The Cost and Worth of Music Education

Miss Moe has been a violist for five years and will continue for at least three more. She is fortunate enough to have a robust musical program in her school. Her choice, the viola, is an interesting one. Violists rarely have solos and are typically assigned the harmony of a piece. With Miss Moe’s enthusiasm for being the center of attention, this was a surprise, and one I thought wouldn’t stick. Despite my attempts to intervene on her choice (and eventually back off) she was set on the viola. Now, I know she was right; violas are the under appreciated treasures of the orchestra. Miss Moe calls the viola ‘a violin without the squeak and glamour’.

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I tried to talk her into what I thought was the cooler instrument (cello) and checked myself… Nobody’s perfect.

What’s her why? 

  • First world problem and solution, to keep children engaged in the music program in our white collar area, the school hosts a ‘field trip’ to go somewhere exciting. This gives the children  (even ones who enjoy and/or love music) an ‘excuse’ to take advantage of the program without social consequences.  It’s a shame that music isn’t celebrated more amongst teens. While I don’t necessarily agree with the approach of cloaking enthusiasm for music, it works.
  • College. She wants to show she can keep up with music, Spanish, and dance for college admission. As an anti-tiger mom, I loathe this why – but it is hers, and an authentic reason for her.
  • Socially, she doesn’t like lugging her instrument around campus. It isn’t quite social pariah territory – but it also isn’t ‘cool’.  So, with ‘there’s no room on the bus’ as her excuse, she’s often able to hitch a ride to school with Mr. Moe which brings them both joy.
  • She is musically gifted. Not of the prodigy variety, but the ‘she doesn’t need to practice and can still hold her own’ kind. Most people are drawn to pursuits that come easily.

How Much Does it Cost?
Depending on opportunity and geographic area this will vary.

  • Rental instrument –  Those little shoulders and fingers outgrow instruments as fast as they do their shoes.
    • $26 per month for 8 years…. = $2,496 (gulp). However, at the end of our rental period, we will be able to take some of the rental fee and apply it to an instrument for Miss Moe. We’ll have her use the credits to buy whatever she can her senior year. She won’t get the nicest instrument, but she’ll have something to play as she heads off to college.
    • The school also charges approximately $50 a year to keep supplies on hand (strings, etc.) to make minor repairs – $400.
  • Uniforms and bags
    • Uniforms for elementary school consisted of a shirt and items she already owned – $35.
    • Uniforms for junior high consisted of a black dress she hated with every fiber – $100, and a shirt – $35.
    • Uniforms for high school is a DIFFERENT black dress (because why have the same one even though the entire junior high moved to the same high school) – $100, a one time bag fee for trips – $35, and a shirt every two years – $70.
  • Jr. high and high school trips – here’s where it adds up, but it’s completely optional.
    • 7th and 8th grade trips to a local theme park – $300.
    • High school…. every four years a trip to Disney ($800), thereafter something more local, but still expensive ($500 per year for three years – $1500). This is almost as much as the music rental fees for 8 years.

8 years of music education = $5,871
This figure is with some optional add-ons. However, without the fun Miss Moe wasn’t going to put in the work.

Is it worth it? Did this number surprise you? It actually was a bit less than I figured, and for us, the answer is an absolute yes.  The reasons:

  • I do believe that some children are born for music and some aren’t. That doesn’t mean that only the children born for music should play an instrument. Miss Moe is not passionate about her instrument, but as she has progressed she’s developed a healthy appreciation for it.
  • While Mr. Moe and I don’t have many regrets in our lives – not learning to play an instrument or becoming fluent in a second language are among them. This is one of the few ‘real world’ skills public schools teach.
  • To listen to Miss Moe speak about her instrument and discuss the complexity of a piece brings me insurmountable joy. Without her realizing it, she is becoming more culturally complex and can appreciate art in different forms, adding to the richness in her character.
  • I think music will stay with her (after a brief abandonment in her 20s). Later though, I think she’ll return to it with more appreciation for the education of a skill and her ability to make beautiful music will bring her happiness. I am hoping music education will be the gift that sticks with her for a lifetime.

Her journey began in fifth grade with the squeaking of the viola strings and the careful plucking of notes. She hated it, but persevered. Today, when she goes to class, she tells me that she doesn’t mind it. Not quite love, but it’s progress. $6,000 for the gift of music is something I’d definitely pay again.

~Mrs. Moe

3 thoughts on “The Cost and Worth of Music Education

  1. Pingback: The Student Becomes the Teacher – Make Once Enough

  2. Pingback: Teenagery – What I Have Learned so Far – Make Once Enough

  3. Pingback: The House vs. The Home – Make Once Enough

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