That crazy verb! I think it makes some who aren’t in the music business think we “just play”. As in “have fun”. As in “it doesn’t take any energy” and even, perhaps, “anyone can do it, so why do you get paid to play?!”

BUT … I’m not really writing about that tonight. So never mind all that. Silly me ….

Nope, I’m writing about real play. For kids.

Remember that? I sure do. I remember summers of lazy days. I remember beach days. I remember friends coming over and just hanging out. I remember the smell of the grass as we did somersaults. I remember hide ‘n seek I remember when, at the elementary school level, summer school meant signing up for things like art and music and other fun things.

Sadly, the majority of my students rarely experience much, if any, play time. I wonder, sometimes, if perhaps the fact that they are “playing oboe” makes parents think that they are getting relaxing play time via the oboe.

That verb needs to change when it comes to music, I think.

I tell my students to say they “work the oboe”. Yes, sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s playful. But it’s also a lot of hard work.

But true PLAY. That rollicking, fun, carefree thing kids used to do … that kind of play needs to return.

When my students come in the studio door I usually ask, “How are you?” before asking my next, “How’s the oboe?” Sometimes I’ve stopped asking the first question because far too frequently the answer to, “How are you?” is a very sad and weary, “Tired.” This makes me sad and, yes, tired too. Tired of hearing that answer, anyway.

My students are up all hours of the night doing homework during the school year, but it doesn’t seem to slow down much in the summer.

I realize I’m not as smart as some of these kids are when it comes to academics (although they are so used to learning a certain way they often don’t think for themselves in the simplest of ways for some reason), but I wonder how soon they’ll burn out. I wonder if they find any joy in the things they do. I wonder if they know how to just “be” without the doing. Without the work. And mostly, without the stress.

I think I need to give students a new kind of practice chart (I actually don’t USE practice charts, but still….). Maybe I need to have one where they keep track of how much they play.

Without their oboes.