Art is encouraged until it is not

Many parents spend most of their free time driving kids around from piano lessons to dance classes, to sport practices and games and back again. They value a well-rounded experience and exploration of the arts, or sometimes feel like they need to compensate for the things that are not available in their schools. But, they don’t often think of what happens when that art becomes a passion and obsession for their kids.

I started playing guitar on my own motivation when I was 8 years old. My parents encouraged me, drove me to lessons, and checked on me from time to time to make sure I practiced. When I was in high school, I played in the jazz band, formed a couple of rock bands, and they encouraged it.

But, then, as I began my college years, they changed their tune. School and career plans were seen as the only priority. Playing music was ok as a hobby, but only after I’ve studied all I could study. The problem was, I couldn’t just turn it off like that. I was addicted to music and the guitar. Even if I tried to concentrate on other things, a melody or a riff would come to me, and I felt compelled to develop it. It became the most important thing at that moment.

Parents don’t often think some things through, sending inconsistent messages to their kids. They say music and art are important and they need to practice, practice, practice. Then when those kids become adults themselves, music and art are no longer considered important. They’re still “nice”, but only if there’s time for it.

I live in Silicon Valley and it feels like the arts are much more encouraged around here than some other places. Maybe its the liberal leanings of San Francisco, the cultural diversity of the area, or the need to bring back some quality of life in this fast-paced, always plugged-in lifestyle. But, even around here, I see many parents gloating about how great of an artist or violin player their little one is, but I doubt many of them envision their kids having an artistic profession. In fact, I bet that some parents encourage music or art only because studies have shown that it can have positive effects on their children’s intellect.

I read a recent article about the biggest regrets people had on their deathbeds.

#1 was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
#2 was “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

So, parents, if you awaken a passion in your child, or if they discover it on their own, make sure you support it fully. Don’t ignite the flame and then put out the fire.




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