The years of Middle School are named that precisely because these years fall between Elementary School and High School. Although every school district defines them differently, these pre-adolescent years are crucial in the student's development, and must be carefully structured to prepare the student for the much more difficult years of High School.
SCHOOL MUSIC: By the Middle School level, most students no longer have regular music class, but instead are exposed to the many subjects that will become their "electives" in high school: cooking, typing, wood shop, computers, printing, etc. In some Middle Schools (usually the better ones), music students can participate in a school music program that is usually divided into three types: chorus, string orchestra and wind band. Many Middle Schools also produce an annual school musical (usually for the 8th graders). The purpose of these programs is to provide pathways for students to enter the same programs in High School. Some Middle Schools might provide beginning music instruction, but for the most part these music doors are closed to Middle School students who did not study music at the Elementary School level.
INDEPENDENT THINKING: Students in the Elementary years are encouraged to learn to work independently. Most parents do not help their children with homework, but instead ask, "Have you done your homework?" This is not to say that it is inappropriate to help students with homework, but on average most Elementarty students need help only on rare occasion or for special projects. At the Middle School level students are fully expected to work independently and to "think indepently". This includes choosing topics for special projects, defending a point of view in writing and making important choices such as what foreign language to study. The music student is at a clear advantage in all these areas, after 3 to 5 years of developing independent thinking skills through their private music studies. On a regular basis they have undertaken new projects (music to learn) and have had to apply their skills and knowledge to the task. They will have frequently expressed their opinions about what music they like and do not like. They will have made choices about secondary instruments to study. They will have participated in recitals, maybe competitions, and possibly auditioned for one or more performing ensembles. They will have had leadership roles in other activities such as plays, school projects, and sports. The music students will consistantly stand out in all the class rooms as the better and more involved students.
TIME MANAGEMENT: Music teaches students how to break a task down into component parts, and to work on a very long project over many weeks. For years, they have had new pieces assigned that have taken weeks to perfect, and these pieces become longer and more difficult with each passing year. When confronted with assignments that require planning: research reports and large projects, the music student will have many more tools for tackling and successfully completing the project. Music students will know how to tackle these big projects, because they will not be different from learning a new piece of music.
NOT TOO LATE: Although most students begin private music education before age 12, it is still not too late to start your Middle School age child in music, in order to reap some of the benefits described on these pages. Starting lessons at this age could open some doors in High School: chorus, school play, beginning band or orchestra. The private lesson instruction could still give the student important learning skills (time management, ability to perform and accepting criticism). It will still give your child a love of music and possibly start her/him on a journey for many years after she/he leaves home. Some even might aspire to become musicians (although less likely as performers) most likely as teachers. Despite the publicity of child prodigies, there are many late-starters in the world of music.
CONTINUING THE PATHWAYS: As mentioned above, Middle Schools provide pathways that will lead to chorus, theatre, orchestra and band in High School. These activities are nurturing and are best likely to keep the student from falling into the many negative pitfalls and temptations that surround her/him. Despite the difficulties (financial, time management, pre-adolescent attitudes), keeping the student involved and on these pathways toward High School music activities is important to helping keep your child away from drugs, sex, stealing, apathy, bullying, hooliganism, taunting, hate-crimes, etc. These creative outlets give him/her constructive ways to "escape" from the difficulties of regular school work, studying, tests and the pressures of becoming an adult.
(See MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS for more information on starting music at this age, and the issues that affect a student's progress through music education during these years.)
(See TUTORIAL: Timeline for more information about your child's progress in music through the many years of education.)