Magic Ike
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A question, for you, O Internet: How do you decide if, and when, it's okay to let your kid quit

My children have quit lots of things. Every sport they've ever attempted, for example. I still have a garbage bag full of karate belts in the basement somewhere, probably buried under Ezra's cricket equipment. (That passion flamed out when he realized he actually wasn't any...good? At cricket? And that was fine, because I was likewise not any good at being Team Parent. I still have the t-shirt, though!) They're all good strong swimmers but begged to quit lessons once they hit the higher levels that involved the diving board and the unheated pool at the Y. And we let them quit because we got super sick of listening to them collectively bitch about it every goddamn Saturday morning. 

Ezra dabbled in guitar and attempted violin (arrgghhh my earssss) before finally settling on the flute -- which he loves! And actually IS very good at! Like kinda phenom good at! Which is great! Except it means the cheap little student flute we bought for $75 off Craigslist is no longer working for him and I just learned what an "acceptable" flute actually costs this past weekend and OH MY GOD. Anybody wanna buy some lightly used cricket equipment? Or a couple dozen karate belts, assorted colors? I'll even throw in some deflated soccer balls and a busted Fender amp. 

And then there's Noah. And the saxophone. He's been playing it since fourth grade and -- like Ezra and the flute -- he's REALLY good. Like, super naturally talented, makes-it-look-and-sound-easy good.

And for years now, we have wholeheartedly (and whole-wallet-ly) nurtured and supported his talent. We've attended every concert, every performance, scattered around the county with his (ultra-bored) brothers in tow. We pay and drive 30 miles round-trip for private lessons every week. We're still making monthly payments on the professional-level instrument he upgraded to a year ago. Tonight we're paying for a professional accompanist to come to our house and practice a duet for some music festival audition his teacher recommended him for. (But then neglected to mention to us that the audition would require the services of a professional accompanist until after we signed him up, ok thx.)

And he hates it. 

He just...hates it. And he wants to quit. And part of me wants to let him, but the other part of me is just like AAAASHSODHONOOOOOODF38RDSNVNooooo!!

He works harder at not practicing these days than he's ever worked on anything in his life. He hopes we'll just forget, or eventually tire of nagging and reminded him. He blew what should have been a shoo-in audition for the county's Gifted & Talented band because he didn't bother to practice any of the required scales ahead of time. He got bumped down to a less advanced ensemble at school because he kept trying to nap (?!?) during rehearsal periods. He won't even consider an afterschool ensemble (of which there are many to choose from) and turns down any solo parts he's offered. At his last concert he seemed much more interested in the state of his cuticles than in anything else around him on stage. He doesn't care about the cool trips the bands get to take, he thinks marching band sounds mortifying, and have I mentioned the practicing, which is literal actual torture on this earth? 

And last week, he told his guidance counselor to drop band from his proposed high school schedule and put him in an art class instead. (I don't think he realized that she'd confirm the change with us first, that snitch.)

And look, an art class is GREAT! I have no problem with an art class! I think it's 1,000% more likely that Noah will end up in a field that requires some kind of graphic design skill and where "Was Very Good At Saxophone" will not factor in at all! Perhaps he knows that and is just trying to be practical!

But when we asked him about it, he said he chose that particular art class because it "sounded easy." When we asked him if, HYPOTHETICALLY, he could quit band, would he consider an art- or technology-related extracurricular instead? We rattled off a few possibilities that seemed in line with his interests. He said maybe, but only if it didn't 1) happen after school, 2) involve any extra homework or projects, or 3) require any sort of time or effort or commitment at all beyond him showing up and like, staring into space or watching YouTube the whole time. 



So for now the plan is for him to continue band in ninth grade. I guess? I don't know. It feels like we're signing on for another year of making everybody annoyed and cranky and OH EM GEE, when I think about all the money and time we'd get back if we just let him up and quit...

But maybe with a little more maturity he'll come to find some pride or appreciation for his talent? Plus most of his current friends are zoned for different high schools, so at least band will start him out with a baseline of a peer group? And then he can settle into his new school (which is a total pressure cooker) and see if there's something else he's willing to put some effort into after that? And then, yes, my child. Go ahead and quit.

(Perhaps right around the same time that we finally pay off his saxophone and can sell it for flute money. Ah, the circle of life.)





Hi Amalah! Long (long!) time reader here!'d like to pipe in with my opinion on this, from the perspective of a person who did band all the way through middle/high school, undergrad, grad school, and after grad school (and lived in a music interest floor in college). If he isn't enjoying it right now? Let him quit! The money you spent, the hours you put in with him and that he put in? That's all still benefiting him! His musical talent won't go away! Skills might get rusty, but if he decides to pick up sax again in a few years? A couple months of practicing and he'll be right back where he is. There are a lot of people who come back to music later in life, when they are ready for it and want it in their lives. For example, some of my best friends play started a video-game-music cover band in college and have a blast! Musical talent still useful, but outside the rigid structure of /band/. There is definitely value in sticking with something. But seeing friend after friend quit music because their parents pushed too hard on it? That sucks. Seeing friends messing around on the piano or composing music as a hobby in college? That feels good. Let him find the joy of music again on his own, later in life. Trade in that sax for a nice flute! Lean into the joy!

Separately: Sometimes band practice can be really chaotic and frustrating. Sometimes the music isn't fun. It's hard to say what exactly it is that he doesn't like about practicing. Maybe in a few years, after the band stress wears off, you could suggest different kinds of music or ways of interacting in music that he will like better.


I feel your pain and look forward to very clever ideas from The Internet, please someone?
I keep thinking that I quit things as a kid when I didn't feel part of the group that others somehow seemed to automatically feel part of and maybe I'd have found more of a group belonging if I'd stuck to it? But probably not, unless the problem of feeling like an outsider was addressed.
Also, my children are not me so their issues might be different. Or not? I guess they might tell me in twenty years how our decisions affected them....


My son is about your son's age and also on the spectrum. We had the same struggle with piano here recently. What finally came out was that it was haaaarrrrd and therefore Not Fun. We busted out a too-easy-for-him Disney songbook and casually left it open on the piano opened to Hercules. He sight-read it and started enjoying piano again and remarked on how it is Fun Again. His teacher, meanwhile, gave him harder stuff and is helping him beef up the too-easy stuff, also to make it fun.

I am of the mind that my kid has a hard enough time making friends and band is a good place to find that baseline peer group, as you say.

So I'm wondering if you talk to the private teacher and see if they can assign stuff that he can ACCOMPLISH without a whole lot of work (and therefore be FUN and not A LOT OF WORK)? And would that rekindle the interest?

Also look for a good used flute. We have a guy nearby that refurbishes instruments and sells them. There's got to be one near you too!


If Noah were my kid, I'd allow him to drop all of the extra stuff - the weekly lessons, the honor band, the recitals, and the traveling. Have him try out High School band for a year without any of the additional stress and pressure of the added activities. Don't force him to practice. He'll either get there on his own or he won't and maybe it will impact his grade or it won't. If he still hates it after one year of HS band, then let him quit.


Ooof. Middle schoolers/early high schoolers are a little difficult I have found (I have 3!). As in, they get a little lazy and their logic is not sound. I would appeal to his desire for "easy". He already knows the saxophone and is good at it. It seems like band could be "easy" for him. Talk to other band high school parents and see what the requirements are - how much are they expected to practice? what is the time commitment, etc. High school art classes are not easy, unless you are good at art (and maybe he is), and even then require some before/after school dedication to finish projects, etc. Stick to your guns on if he doesn't do band, he has to commit to another extracurricular activity. Make him do the work to research it and come to you with a proposal. This is my parenting technique for all my older kids - they do the legwork and make a proposal. Also - high school is pretty flexible in terms of schedule changes. I would think at most, he would have to do it for a semester. So it might be helpful for him to know that you can re-evaluate as the year goes on. Good luck!

Karen Pattillo

Have Ezra check out Greg Pattillo on You tube. Plays beatbox flute and jazz and classical. His trio is called Project Trio. They demonstrate how fun music can be. Greg is my son and has been playing since he was 9. His brother played the clarinet but quit after 2 years. He was also musical but felt people were always trying to compare him to his older brother. I agree that Noah will benefit from his music even if he doesn’t want to do it now. Very hard to make a kid practice if he doesn’t want to do it.


My parents, esp my dad, were heavily into music/learning an instrument - heck, my dad taught music at our elementary school for about 15 years. He plays multiple instruments, WELL. I played piano for awhile, then switched to flute so I could be in the school band. It was just a thing we did in our family - pick an instrument, stick to it, that's what you do. By the time I got to 7th/8th grade I was DRAGGING my feet about playing/practicing. Lied about practicing. Had enough natural talent to still sit 1st or 2nd chair at school even without practicing. I knew that I did NOT want to be in the marching band in high school (for silly peer pressure reasons, I see now), and there was no other option. I certainly wasn't going to play at home for fun. So I quit, and my parents must have asked me a hundred times if I was sure. I WAS SURE. Then, guess what? I went to a liberal arts college that had a graduation requirement of art credits.... so I went and dusted off my flute, and did the wind ensemble there for FOUR YEARS. I have not picked it up again since that final concert almost 20 years ago, but I'm glad I had that experience, and I bet I could still remember how to play if I wanted to. I don't. Some activities like this are just for a season or so, and Noah has perhaps gotten all he wanted out of it. He may come back one day.


Former Band Geek here! I did regular concert band all through middle school and STRONGLY disliked it because it was SO BORING and we just had one not-fun teacher after another and required practices and required lesson times yucccckkkk. But music (band or choir) was required in middle school, so I suffered through, awaiting the day when I could make choices about my own damn life. Then high school came and I was allllllll about quitting everything.... but Mom was like, No, give it a little bit longer....its way different in high school, these may end up being your 'people'. And dammit, wouldn't you know she was absolutely right? (would never admit this to her) Cliques and groups end up being much more of a 'thing' in high school, and launching right into marching band in the fall, we had summer band camp before school started, so when school started in the fall I wasn't intimidated at all....I already had a group of friends. Marching band was SO FUN and SO COOL and these were MAI PPL. I fully embraced the dorky band geekdom. Helped that we had fun trips like to Disney and San Francisco. The few people from high school I'm still friends with to this day are band geek friends.

There might be something deeper playing in the 'I don't want to do anything that might be hard or require effort'....but maybe a good compromise is having him do band in 9th grade and see how it is.....if he still hates it, he can quit going into 10th.


"Hates it"--italicized hates it, even!--is, I think, a good reason not to force continued participation. Jen said some smart stuff above about protecting a natural love of music from too much pressure to formalize things. Beyond that, for me there's something here about supporting the development of self-trust, and knowing what it feels like when something is invigorating and really calling to us and what it feels like when it's not.

But I know you get that and live it, having allowed all the aforementioned sports-and-instrument quitting already and tried to work with Noah on this. So, I don't know, I guess I can just reflect that I hear a sunk costs piece, I hear an 'it seems not okay for a kid to not want to do after-school activities' piece, I maybe hear an 'anxious about his transition to a new, intense school' piece. Does spending time with one or more of those things help with clarity in any way?


I completely agree with previous suggestions to see whether dropping the "hard" stuff might make a difference. Or, are there multiple band opportunities at the school? Ours has jazz band, marching band, etc. Maybe there's a less pressurized alternative? I have a theater kid who is similarly inclined towards activities that don't actually require doing anything, but we pushed on it for ninth grade because having that friendship base has made all the difference for him. That said, we would not have forced it if it was making him miserable. I would have required him to try SOMEthing else in its place, however. Good luck!

Katie H.

We've had the same problem with our daughter. I was in EVERYTHING as a kid; dance, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, band, marching band, swimming, tennis, etc. etc. Naturally I thought she would love those things too, but NO. If something requires effort or hurts in any way (like hitting the ball in volleyball kind of way), she isn't interested. We signed her up for things over and over and finally realized we couldn't force her to enjoy them. So, we just let her do her own thing, and now she's an aspiring artist/photographer. She, like Noah, is going into HS next year and we are trying to dovetail all the requirements/electives and still get some extracurricular stuff in there. It's pretty hectic for both sides! I agree with Jen (first poster). His talent won't go away. Maybe the first year he can just get used to the change. All of this advice is given with a side of "I know you're his mom and know him best!!" Hang in there!


My son is 13 and diagnosed level 2 autism. He is very very smart. Like brilliant level but he doesn't like to do anything. We tried painting, karate, swimming, cooking/baking classes, drawing, kung fu, guitar, trumpet... you get the idea. We have now settled on the following that he is good at and enjoys: tai chi and programming. Tai chi is quiet and relaxing. Super calming and great for him. Then programming because he loves computers and he can learn a life skill. He uses his knowledge to teach his class programming.

We also are sending him to 3 week sleep away camp for kids who are like him: autistic and brilliant. It combines new activities and outdoors and some social skills. I am excited for him!

Good luck in finding Noah's thing. Like my son, he may just not be interested in music even with a natural talent.


My son is a year younger than Noah. He's taken piano lessons since he was 6 and he's a percussionist in his middle school band. We've definitely had our struggles with wanting to quit piano and it always happens when it gets hard. He's used to just coasting along without putting in a lot of effort so when something gets hard "eh, i think i'd still prefer not"

I didn't let him quit, but I did stop pushing him to really develop his natural talent. I don't push him to do festivals or sign up for anything extra in piano, I don't even make him practice, that's all on him. He knows when he goes to a lesson and hasn't practiced enough. Fortunately, he has a piano teacher that operates with the same philosophy. He's not going to be a musician for a living so let's just slowly improve and develop skills and just enjoy playing.

Same for percussion, I SOOOO want him to do the extra stuff, the ensembles, the Honor's band, the competitions, but he just doesn't give a shit. The only reason he ever does anything extra in band is because his best friend pressures him into doing it and he absolutely ends up enjoying it anyway. I will admit that I will LOVE it if he marches in high school, the drum line is always my favorite, but I won't make him because it's a huge commitment and it's just not worth the grief to make him.

If I were you, I'd let him quit all the extra stuff but keep doing band next year in high school. I think there's value in having that peer group in place. I always tell my son, "these are your people, trust me." Let him own it though, don't nag him to practice, let him suffer the natural consequences of not practicing and if he doesn't care, you have to not care either (with the exception of whatever rules you may or may not have in place concerning grades). He doesn't have to march or do anything extra, and if he still hates it after 9th grade, he can quit. That's what I'd do anyway.


School counselor and mother of 3 cranky teenagers here.

Let him quit! He's old enough to make his own decisions about how he spends his time. There are so many things kids MUST do at school - let him have some autonomy. It's so much better than arguing about it! If he ends up regretting his decision that's on him. Middle school and high school is about finding what you love (which is not always what you are good at) and choosing to engage. In my experience, parent force/pressure/nagging never ends well.


My one rule with quitting, whether ballet or bananas as acceptable fruit, was they had to give it some time. I would say, OK, you liked bananas last week, so, if you keep trying them for another couple of weeks and you still don't like them any more, OK. Same with ballet. OK, you can quit, but, wait until after this performance, because you'll let the company down if you quit now. That way I didn't have to have the conversation about whether quitting is right or wrong, because in real life that always depends, there's no single answer.

The ballet thing worked because my daughter loved to perform;). Like childbirth, the fun of it would erase the memory of the work of going to classes. I think ballet helped her develop incredible discipline, and an interest in the workings of the body that finally took her to medical school. That said, she was naturally suited to ballet, so she never struggled with body image etc. If she'd complained about that I'd have picked her up and run out the door myself. If Noah is really not suited to things like the pressure of a professional accompanist etc., just let him quit one thing at a time until he finds the level of engagement that he likes.


I agree with a previous poster that maybe he could just do band in high school but quit the individual lessons and the extra festivals in conjunction with his private teacher. Just band will probably be kind of easy to him and likely wouldn't have too much after school requirements.


I used to love band, until I got promoted to a level where I actually had to work at it. And because it had always been so easy before, I didn't understand "hard." I didn't know how to work at it. Also, music theory just baffled me, and everyone else seemed to magically know this stuff. I felt so out of place, and wanted desperately to stop. My parents rule was always to finish the term, so I finished the school year out. Then I avoided the flute and any flute music for year,s because I felt so guilty about it. But as an adult, my flute has moved with me to every new home. And I have played fun stuff once in a while. I can even listen to flute music without getting attacked by the guilts.


I’d let him quit. It sounds like he really doesn’t want to do it and it will only cause misery if you force him to continue. I agree with other comments that he may come back to it at a later date on his own. Try to read your post and pretend it is not about your kid (if possible) and I think it might become more clear to you. It seems pretty clear to me that he’s just not enjoying it right now for whatever reason and he needs a break. I know that’s a hard thing for us parents. My kids currently don’t want to do ANYTHING. It’s frustrating but I refuse to force them and am crossing my fingers that we will find the right “fit” at some point with something. Just my 2 cents.

Allison Niphakis

As someone who deeply regrets quitting music and other things when I was a kid, this has been hard for me as a parent. I keep telling my kids "don't quit, you will regret it later". But, alas, I have a bunch of quitters. Our policy has been 1) you don't quit anything mid-season, and 2) you have to be doing some sort of extracurricular. Given a choice between staying with what they are doing or starting something new they often pick staying with their current sport/musical instrument.


A mother much wiser than me told me once that the only activities her kids embraced, and stuck with, were things they found on their own. My oldest, who I signed up for every sport and lesson imaginable when he was younger, stuck with none of it, but now speaks Mandarin and has been on multiple foreign exchange trips. My middle has found his niche in stage management, and my youngest is still a work in progress. My oldest didn't do much his first year in high school. He was getting his bearings, it seems. But he's now president of national honor society and participates in numerous clubs and activities. Stop making everyone miserable. Let it go. If he truly loves the sax, he'll pick it back up. But for now, I'd listen when he tells you he's through.


I was a band kid and not a super rah rah band kid at that. I had talent but no interest in fostering it at all. I played from 6th grade to a college audition. All that said Band in high school was a totally different ballgame for me. Different friends, better music and a phenomenal teacher who I connected with and thus helped me stay with it even if I wasn't killing it.

I'd encourage him to stay with it, but let him quit the extras. No auditions or solos or things that highlight his skills or bring unwanted attention. I liked being in high school band, but was super happy fading into the background even if I did have the skills for more. Ask for a semester/quarter/ whatever commitment in high school and see if he's at any level still bonded. If not, sell the sax or donate it for a tax deduction.


I played sax from 6th grade through 9th. I quit after freshman year because I hated it. The kids were terrible and after that year I would have had to do marching band which sounded miserable to me. Our marching band was great and went all over the country for competitions and I knew I couldn’t do that and keep up with school. So I quit band. Then I got into our FFA chapter and the literary magazine. I’d say let him quit. He’ll find his people. And private lessons can be restarted if he misses them. And if his high school is a pressure cooker then having less for him to worry about would probably be a good idea as he transitions to high school. Also seconding the previous post mentioning the sunk cost fallacy.


I played trombone from 4th grade through college, and I loved it. I was in all sorts of musical groups, but you know what? I never really practiced. Maybe in the summer for summer music lessons? Possibly? But I didn't have time for outside practice during the school year, and my parents never pushed it. Is stay in band, but don't push the practicing (or additional lessons) aspect an option? It does help that I was never forced to memorize the music in any group. If I had been in a marching band in college that required memorization, hahahha, I would have been screwed. I didn't get into regionals for trombone, so I guess that were consequences to not practicing (also I was incredibly nervous). But, eh, I got in for choir, and regionals was a lot of commuting and extra time, so no biggie?


I was a super under achiever clarinet player who never practiced but did play in the band through high school because it was fun and full of fellow nerds. Can he just half ass being in band for social purposes? Then you don’t have to fight with him about practicing or spend more time or money on lessons but he can maybe find his people and decide if he wants to put more effort in at any point.

Elizabeth Heydary

I’m the person who quit piano after 9th grade (7 years of lessons)and played more when I wasn’t pressured to practice. I was in band from 6-12 grade but always loved it and practicing 2 instruments was too much. I play piano more now than trumpet and I can’t work up my range again like I did at 18. Piano has stayed constant. Sometimes being able to quit is very freeing! I love playing for my kids. It’s also pretty cool both me and my husband played both instruments and sing though so we hope our boys will pursue music.

Sandy W

My son, who is the same age as Noah, has dyspraxia and he doesn’t like to do anything after school. Being at school all day is really exhausting for him and I’m sure it is for Noah too. He likes to decompress when he gets home and I have allowed that. He did participate in the robotics program and has recently been going to the high school weight room after school to work out. I don’t push anything on him. If he chooses to participate in something, I make him see it through until the end of the season. I would say let him quit. It may be taking an emotional toll on him and next year is going to be even harder for him.


Yeah, I was the kid who haaaated practicing the piano ever and really really wanted to quit in junior high. My parents had me try another teacher for the summer, and it turned out that i didn't hate the piano, I just hated my old piano teacher. Also new teacher pointed out that my hands were small, which was making me frustrated as I couldn't actually play the repertoire at my technical level. Being a perfectionist, I was super frustrated and embarrassed that I couldn't get the music, and I didn't want to practice when anyone was around because of all the wrong notes. New teacher assigned different music, and told my parents to find a way for me to have the opportunity to practice without anyone around. Not that I had to during that time, but that I could, and no nagging. Made all the difference. I still don't like practicing with anyone around. I'd say give it a year in HS band, (maybe try a different teacher, or change up the music) no nagging on the practicing and maybe find a way for him to have to opportunity to practice without an audience.


I have a story, but I swear it has a point.

My 10 yr old daughter is on the spectrum, and watching her try to navigate growing up in a neurotypical world is hard on my mama heart some days. But something suddenly hit me this weekend. It almost felt like a literal punch, ya know? We were in the middle of the dinosaur exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and she was in her element. Rattling off all sorts of facts and information with every new dinosaur we passed. And I realized...

She was going to BE OKAY.

Because she was HAPPY. Learning all those animal facts, studying various animal encyclopedias, is FUN for her. I just never saw the inherent value in it (not like seeing her sister practice math facts) until I saw her in her happy place. Finally she got to be the smartest person because finally other people wanted to hear more about dinosaurs--her Thing. And it made me view her interests a little bit differently.

And maybe that's the way Noah needs to be viewed right now? He's going to be OKAY. Let him have his happy place right now (I'm assuming George Washington and Titanic?) Let the music go for a while. Maybe he'll come back to it, maybe not. But it's not his lower-case t thing right now and that's okay because he still has his upper-case T Thing that makes him happy. And maybe that's one of the secret blessings of autism: Our kids are always going to have their Thing that they're passionate about. A lot of neurotypicals spend a lot of money trying to find that kind of passion and for our kids, it's just... there.


As others have said, I’d let him quit all the extras - dial it way back. I do think band is a great place to get a friend base in high school but then so is the art room which you’ve said is his other interest. My uber sporty kid plays in the band and hangs out on breaks in the art room or band room because even though those things aren’t her first loves, the kids in those groups are her “people”. Also - maybe another instrument is in order? Mine switched to percussion in band this year and LOVES it. It’s easier, fun and lots of variety. She picks up the sax now and again just for kicks and that works for her. All that to say, maybe he just needs a break but keeping a foot in the door would work. Art class as a subject, band as extra curricular?


Let him quit. He isn't interested. I understand your concern about how he doesn't want to do "extra" work may translate into he does nothing. But having been the kid who didn't like or want to do the ballet/piano my mother forced me to do, I can say prolonging the activity isn't likely to make it fun for him again. I had to go to drastic measures to finally get my mother let me quit (once she figured out the money she was spending to have me sit in the dressing room the entire class sort of thing). And I have never gone back and never once regretted it.
Instead of focusing on the quitting, look at this way- if he later decides he did like it, he can go back! Sure he may have lost some skill and not be where he would have been, but so what? If you have to pull teeth to get him to practice, how much is he really progressing? And if he does have a natural talent, then picking it back up because he's interested, he can probably regain more quickly too.


I listened to a Michelle Obama interview (I think with Terry Gross, but I can't remember). The interviewer was telling her that she should run for office bc she'd be SO GOOD as a politician. Michelle said she'd never run, because although she knows she'd do an amazing job, she doesn't WANT to do it, SO SHE WILL NOT BE PRESSURED INTO DOING SOMETHING SHE HATES just because she'd do it well.

As someone who has spent my entire adult life doing shit I don't like, but am very good at, this has HAUNTED me.

So, I let my kids quit everything.


I didn’t read the other comments but I am sure there are quite a few “my parents let me quit piano/drums/violin when I was a kid and I wish they hadn’t.” But think about the other kids in band who want to be there and want to sound great and want to win contests. My daughter was one of those and would come home frustrated at the kids who didn’t want to be there and didn’t practice or try. Let him quit, you’ll make not only him happy but likely a number of his band mates happy as well.


I quit all private music lessons at 14 (not coincidentally because I was suddenly in high school and in a new city and it was A Lot), and now I'm a professional musician and music teacher. Your passion will find you eventually. And yes, absolutely quitting should not mean he suddenly gets unlimited video game time or whatever, but you're smart enough to know that already.


What are the chances he burned out on it and just needs a break? As a formerly gifted/talented kid, the pressure people accidentally heap on you is exhausting and all those little events/extra asks eventually become grating and just one more thing to do.


Personally, what he's doing right now sounds like a LOT, especially for a middle schooler. Burnout is real, and you don't want him to come to hate or resent music. On the other hand, the social group thing is a good point, and he's just getting to the age of being able to do the fun stuff, like matching band or jazz band. So maybe a compromise? He has to finish out any current commitments, but stop the private lessons and any other optional stuff. Take the summer off. Practice only when he feels like it over the summer (but maybe pick up a few books of fun music to lure him in). But sign up for something music in school next year so he can see what high school band is like. And after a year of more low key, fun level band, he still wants to quit, revisit. But I suspect a break may help. And marching band was a social life saver for me in high school many years ago.


Professional musician chiming in here. If he doesn't want to be working at that kind of level, where he's doing competitions and working with pro accompanists, then dial it back.

I would encourage him to stay in band for the first year of high school for all the social - nerdlove - fun aspects of being in band, because chances are, those will be his people. It will also be easier than starting a new skill (art). If he's been working this hard on his musical skills for the past couple of years, he will be fine in HS band with just the work he does in class, and chances are he will move up towards the front quickly without a lot of extra time put in.

I was a three-instrument kid, I played the cello and was first chair because I was a natural musician, not because I was the world's best cellist. And when I decided to quit in high school so I could sing (what I ended up doing professionally), it didn't feel like sunk cost. Nothing that you have done up to this time will be sunk costs, you signed him up for this for enrichment, and dammit, he's been enriched. You're doing it right. Good job, mama.

Rayne of Terror

I have a high school freshman clarinet player who does all those extras too because he's driving the bus. If he weren't, it would be acceptable to me for him to not do the extras. Go to band class like any other class. In our community, 98% of the band kids don't take lessons or do solo and ensemble. He's going to hate marching band though. It is so so difficult for the incoming 9th graders. At our school it is mandatory, soooooooo I don't know what to tell you there. I know it depends on the school how intense the marching band is. Maybe your high school is on the less intense level and it will be fine. I know the school most of my friends' kids attend practices half as much as the school my son attends.

Brenda Gilbreath

I loved band. And piano class. But HATED (was TERRIFIED, actually) at the thought of field performances with marching band and any type of recitals. Like, I just wanted to do music for ME. The joy of learning and accomplishing something. Not to be LOOKED AT while doing it! I quit and took a Spanish class. No regrets!!! Still pull out my flute sometimes and play for myself... and I'm 44.
I understand your dilemma. My daughter is a "quitter". Or maybe she's just a "tryer"?? It's tough.


Wait, back up. He's going to a different school than most of his friends next year? And the school he's going to is a "pressure cooker?" Uh oh. Maybe he's acting out cuz he's overwhelmed?


Ah, 8th grade. I hate 8th grade. When my oldest was in 8th grade, I spent every day saying "I can't wait for 8th grade to be over, I can't wait for 8th grade to be over". It's not quite so bad with my middle.

No advice here - just wanted to say you're not alone. :-)


I stayed in marching band for far too long in high school (I should have quit before my senior year) but that is three years after Noah wants to quit and there is something to be said for band geeks! It's really fun and gets you super comfortable with high school immediately if there's band camp. Also you have access to upper class students who will likely take a liking to him which provides a level of clout! I'd make him stick with it through at least freshman year, if not freshman and sophomore year. None of us want to do things that are hard but sometimes those are the most rewarding things.


Yeah, I'm split.

On the one hand, humans need to know that it's okay to quit things even if they're "good" things.

On the other hand, humans need to learn both how to push through difficult/tired/meh times and also *that they can* and will be okay. (did I ace things too easily, without studying, as a child? and did that bite me in the posterior later, when I hit things I actually did have to study for? yes, yes it did.)

So: I have no idea. Good luck, though!


I have no idea what the "right" answer is, but in reading through the comments I suddenly remembered my own experiences... so for what it's worth, I played the violin straight through senior year of high school and I LOVED IT. The orchestra people were my people and I adored playing music as a class in school. But it didn't require any after school practice from me. I also took private lessons and those DID require after school practice from me and I never ever practiced. Just didn't want to. Didn't enjoy the lessons. I think my parents let me quit those my junior year to concentrate on school, plus they knew I didn't like them. It seems like the commenters above are on to something with the "easy" versus "hard"... maybe Noah will find he can go to band at school and it won't require hard work outside of school and maybe he will wind up liking it way more?


Maybe he just needs a break?


Oh and I have to add that when I read the title, I was worried you were quitting your blog. I panicked for a bit. haha


I have no basis for this but my gut says: Take away the extra "stuff" (lessons, etc, etc) and have him try for 1 into Freshman year for all the reasons you listed=- as a compromise. If he doesn't like it then, art class it is! (And I will chime in to say- I liked band until I didn't- finally quit my senior year- to take an Art class! (Band and Art were offered at the same time slot) I'm still fairly musical and can play flute and piano if I want- but it's rare- it's just not my jam and I still like to do some arty type things).


I played flute from 4th to 8th grade. I was good. I hated it. To this day, I hate the sound of a flute. But that was the appropriate, ladylike instrument that my mother thought I should play. I did lessons in school, private lessons, and school band. Hated every minute.

My mother was adamant that I continue with it in high school because Community! Talent! Things To Keep Me Off the Streets! I have no idea what the justifications were, but somehow I won the battle. I haven't touched a flute since I was 13. I have no regrets.

The point is that talent and joy do not necessarily walk hand in hand. If he doesn't enjoy it, don't make him. There are plenty of other things not to enjoy in school..

Now, if only I could have gotten out of playing basketball, too....

Jennifer B

Just want to say, I have an 8th grade kid too...we don't have this particular playing-an-instrument problem but boy do we have the general teenageness problem...and it has been SO VALUABLE to read the comments and perspectives on quitting vs not quitting, giving it a year to "find your people," joy vs talent, etc. It's like a mini parenting class up in here.

Kate Gillis

Let Noah quit. Being a kid on the spectrum in high school is incredibly stressful. He is clearly saying that music is putting him over the level of stress he can handle.


My son is ADHD, decided to do band, at first loved it and then started to hate it and wanted to quit before high school. I made him stick with it through 9th grade, which was a different teacher so I thought it may make a difference. did...he started to like band once he has a different teacher. He LOVED marching band, but wasn't too fond of concert band. His teacher wanted him to do both, but because he had some honor and AP classes, he was allowed to just do marching band and not concert band his Junior and Senior years. He actually played with the band his freshman year of college. Unfortunately, he is not playing anymore. He did not like the band instructor, so he decided to take a break from it this year. Is the teacher the reason or is it that he really does not enjoy playing? If he doesn't enjoying playing, I think you have to let him quit. I don't know if your music store does this, but ours let's you trade your current instrument in if you want to get a different one. Good luck!

Connie Bowers

Unfortunately, I have no advice. I have no kids, and can see both sides of this! As a kid who played flute, I too got to the point where it either got hard, or just didn't have fun with it any more, so I quit. Part of it also was I didn't have a lot of support after my outside of school band was done (my middle school didn't have a music program). I was relieved at the time, but as an adult, I wish I had kept with it! I can't even really read music any more! I have kept my flute all these years, intending to reteach myself, but it's never happened. This kid stuff is hard! I never realized what my parents must have gone through, and they didn't have the internet to get advice!

On a different note, flutes are crazy expensive for something so small. Mine is still in pretty good shape if you want to try out something a little schmancier for Ezra before plunking down all that dough.

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