One day last week, I calmly listened as a woman told me how her son had come to “choose” the clarinet as his instrument. I didn’t let on that I felt a bit stunned. The boy’s music teacher at school had lined up all the kids and told them which instrument they were physically suited for. This boy had been told he had a “clarinet mouth.”
This sounds a bit like Harold Hill in The Music Man (“you have the perfect little finger for the Eb flugelhorn!”). Of course, it’s nothing new. I remember a woman who said she was told she’d never be able to play violin because her little finger wasn’t made right. Somewhat in the same vein, I had a fiddle student whose classical teacher kept trying to switch her to viola because she was “too big” for the violin. (Through fiddle music, this girl continued playing violin and later majored in music in college.)
How should people choose an instrument? How should school music teachers distribute instruments? Let us know your observations by adding a comment at the end of this article.
Someone told me once that the instrument chooses the player, rather than the other way around. However it happens, it’s hard to imagine a good choice being made without some hands-on exposure to the instruments. With this in mind, I’ve set up a summer day camp for kids to hear and try all the instruments. It’s called “Meet the Instruments.” [···]