Gifted in Music—Whose Responsibility Is It?

How much should we expect public schools to do for gifted students? We already want the schools to meet the needs of gifted students academically. Is it realistic to also expect schools to meet the needs of those who are gifted in music?

Jerome’s parents used to laugh because the young child would sing himself to sleep long before he could talk. After he was put him down for a nap, visitors would say “What is he doing?” His mother replied that she always rocked and sang his older brother to sleep, but didn’t have the time with Jerome, so she taught him to sing himself to sleep. When Jerome was 3, the family inherited an old piano. There was no stopping Jerome after that.

Jerome was a very talented pianist. It never occurred to his parents to expect the public schools to address his needs. Instead, they made sure they hired the best private piano teachers they could find. As Jerome approached middle school, he spent two summers at week-long music camps where the campers practiced five hours a day and had lots of private lessons and performance opportunities. He absolutely loved it. It was the first time he had met others who shared his interest so passionately. Jerome’s parents could not expect the public schools to offer these same types of opportunities. The family was fortunate, because they could afford private lessons and the camp. It is much more difficult for those who are not so fortunate. (However, there are organizations, such as The MusicLink Foundation that can help.)

Eventually, the boy got a college degree in music. Does that make him gifted? I don’t know. But I do know that no one could have expected the public schools to meet his needs in music.

When observing children who have a strong interest in music, remember that they may have great strengths in one area, but not another and that is just fine. For instance, a young person may have talent singing, playing a specific instrument or type of music, composing, or conducting. Don’t expect a student (even one who is musically gifted) to be interested in all areas of music.

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