The Old-Time Herald Volume 13, Number 10

Child Musicians
By Paul F. Wells
collection of Paul Wells

ôStart ‘em when they’re young,” is advice often given to parents who want their children to become musicians. Some young people willingly and eagerly take up an instrument, while others have to be pushed into doing so. We all know people who, as youngsters, rebelled against their parents’ urgings to “practice, practice,” and later in life come to regret the fact that they cannot play an instrument. On the other hand, the world of old-time music is rife with stories of players who, as kids, burned with the desire to play, and who overcame the proscriptions of their fathers (or other relatives) to leave the adult’s fiddle (or banjo, or guitar, or…) alone, and played it surreptitiously whenever said adult was absent from the home. Though I am not aware of any research on the subject, it’s reasonable to suppose that those who pursue music by their own choice, and who play it in the context of family or community for recreation and entertainment, are more apt to stick with it into adulthood, while those who have to be coerced by their parents, or who are pushed into playing music professionally, are more likely to abandon their instruments.
In this installment of “The Attic” we look at six photos of young musicians, ranging in age from perhaps five to 15, playing fiddle/violin and various other instruments. Three photos depict what appear to be professional family groups—definitely so in one case—of rather urbane folks. Another is of what was likely a pair of brothers playing violin and flute, again with no air of rusticity about them. The last two, of a young man holding a guitar in the midst of a family group with a fiddling father (?) next to him, and of a solo fiddler, probably bring us into the realm of people who played music for the enjoyment of it rather than as professional entertainment.

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