Charles Pillsbury III

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My son plays the violin

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I more knee-jerk parent might say that this whole report is rubbish because MY son plays violin and he’s not girly. Look at me not jerking my knee.

But Victoria Rowe, who has completed a PhD on gender in music, says children don’t develop a firm idea about “male” and “female” instruments until about six years old.
Some research suggests boys prefer “cool” instruments while leaving classical music to the girls.
“This may be connected with boys liking to pick up their music in social and informal ways, learning by picking up tips from their peers, rather than by attending weekly lessons with a teacher.
“Certainly it’s likely that peer pressure is responsible for many of the instrument choices made by boys and girls.
“And it’s somehow easier for a girl to cross over into ‘boys’ territory and play a trumpet than for a boy to take up the flute.”
The report says girls are more open to taking “male” instruments as they get older, and the fact that some of the world’s leading performers buck the trend suggests there is much more fluidity in the professional world.

[From BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Why don't girls play guitar?]

Brass tacks are that the report is right. At a professional level things aren’t as gender sequestered. But at the young age when you pick up your instruments for the first time you’re more likely to see boys playing drum or guitar than girls, and more likely to see girls playing flute or violin.

My son has taken violin lessons for 5+ years (Alicia will correct me if that range is wrong, I can’t remember a time he wasn’t playing) and his teacher always has a much higher number of female students than she does male. That doesn’t mean the violin is a girly instrument, but the report talking about informal ways of learning would also tie into the violin. You can be a mediocre guitar player and still be playing real notes and real chords and maybe something that passes as a real tune. But a violin is an instrument with no frets, you have to have your fingers just right or you’re likely to get a shoe thrown at you. I’m very pleased my son has taken violin (and shows a fair amount of talent if not dedication to practice) because he has developed a better ear than I did from playing piano as a kid. He can pick out theme songs to movies and TV shows on his violin, which amuses his sister, and anything that doesn’t provoke her to bite somebody is probably a good thing.

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April 18th, 2008 at 7:16 am

Posted in Blog Entry, Jakisms

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