By Marc C. Whitt

Whitt image1Congratulations! For many of you, this marks your child’s senior year in high school.

I recall that year well. Two of my three children have since gone down that road with our youngest nearing that point. Where did the time go? They were just babies!

I found our daughters’ senior years to be exciting, yet bittersweet at times. Perhaps many of you, if not most, have discovered that same feeling. Senior parents often mark each rehearsal, concert and contest with some special identifier as being the last or next-to-last performance – savoring each moment with countless photos and Facebook or Instagram posts.

You may view your child’s music career coming to end when they cross that graduation stage. It actually should be just the beginning. All too often, students draw an invisible stopping point to their music education at the end of their high school senior year. This is nothing less than a tragedy. The music experience can blossom to even greater heights when they enter college.

No doubt you have viewed those countless hours of your child’s private lessons, rehearsals and performances throughout high school as an investment of your time, support and finances – as you should. Since the investment has already been made in your child’s music education, why not encourage them to continue their talent by participating in a music ensemble while in college?

If your child plans to major in music, that’s not a concern. However, for many college-bound students, joining the band, choir or orchestra might be perceived as something “nice” only if there is time to do so.

I contend that for the vast majority of these students, becoming an active member of a college band, choir or orchestra would lead them to become more well-rounded. Allow me to offer you these advantages for why your child’s music experience should continue in college and the role you can play.

1. Parental encouragement is important. This is the first step – your encouragement. So much is hitting your child at this point. At times, it can become overwhelming for them as they begin adjusting to their next journey in life. As you and your child tour college and university campuses, make sure to schedule visits with the department of music. Get to know the director. Learn about the program. Check out possible financial incentives. Meet current members of the band, choir or orchestra. And if there is an opportunity to “sit in” with a college ensemble, please encourage your son or daughter to do so. This experience will spark their interest and enthusiasm to join.

2. Participation in a college music program leads to instant friends. I have found that most high school seniors are eager to graduate, but are anxious about making new friends when they begin college classes that fall. This is certainly understandable. They are leaving familiar faces and places for an environment as strange as Mars! Joining a college music ensemble is one of the best ways for your child to make instant friends –many of whom become long lasting friendships. For those among you who were members of your college band, choir or orchestra you know what I mean. Even more than 30 years after college, I remain in contact with several of my band and choir friends. I may be a bit bias, but there’s nothing like those special friends you make while in a college music experience.

3. Joining a college music ensemble supports the academic experience. I often hear high school senior parents say: “I would love for my child to continue their music studies, but they must first worry about their studies.” What was true for your child’s middle school and high school academic experiences is typically true for their college years: participation in a music ensemble encourages, not threatens, academic study and performance. The vast majority of non-music majors enrolled in a college music ensemble are among an institution’s best and brightest.

4. The college experience can open a new world for your child. This past spring my youngest daughter had the opportunity to tour Ireland for nearly two weeks with her university choir. She and her choir friends sang in some of the finest cathedrals, toured famous sites, enjoyed the finest foods and made memories that will last a lifetime. Such experiences are often offered by college music programs whether it be travel abroad or performing at a football bowl game’s halftime. The college music experience broadens students’ higher education experience by offering enriching academic opportunities.

5. They’ve only just begun! By the time a high school senior has mastered his or her instrument or voice, they are actually at the starting point with their musical experience. Stopping now would be like enjoying a Tootsie Roll Pop only to stop when you get to the chewy center. It just doesn’t make sense. The best part is coming up!