play sports instead. He's tried a few times to pick the sax back up, along with guitar, and I think his experience makes him super-extra protective of our children's musical talents. He wants to nurture and not push, but...maybe sometimes you do need to push? Just a little? Or maybe you don't? He doesn't know. I don't know either, along with WHO, EXACTLY, decided it was okay to put us in charge of this many small humans.

Just like my kids know that Mom Will Always Buy Them Books, someday I hope they'll realize that Dad Will Always Buy Them Music. 

Hence: The private lessons in the instrument of their choice, the daily required practicing, the recitals and concerts and enrichment ensembles, the completely bonkers amount of instruments he's brought home over the years, and the reason we own a book of Metallica songs scored for the ukulele. (And, you know, a ukulele.)

Noah played his dad's sax for several years, until the maintenance costs and its frequent need for service/repairs became an issue. So we signed up for a 36-month, interest-free financing deal with a local music store and got Noah a sax that could realistically see him to the end of high school, at least. And if he DID quit at some point, buying it still seemed like a better deal then renting for years on end, since the market for nice used band instruments in our area like like, crazy strong. But I won't lie that we both sort of assumed Noah wouldn't quit while we were still in that 36-month payment plan window, for goddamnbananasakes. 

But still, we sat down with Noah last weekend, laid down a deal and offered him a few compromises. He could quit band, but only if he committed to at least one other activity/interest beyond the Absolute Bare Minimum Needed To Graduate. We offered a couple suggestions -- a graphic novel art class, a computer animation course, AV Club, video game design, etc., but assured him we were really open to whatever he wanted.

He thought long and hard about it...and decided to give band one more year, at least. Just to see what it's like in high school, and to (hopefully) see some familiar faces on a regular basis until he finds his social footing. It might not be his passion, but it's familiar and comfortable.

Jason and I have also privately pledged to back off the pushing/nagging/begging him to practice every day. And we're going to re-evaluate the private lessons after this festival solo performance thing he's already committed to. (Although Noah genuinely likes his teacher a lot, so lessons aren't really a pain point on his end. But I would like to quit the private lessons, both the paying for and the driving to parts, specifically.) Basically, we're going to chill the fuck out and try to not funnel every parental fear and anxiety about raising a child on the Spectrum into...this one thing. 

(Much easier typed than done, alas.)



Caroline Wright

Some years ago I interviewed the mother of Alison Krauss. She told me that when Alison was growing up, she and her brother were gently required to do two things: learn to swim, and learn to competently play an instrument, ANY instrument. Learning to swim might someday save their lives, and learning to play music would make them happier and provide them with a way to soothe themselves when times were hard.

That turned out pretty well, I'd say. (Viktor Krauss plays bass with Lyle Lovett.)


I’m glad y’all found a good compromise. Even if Noah leaves band after next year he’ll have benefited from it in so many ways.


Hooray for compromises and finding a solution with Noah's input. I love hearing your thought and dilemmas. Thank you for brightening my day!


I missed last week. But really? A 14yr old not really wanting to do anything but the bare minimum is kinda par for the course. I have no real reason begin thier brains are basically entering a HUGE growth window, and thier bodies are also rewriting and therefore everything is hard and terrible. My mom loves teaching 7-8th graders but I always enjoyed the 10th and up but freshman are hard and the burden we bear for the sake of productive human adults

Lori Sekera

Parenthood! So screwed, all the time.

Elizabeth Heydary

I’m so glad he is going to keep playing! Band was the highlight of high school for me and it was nice to have it built into the day. Lessons were somewhat stressful depending on how much I practiced but my teacher was pretty laid back and I was a good sight reader so that always impressed him enough to back off on weeks I hadn’t put in enough time. Trumpet wasn’t soothing for me like piano was/is but it was so rewarding as an activity from 6-12th grade. I sometimes wonder if I should’ve kept playing in college like my sister did with her clarinet (and I attended every one of her concerts) but I’m always happy that my parents nurtured a love of music in us. And I am going to sing to my boys every night until they tell me to stop (3 years old and 7 months old right now).


I'm so glad you guys were able to find something that worked, and secretly glad he's sticking it out another year. I loved band in MS/HS, but was 100% a lazy player with no professional future. I gave my clarinet away years ago but there are still times I wish I'd hung onto it and could pull it out. (I also now kick myself for not picking up something better for solo play, like piano or guitar :/)


I was in marching band, and, looking back, there were lots of (likely undiagnosed) spectrum kids in band, as well. And we all got along. It was kind of a marching tribe of all sorts - marching band in our school was really big and really good, and it pulled from all of the various social cliques. If you watched Glee, our marching band was like that - a melting pot for high school student cliques. I'm betting that he'll love high school band. Just a guess...


Sounds like some great compromises and a great approach seeing how he feels after another year.

Apologies if you've already seen this, but this piece about marching bands and kids with ASD came to mind

I deal with similar things as Noah. Didn't get a dx until adulthood because I'm a woman, but looking back I think that dance classes and singing in choirs were helpful in ways similar to physical and speech therapy. They did great things for my brain and body coordination and it was a great space for making friends.

We didn't do competitions or anything, so practices and rehearsals required rigour, but not pressure, and happened a couple times a week, not every day, which I think was also helpful for me liking it and staying in for a long time.

Which is all to say, I think you're hitting a sweet spot by keeping him in it for the benefits and enjoyment, but pulling back on the pressure of it being a huge thing.


I stayed out of the comments on the original post, because I'm a middle school band director. OF COURSE I would say he needed to stick with it, like my job depended on it (because with my own students, it does). HOWEVER, reading the other comments from band parents and former band students gave me a fresh perspective. As directors, we tend to take it personally when we "lose" a kid, but the other comments were a reminder that not all kids are "band kids". Some carry a life-long love of music, even if a love for an instrument escapes them, and some will carry the lessons we teach through music even if the structure of a band program isn't for them. Those were uplifting reminders in this busy band season of honor bands, recruiting new students for next year, planning concerts for the end of this one, and sending my first group of sixth graders on to the high school (mai babeez!).

I'm glad Noah will be sticking with it, at least for now. He seems like a student I would love to have in my band!


Just wondering why you are insisting that he do something outside of school if he quits band? Why do you think extras are a requirement, and wouldn’t it make more sense for him to take the lead on that? Just sounds a little tiger momish to me.


It sounds to me like y’all handled it absolutely fine! My son Nick is barely in Boy Scouts now after having given up violin in 7th grade. Now we just attended scheduling for High School (which is freaking me out a bit) and he is signing up for JROTC. It kind of sounds like scouting to me, but free! And done at school! Hopefully my fervent hopes that he quit scouts in favor of really getting into JROTC are ok, because I would love to have Sunday evenings back!

Amy in StL

I started piano lessons when I was 9 and my parents let me quit when I got a job at 16. I hated practicing, but now realize there would have been no point to lessons if I didn't practice daily. (Someone please remind me of that when I complain I'm not getting stronger despite going to the gym once a week) However, they didn't make me do recitals because of my painful shyness, so that was our compromise. Also, my parents set an egg timer so we all knew I was at least making noise on the instrument for 30 minutes. Good luck, I have no idea how to parent and feel lucky I've not emotionally scarred my dogs yet.


I'm so glad you compromised, and I'm glad Noah is going to continue with band next year. My daughter played the clarinet starting in 5th grade. She loved it. Until sometime in 8th grade. She HATED practicing (and honestly, I don't think most kids actually like to practice). She wanted to stop, and not play in the band in high school. I put my foot down and made her not only do band, but--gasp!--Marching Band. I was the. meanest. mom. ever. I only got her to very reluctantly agree by promising that if she gave it a try through the first football game, and decided that she hated it, she could quit. I drove her to the first day of band camp (we didn't have sleep away band camp, it was just full day practices at the field) and had to threaten to bodily remove her from the car in front of everyone to get her to get her butt out of my car.
I picked her up at the end of the day and asked her how it went.
She LOVED it. She went on to switch to the drumline her junior year, and even joined a competitive drumline group for two years (with mandatory practice every Friday night until 10:00, and all day on Saturday--every weekend).
She's a senior in college now, and plays her clarinet in the campus band and is a music minor (physics major).
She found her people in that high school marching band, and we're both very, very glad that I forced her to do it.
(And my now college freshman son was also in marching band, and the competitive drumline, as well as the jazz band in high school, and he just joined both campus band and the jazz band this semester at his college. He plays French horn and bass guitar, and played drums in marching band in high school. He's thinking about joining marching band next year.)
While I do not think that either of my kids will go on to earn a living from playing music, I'm glad they're both sticking with it.
Oh-- and we are STILL paying for the French horn, six or seven years after we upgraded to a double horn. And we did the rent-to-own route, too. I think it'll finally be paid off in the next couple of months. Those suckers are expensive.


My only comment is to say you are doing a great job and that anyone with half a brain or more can tell you are NOT a tiger mom.


So glad he decided to stick with it! I know things are different from when I was in high school 15 years ago but for what this might be worth: I'm musically talented, but not a savant by any means and was first chair in both jazz band and concert band on sax/clarinet. I'm not saying that to brag, I promise, just to say: I can't imagine doing lessons in addition to two bands plus the odd solo/ensemble here and there for school related trips. Maybe cutting all the extra stuff out would give him time to just focus on band pieces/playing for fun stuff and help him fall in love again?

R Robicheaux

I saw this "Saint Julia, Our Lady of the Butter" candle and knew you'd love it:


I'm really feeling this right now. My 13 year old plays trumpet (in school) and piano (private lessons and practices at home) and she's been begging to quit piano. I'd be willing to discuss it if she could offer a single alternative activity that would engage her brain in any way. She's agreed to join band and play trumpet next year in high school, which is great. I told her to find me five adults who regret taking music lessons when they were her age and we'll talk about dropping piano sooner than next fall.


And I know Verbatim's question isn't meant for me, but in our family I expect the kid to do something out side of school because the default use of time for many early teens is to lounge around and sink deeper into their tiny screens and self-hatred. So we go on lots of family outings and play games together and try to stay busy, but sometimes kids need to have a positive way to spend their time independently too.

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