What color is your firework?

Part 1: The 20 Considerations
The book What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles has been in circulation for nearly 50 years, helping millions of people zero in on their ideal career paths.  The accomplishments of this book are quite inspiring considering the ever-changing job market, the evolution of technology, and the uniqueness each one of us brings to the table.  

While choosing a career is arguably the biggest decision of each person’s life, there is another big choice that many young students and their families are afforded the opportunity to make.

What instrument should I play?  

Similar to careers, instrument choice depends on a number of variables on the part of the student, the family, and the school music program.  The decision to play a particular instrument, whether a requirement or elective, can have a major impact on a child’s social and academic life, both short term and long term, and will ultimately play a role in their career path in some form.  

I like to think of choosing an instrument like choosing a firework.  You choose your firework based on the sounds and colors it makes. You like these sounds and colors and want to share the possibilities of the firework with others.  People won’t see or hear you when you light your firework but they will see and hear the beautiful show that you have made. Although you have selected a particular kind of firework, there are many factors beyond your control that may affect how everything turns out.  

What color would your firework be?  

Inspired by recent inquiries of students and parents regarding this topic, I have outlined considerations of instrument choice using a construct similar to that of Richard Nelson Bolles’ book:

Family tradition

Historical Gendering

Current Gendering Trends

Personality of Child vs Role of Instrument in Ensemble

Benefits of Playing an Instrument: academic

Benefits of Playing an Instrument: psychological

Benefits of Playing an Instrument:  financial

Possible Careers in Music

Siblings Instrument Choice

Philosophy of Practice

Feel of Instrument in Child’s Hands

Sound of Instrument

Size of Instrument in its Case

Durability of Instrument

Instruments Friends are Playing

Physical Structure of Child

Balance of Instruments within Ensemble

Availability of School Instruments and Rental Options

Private Lesson Expectation/Availability

Opportunities for Challenge within Ensemble

These twenty considerations should creep into the thoughts of parents, children, and instrumental music teachers at some point during the process of instrument selection.  There is so much to be unpacked when making this choice! However, if each of these twenty points are given the individual attention they deserve, then student, parent, and music teacher have collectively made an informed decision that will reap benefits for years to come.

Which one of the above considerations do you think is most important?  

If you were fortunate enough to be a part of an instrumental program when you were younger, is there a point from the list that you wish had been discussed when it was your turn to make a choice?  

Is there anything else you would add to the list?
What color is your firework?