How is the ROI on your child’s music lessons?

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My wife and I spend $4,000/year on music lessons for my four children. That may sound like a lot but my guess is many of you parents are right there with us. At $80-$120/month for 10 months a year, you can expect to spend $1000/child per year.

To be realistic, when adding in the cost of instruments, the cost of travel to lessons, the costs of books and other incidentals, I am spending way more than $4,000 a year; $5,000/year is more accurate. And on top of that, there is a significant time investment.

I suppose we could look at it another way. If you start your children early, you are likely going to invest $10-$12,000 into each child to educate them in music.

As parents, I think we need to do a few things.
1) Understand the real cost of music education. In other words, don’t be lulled to sleep by monthly small payments. They add up to real money and be sure to count the cost of your time too.
2) Think about what goals you are trying to achieve with music education.
2) Evaluate whether your current investment in your child’s music education is meeting your goals. In other words, evaluate whether you are getting a good return on investment (ROI).

I have three goals for my children. Yours may be slightly different but they are not likely to be very different.

1) I want my children to be proficient. I have little interest in training them to be mediocre musicians.
2) I want my children to develop a love for music and stick with it their entire lives.
3) I want my children to be useful musicians. I want them to be functional in real life music, especially in their churches. In other words, I want them to effectively serve God with their music.

When you start evaluating your current situation, you might come to some uncomfortable conclusions. There is a reason for that: the way music is mostly taught today usually fails in these particular goals.

Look at it this way. If your children only learn classical music, they may become proficient, but only in classical music. They will almost certainly not become proficient musicians in church or in real life. And once they figure out that classical music is a career dead end, they are almost certainly going to walk away from it at some point either after graduating from high school or college. You can hardly blame them; they will be busy with careers and families and will not have the luxury of devoting a lot of time to practice of music that they will never use in a practical way.

From that perspective, the traditional approach not only fails but fails in a spectacular manner. Be very cautious.

I am not saying you should give up on the traditional classically-oriented approach to music. My children learn classical music. But on the other hand, you need to be realistic about the weaknesses of that approach and possibly make some adjustments. I will talk about what I think those adjustments should be in a blog post early next week.

For the time being, think about what your goals are and then take a hard look at your current situation. In other words, consider your ROI.