100 pieces of music from 300 years of canon do not constitute a child’s music education

I had a disquieting thought while standing on a subway platform a few minutes ago: Could it be that the average child is exposed to less than 100 pieces from the main three centuries of the Western canon over the course of lessons leading up to high school graduation?

None of my 12 piano students goes to concerts or listens to classical music in any other form outside their assigned pieces.

I did the math on getting through each Royal Conservatory of Music grade level as quickly as possible, which is Job No. 1 for most students. It came to more or less 100 individual pieces over the course of 10 years.

If that constitutes the sum total of a musical education, it isn’t one. Yet the format of back-to-back 30-, 45- and 60-minute private lessons allows no time to work on the listening and discussion that are part of broader knowledge and appreciation.

My hair stood up on end.

Let me know if I’m out to lunch.

John Terauds


5 thoughts on “100 pieces of music from 300 years of canon do not constitute a child’s music education

  1. Students hear thousands of classical tidbits through advertising, movie scores, computer games and much more. An undercurrent of classical culture informs all our lives, whether we recognize it or not, but it takes a lifetime of listening and learning to understand how that has formed us as feeling and thinking human beings. Our kids are OK, and much more clever than we know. Don’t worry John.

  2. I don’t think you are out to lunch at all. The general lack of appreciation for classical music in our society distresses me too! If the parents of music students listen only to Lady Gaga there is not much hope. I don’t think the bits and pieces kids may overhear in pop culture make a difference. If a child hears classical music at home and goes to live performances to experience the magic of it there is better chance they may grow up to appreciate it in adulthood.

    • I very much agree with Kathy, our kids are not ok, the fact that they are more clever does not mean their level of musical education is higher. When the babyboomers will be gone, the concert halls will be empty. They are part of the last generation who grew up in a “normal” world, who could afford to go to a concert and truly appreciate the classical music. Nowadays, even studying an instrument is not enough to make you happy, be sensible and have goose bumps when you hear an unforgetable live performance. Please read Anna Goldsworthy’s book “My piano lesson” to see what musical education should be about.
      Thanks John for all your postings, they are like an oasis in a sterp desert.

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