Should Asian Kids Be Forced To Play Music?

So, were you forced as a kid to play the piano or the violin? And more importantly, would you pass that onto your kids? Niniane was, and she didn’t like it one bit:

The merits of learning a musical instrument are oft repeated by the well-intentioned parent: learning discipline, enjoyment later in life, Mozart makes you smarter. Rarely have I heard anyone discuss the damage done by forcing the kid. I can state it in one sentence: By thwarting the child’s natural inclinations, day in and day out, you teach him to stifle his intuition.

I e-mailed the link to all of the writers on 8Asians, and a lot of conversation came from it; so much so that it deserved its own blog entry.

Ernie: Oh, I have SO mixed feelings about this. I played piano at 4, violin at 10. I played piano until I was in high school and burnt out at 15, but ended up playing for the church choir and a HS jazz choir. I have no regrets about doing it, honestly – it’s kind of nice to be able to read music and be able to plink out a melody on the piano, something which other people take for granted. But not if I was young.

Ben: amusingly enough, I started late. 11 (piano) and 12 (violin). Quit after senior year of high school since I had college to look forward to prep for. lol. I’m actually looking to start composing music again now if I can find the time to do it. Wouldn’t mind picking up electric guitar either. I think overall, if you look at a lot of asians, even like pop stars like Jay Chou… we all on some level took up those instruments in some fashion. Not really sure why, but it does teach discipline if not anything else.

Jen: …my mom had us take music lessons so that we wouldn’t regret it like she does. i started playing piano at 4, clarinet at age 8, and violin at age 13 … I did really feel sad one time at a youth orchestra audition, as my sister and i were warming up (we were in junior high), we saw a girl warming up on her cello in the corner, and her mom yelling at her in chinese…the poor girl had tears running down her cheeks. … my mom couldn’t stop staring…and she constantly asked us if she was that bad. i think it’s all about how you handle it with your kids….if obviously they don’t have talent or willingness to want to do music at all…move on, we can’t have everyone playing the violin. no kid will like practicing, but i think there are some life lessons to be learned from sitting down and doing something in order to accomplish a larger goal, even if it’s unpleasant.

oh, and parents should also tell their teenage kids…there are lots of cute boys in high school/youth orchestras. both times i went to prom with dates from orchestra. i’m just sayin’.

Efren: yeah, i think this is a pan-asian thing, because my parents made me do the piano for about a year, but then quit after they realized how expensive it was. the piano just sat there collecting dust for over 20 years until my cousin finally bought it from my dad so that her daughter can learn … i was fairly good at it, but relieved when my parents made me stop it.

the piano playing did become pretty useful when i was college and realized i could sight read when i was singing for UCR’s chamber singers. i’m still not too crazy about the piano, but i wish i had the time (and money) to do singing lessons and sing in a classical choir…

John: I was never really good, and only had 1 year of lessons. My mom always regretted that I never learned the piano. Whenever she sees me type (I can type fast – at least faster than her), she thinks I could have been a terrific piano player.

Andy: Hahaha. All my relatives keep saying that I have piano hands because my hands are big and fingers are “long and powerful” so they say….. don’t ask me….just imagine a bunch of old aunties saying this in broken engrish. “soooo loooohhng and powwwerfolll”

… Because of my exposure to music at a young age, I now have an appreciation for music. I think even if the kid doesn’t become the next yo-yo ma or piano legend, the exposure is enough to justify the piano/violin lessons – at least that’s what I think. So, to my future son/daughter – Your ass is going to be in Piano and Violin lessons….and chinese school, martial arts, and after school programs. >=)

Xxxtine: I think the big thing is not for the parents to brow beat the children into playing something they’re not interested in. Sure, you’ve got to learn the basics – but for me, there was no goal in mind. I wasn’t learning pop music, I was just learning classical – which to a tween is incredibly boring. I also think that parents often get wrapped up in the technicality of playing an instrument and forget that music is a form of expression and creativity. I don’t think I was even asked if I wanted to play, I was just …. Sent.

Nicole: I started when I was.. I guess 8 or 9 years old, stopped around age 12 because the piano tutor fled to become a tour guide around the world. I tried to pick it up again in college, but the college schedule was so not conducive to intense practice sessions. And yeah, I hated practicing. HATED it with a vengeance. It’s nice to be able to read music and stuff, but I kinda wish I had more than just 3-4 years of training.

Also, even though I know this isn’t just isolated to Asian parents, I have to say I think the typical Asian parent is much more demanding in this area than most. Underline the “typical” part of course.

So what do you think?

Thanks for rating this! Now tell the world how you feel - .
How does this post make you feel?
  • Excited
  • Fascinated
  • Amused
  • Disgusted
  • Sad
  • Angry

About Ernie

I'm the creator of 8 Asians and one of the editors. While I'm a regular blogger to the site as well, think of my role as Barbara Walters on "The View," except without the weird white hair. During the day, I'm a Developer for a major Internet company and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've also been writing in my blog,, for seven years.
This entry was posted in Lifestyles, Music, Observations. Bookmark the permalink.