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Inescapably Homeschooled in Music

Sandra Jordan • CommentaryMarch 2021 • March 6, 2021

How Children of Professional Musicians View the World Today

Not all music educators teach in a band room, on the marching field, in a private studio or on Zoom. Some inadvertently homeschool their children in inescapable ways: they are professional musicians. They practice at all hours, singing, tapping, scoring, running scales. Their music weaves its way into their children’s dreams. How does a 24/7 immersion in a musical household influence a young person’s life?

The first Music Family Scholarship essay contest attracted nearly 200 students to pen their stories of growing up with parents whose profession is music performance. The recording industry’s Music Performance Trust Fund is a 501(c)3 nonprofit public service organization whose mission is to support admission-free, live events performed by professional musicians throughout the United States and Canada. This year, the MPTF provided $100,000 to 125 deserving scholars, awarding funds to individuals pursuing education after high school in the United States and Canada. The MPTF was established more than 70 years ago and is funded by music companies including Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. Members of the American Federation of Musicians and their children were invited to apply for the scholarship.

“When live music became complicated by COVID-19, we saw an opportunity to make funds available to families of professional musicians,” said Dan Beck, MPTF trustee. “We respect these professionals, and it is clear their children do, too. Their essays articulated the passion and perseverance they learned in a music family.”

These students are pursuing 105 unique majors, with 38% choosing music education, music composition, instrumental performance, film scoring or musical theater. The array of non-music majors included engineering, dance, neuroscience, animation, astronomy and everything in between.

Sophie-Ann Lekas seeks a master’s degree in engineering science from the University of Oxford in the UK. Her mother is a violinist and concertmaster at a large midwestern symphony orchestra; her father is principal cello. Lekas often watched her mother repair her blistered fingertips with crazy glue, torn from practicing violin, then return to playing music. She compared them to her own bloody knuckles, raw from training on the United States Naval Academy’s boxing team.

“Examining my shaking hands, I was deciding whether to rest or push through the pain. I spent my childhood trying to meet the level of excellence my parents demanded. Now I demanded that excellence from myself. I wanted to be proud of the scars I earned. I carefully applied Vaseline to my knuckles, re-wound my wraps over my swelling fists, and continued working the punching bag.”

Samson Dinkins described his family as “a musical beacon in the community of Houston.” His father founded the DDC School of Music and continues as a freelance professional musician. “Being surrounded by a thriving black business with people of all ethnicities coming to the school allowed me to experience the American dream,” said Dinkins, who is studying music production and recording at Los Angeles College of Music.

Anna Maria Moubayed, a journalism major in Toronto, wrote of her father’s career as a violinist and music educator. “Through my family’s long journey from Syria to Canada, his career as a musician put food on our table, a roof over our heads, and some hope in our hearts.”

Kevin Roman seeks a bachelor’s degree in music education at the University of Delaware. Both parents are professional musicians; his mother, a flutist, has also taught privately for 30 years. “Being a kid at my house was like being set free in a busy concert hall. Every day I heard my mom’s flute students, my dad’s band rehearsals and concerts, and both of them practicing. As a music educator, I will take a leaf out of my parents’ book and foster appreciation for music, alongside my formal teaching, for all my students,” he said.

“Music is part of my identity, partially because it’s in my blood. I feel like I was bred to be a music educator,” wrote Katherine Schmit, music education major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “I’ve been given all of the tools necessary to be a successful musician and teacher.” Her mother plays the trumpet professionally; her father is a music educator and composer.

“Without the initial push from my parents, I would not have had such amazing experiences or met so many life changing people,” Joseph Goodwin wrote. He is a vocal music major at Millikin University in Decatur, IL who plans to teach; his father is a professional pianist in the Chicago area. “I plan to introduce students to all types of music and encourage them to keep music in their lives, whether or not they become professional musicians.”

“Music taught me to look past the borders of the mind, as well as the borders of things like country and religion, and discover wonderful sounds, instruments, and musical styles from every comer of the globe,” wrote Amos Tetrault, a construction engineering major. Both parents perform with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. “My parents have always played every kind of music around the house, from classical to jazz, to Peruvian flute music and traditional Moroccan music. I have learned through my family that music unites us all, no matter where we come from or what we do.”

“Making music, being around music, and listening to music is vital for everyone’s health and education. It’s wonderful to see these families receiving this support from the MPTF during this challenging year,” said Ray Hair, AFM president. “The MPTF has long been a partner in providing opportunities for musicians to share music in our communities. Now with this scholarship, the MPTF further helps performing musicians and their families.”

For winning scholars’ photos, more essay excerpts and a complete recipient list, visit https://musicpf.org/scholarship-awardees

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